capsule review

Dell Inspiron E1505

At a Glance
  • Dell Inspiron E1505

    PCWorld Rating

    This inexpensive entertainment laptop navigates between multimedia features easily, and it's a terrific value.

Dell Inspiron E1505
Photograph: Chris Manners

Dell's newest budget entertainment notebook falls somewhere between the company's high-end Inspiron E1705 (8.2 pounds; 17-inch screen) and its travel notebook, the Inspiron 710m (4.2 pounds; 12.1-inch wide-aspect screen). A nice compromise, the Inspiron E1505 weighs 6.5 pounds and has a 15.4-inch wide screen; its keyboard is larger than the 710m's, as well. It's also a fairly good multimedia notebook for nongamers on a budget.

Our $1149 (as of April 18, 2006) review unit came loaded with the Windows Media Center Edition operating system. Getting Windows XP Professional costs $119 more. An optional external USB TV tuner ($104) turns the notebook into a portable TV. When the notebook is off, one touch of the Dell MediaDirect button permits quick access to music, pictures, movies, and videos, regardless of their location--optical drive, hard drive, USB key, or the five-in-one media-card reader--through an intuitive Media Center Edition-like 10-foot user interface that includes full mouse and keyboard control. If you don't purchase the remote control ($23 extra), you can use the seven media buttons on the front of the notebook to control volume and move through DVD chapters or tracks conveniently. The E1505's stereo speakers sound fairly loud and robust, despite its lack of a subwoofer.

Movies and applications alike looked great on the bright, wide-aspect screen. The optional TrueLife coating ($29), included in the price we were quoted for this laptop, adds 10 percent more contrast than a standard antiglare coating. Graphics editors and spreadsheet jockeys may want to opt for the higher-pixel-density WSXGA+ 1680-by-1050-pixel screen ($80 more).

The E1505 is well designed overall. The tricolor E line's cheerful white trim makes it stand out in a sea of black-and-silver notebooks. Despite its slightly hard keystroke, I found typing a pleasure, in no small part due to the big touchpad and the mouse buttons, which depress deeply into the case.

I don't care for left-side optical drives--just this righty's lament--but the E1505's screen-hinge status lights are a nice touch, as they remain visible with the lid closed. The external power gauge, always welcome, will come in especially handy if you go with the standard six-cell battery, which conked out after a shortish 2.3 hours in our tests. If battery life matters to you, spring for the nine-cell unit, for $99.

The machine comes with four USB ports, a FireWire port, and an ExpressCard slot. Though the E1505 lacks a DVI port, it covers standard external monitor connections with both VGA and S-Video ports.

The unit's two memory chips and its hard drive (100GB in our unit) are easy to access in separate bottom compartments. For cable management, Dell sells a simple $63 USB port replicator and a better $103 screen-stand version, but you have to supply your own keyboard and mouse.

Performance was a little disappointing for a notebook equipped with a 1.66-GHz Core Duo T2300 processor and 1GB of RAM. The E1505's WorldBench 5 score of 82 lagged 6 percent behind that of the Asus W5F, an ultraportable equipped with the same processor and only half the E1505's RAM. And compared to the other ten dual-core notebooks we've tested so far, the E1505 does not multitask well. The Inspiron E1505 needed more than 13 minutes to convert an audio file from one format to another while browsing the Internet, compared to less than 9 minutes for the other dual-core notebooks. The E1505 falls short of the E1705 in gaming performance, too. The E1505 uses ATI's HyperMemory, which enlists the PCI Express bus to augment dedicated graphics memory with system memory, but any performance difference wasn't perceptible on our tests.

The E1505 comes with a hyperlinked Acrobat-based user's manual and Microsoft Office Basic. Operating system and driver restore CDs are not included, but they are available for $8 extra.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This inexpensive entertainment laptop navigates between multimedia features easily, and it's a terrific value.

    Pros

    • Great standalone entertainment laptop
    • Inexpensive

    Cons

    • A bit sluggish in performance
    • Relatively short battery life
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