Dell Inspiron 6000
At a Glance
Dell Inspiron 6000 (2-GHz Pentium M processor, 1GB of DDR400 DRAM)
Big laptop combines strong performance, a superhigh resolution (1920 by 1200), and great speakers.
You can see more on the Dell Inspiron 6000's wide screen than on most other 15.4-inch displays thanks to its WUXGA resolution of 1920 by 1200 pixels. In fact, you can work with higher-resolution photographs, more spreadsheet columns, and more tiled documents simultaneously on the Inspiron 6000 than you can on some 17-inch wide screens. (The Inspiron 6000 is also available with a 1280-by-800-pixel WXGA screen or a 1680-by-1050-pixel WSXGA+ screen for $150 less or $50 less, respectively.)
This 6000 has a lot more going for it than just its extra-high-resolution screen. We didn't test the 6000's standard six-cell battery; but we did test the nine-cell battery (a $99 option), and it lasted an impressive 5 hours and 7 minutes on one charge, making the 6000 an excellent candidate for the road--if you don't mind its 7.5-pound weight (sans power adapter). An extra-fancy external power gauge helps you keep track of when you'll need to recharge.
The Inspiron 6000 is a smoothly designed, handsome laptop with a sloped front and cream-colored trim. Our unit had a multiformat DVD burner, plus FireWire and TV-out ports and four USB 2.0 ports, all placed for easy use. The 6000 accepts user upgrades easily. Like many laptops, it has two memory slots located in a compartment on the bottom of the laptop. But instead of residing in dovetailed slots, the modules lie side by side--an unusual arrangement that makes them more accessible than most. The hard drive is a breeze to remove, too: Just unscrew its bottom panel and tug the drive out through the right side of the case. Though the optical drive doesn't have a lever for popping it out, you can boost it out by its lower edge after removing a security screw on the bottom of the case.
The 6000 disappointed us in only a few areas. We missed having an external switch for controlling Wi-Fi scanning (you have to use a software utility instead). And the 6000's memory card reader accepts only Secure Digital cards for exchanging data with PDAs, cameras, and other digital equipment, leaving Memory Sticks, CompactFlash cards, and other media incompatible.
Our biggest reservation, however, relates to the Inspiron's keyboard. The layout is typical of a Dell portable--well designed and roomy--except that <Delete> is buried in a cluster of <Fn>-size keys. Two big, easy-to-press mouse buttons complement the touchpad. But the keys on our test unit were so stiff initially that we had to type forcefully. As we continued to type, the keyboard seemed to limber up, and we made fewer mistakes. But we still felt that we had to type more carefully than usual, not a good omen for a long-term relationship with a keyboard. If possible, try out the keyboard before buying.
You'll like the 6000's panel of dedicated CD controls and its surprisingly good stereo sound. (Only one other model in our roundup, the Fujitsu LifeBook N6010, offered better audio.) There's no instant-on button for playing discs without using Windows, but you can play CDs while the lid is closed, because the music buttons and speaker outlets remain exposed. Pressing one of the buttons momentarily lights the entire music panel's bright blue LEDs, a helpful feature in dark environments.
The 2-GHz Pentium M 760-equipped review unit did well in our speed tests, earning a WorldBench 5 score of 89, about 8 percent above the average for systems equipped with the same processor.
An Acrobat manual on the hard drive covers the 6000 thoroughly, right down to coverage of how to install new screen hinges and a new keyboard.
With its extra-high-resolution screen and terrific built-in speakers, the Inspiron 6000 would be ideal for getting work done or watching movies.