Dell Computer Corp.’s latest top-of-the-line desktop replacement features a 15-inch screen option with a native resolution of 1600 by 1200. That’s the highest resolution we’ve seen to date; it’s great for spreadsheet or digital imaging work. (At that resolution, you’ll have to adjust the desktop font size or learn to squint.) The Inspiron 8000 comes with dual pointing devices, customizable case colors, and a set of dual-purpose buttons that can control audio CDs or launch applications, or initiate online contact with Dell technical support. Also impressive is the 8000’s bay design. Most laptops that come equipped with one drive fixed and the other removable usually offer a built-in floppy drive and a swappable optical drive. The 8000’s optical drive (an 8X/4X/24X CD-RW drive in our test machine) is fixed, and the floppy drive is removable. As a result, the notebook can hold two optical drives at once (for copying data off a CD-ROM drive onto a disc in the CD-RW drive, for instance) or two batteries and a DVD-ROM drive (useful for watching back-to-back DVD movies on your next cross-country flight).
Although well laid out, the 8000’s keyboard feels springy and clatters a bit. Dell could have given the 8000’s four dual-purpose buttons a more elegant design, too: Instead of being able to simply flip a hardware switch as on other notebooks, you have to use a software utility to toggle between CD-playing and file-launching modes. The 8000 is somewhat heavy–with the DVD-ROM and floppy drives inserted, it weighs over 8 pounds. Finally, at 2 hours and 42 minutes, battery life could be better.
With only half as much graphics RAM–16MB–as the Inspiron 8000 we tested for our December issue, this version did not fare quite as well in our performance tests. While still quite fast, its PC WorldBench 2000 score of 159 lags the average for similarly configured notebooks by about 5 percent. A fairly thick, dark-gray notebook with a gently beveled front edge, the 8000’s sturdy case includes an IEEE 1394 connection for digital video editors and an S-video port for using a television or other large screen as a monitor. An included cable adapts the S-Video port for use as a standard composite video port or S/PDIF connection. Bored with the same old look? You can pop in replacement palm rests in four other colors, including bright yellow, for an extra 10 bucks.
For small to medium-size businesses looking for a decked-out desktop replacement, the well-rounded 8000 does it all–convenient drive configurations, admirable performance, and for satisfying your inner Martha Stewart, changeable color accents.
Dell Inspiron 8000
PC WorldBench score of 159, Pentium III-850/700, 128MB of SDRAM, 256KB L2 cache, Windows 2000, 15-inch active-matrix screen, ATI Rage M4 with 16MB of RAM, 20GB hard drive, 8X DVD-ROM drive, touchpad and eraserhead pointing devices, built-in V.90 modem, 9.2-pound weight (including AC adapter and phone cord); Microsoft Office 2000 Small Business Edition, 3-year parts and labor warranty; free, unlimited 24-hour toll-free tech support.
Prices listed are in Cdn currency.