Dell Inspiron 5150
At a chunky 8.3 pounds (plus 2 pounds for the power adapter) and 2 inches thick, the Inspiron 5150 is not the most portable laptop around, but it's distinctive looking. It comes with a built-in 802.11g Wi-Fi wireless network card. The case is charcoal gray with big blue mouse buttons and a bright 15-inch screen. The fixed DVD burner (a $180 option included with our review unit) is great for archiving data or creating home movies.
Equipped with a mobile 3.06-GHz Pentium 4 processor and 512MB of RAM, our 5150 achieved a PC WorldBench 4 score of 115; more then adequate for general business use, but slower than the 1.6-GHz Pentium M-equipped notebook we've tested. In our run-down tests, the 5150's battery lasted for 4 hours, a generous lifespan - although not as long as the 5.5 hours another Inspiron 5150 with a UXGA screen lasted in our December review.
The 5150's connections cover most of the usual bases, including two USB 2.0 ports, an S-Video-out port for attaching a TV, and a FireWire port for fast digital video downloads. Our test unit came with the WordPerfect Productivity Pack. Consumers with older printers might miss having a parallel port; the Inspiron 5000 line is one of the few in the Inspiron series with no docking option, though Dell does offer a basic port replicator for $119.
The keyboard is firm and steady, with a good layout and oversize mouse buttons, but you get only one programmable quick-launch button and nothing for scrolling pages. The Inspiron 5150's stereo speakers are loud and clear enough to let you watch DVD movies without headphones, but the notebook has no audio controls other than the dual-function <Page Up> and <Page Down> keys, which double as volume buttons when used with the <Function> key.
Upgraders handy with a screwdriver will appreciate the 5150's removable hard drive and accessible memory compartment, and the notebook comes with good documentation. The software-based help is mostly generic information that doesn't directly apply to this model, but the printed manual is thorough and attractive.
Anyone who tends to stay put could be happy with this heavy-duty performer, but mobile professionals might find it too bulky.
Dell Inspiron 5150