Dell Inspiron 700M
A wide-aspect screen and very good performance highlight Dell's 3.7-pound Inspiron 700m laptop. The screen is small, measuring just 12.1 inches diagonally, but its wide-aspect ratio and dense native resolution of 1280 by 800 pixels let you see more of your work side-by-side. Those attributes make the 700m a pretty good portable DVD player, too, by showing images full screen with no black letterbox bars. The speakers are no great shakes, but the headphone port is located handily on the front.
The 700m's speed was impressive for an ultraportable. The 1.8-GHz Pentium M 745-equipped unit earned a WorldBench 5 score of 80, which puts it in the top ten of all notebooks we've tested with our new benchmark suite.
The $2091 700m is well-equipped overall: A DVD burner comes built in. Extras include an S-Video-out port for using a TV as an external monitor, a FireWire port for downloading video from a camcorder, and an SD Card slot. It would have been nice, however, to have a Wi-Fi switch.
Thanks to an unusually thick case for an ultraportable--1.6 inches at the hinges--the 700m balances well on the lap. We liked the feel of typing on the 700m's keyboard, but it wasn't perfect: The half-size punctuation keys are hard to locate with your fingers, and paging requires combination keystrokes. On the plus side, the firm-feeling keyboard is well laid out and includes a large, easy-to-navigate touchpad. Most touch typists should be able to overcome the flaws.
Want to keep your upgrade options open? You can with the 700m, thanks to an accessible memory slot and hard drive. You can reach either simply by removing a bottom protective panel held in place by a few screws. (The second memory slot, under the keyboard, can't be reached.) Our only serious complaint about the design is that the DVD drive's eject button is hard to press.
The rear-mounted, four-cell battery lasted 2.75 hours in our tests. If you don't mind adding a half-pound to the weight of the laptop, you can upgrade to a longer-lasting eight-cell replacement battery for $53 that serves up an additional 5 hours, according to Dell.
A strong, lightweight laptop, the Dell Inspiron 700m offers the bonus of a wide-aspect screen. All that mars the picture is a slightly cramped keyboard and an annoying optical drive button.
Dell Inspiron 700M