Dell Inspiron 8500: Test and Review

A desktop replacement solution for the general public must provide the most recent evidence and the Inspiron 8500 does not default to that rule. You can choose for your machine processors Mobile Pentium 4-M faster (2 to 2.4 GHz). The main memory is offered in increments of 128MB up to an impressive 2 GB limit. You can choose the hard drives from 30 GB to 60 GB (two speeds). The single internal bay of the machine can accommodate a CD player, DVD, CD-RW, combo DVD / CD-RW drive or a floppy drive, a second hard drive or a second battery. Two graphics chipsets are available: an ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB or Nvidia GeForce 4 4200 Go 64MB The configuration we tested included an Intel Pentium 4 processor-M 2.4GHz, 512MB of DDR SDRAM, a disc 4200 rpm hard 60GB and a graphics chip Nvidia Geforce4 Go 4200 with 64MB of video memory.

The innovations of the Inspiron 8500 also apply to wireless connections. As with the new Inspiron 5100, the 8500 has two integrated antennas with dual band capabilities (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz). It is therefore compatible with standard wireless current (11 Mbps 802.11b) and with the fastest version (54 Mbps 802.11g). You can add wireless devices to the machine via a handy internal Mini PCI slot. If you already have a wireless PC Card, the Inspiron 8500 is also compatible. Our test model had a Mini-PCI 802.11b TrueMobile 1180 card, but Dell will soon offer the double standard 802.11b / g TrueMobile 1300. Dell also offers a Bluetooth option for this machine.

Excellent performance

As can be expected given its specifications, the Inspiron 8500 2.4GHz / 512MB offers good performance, with scores of 52.3 in Business Winstone 2001 and 30.5 in Content Creation Winstone 2002. However none of these outcomes is good enough to threaten the fastest notebooks we’ve tested, namely the Inspiron 5100 Pentium 4 2.8 GHz Dell and the TravelMate 800 Pentium M 1.6 GHz Acer.

It is in the field of 3D that the Inspiron 8500 really excels thanks to its Nvidia Go 4200 GPU Geforce4 64 MB This is the first time we test the Geforce4 4200 GB, and his score 3DMark 2001 9346 is by far the fastest we’ve seen. The previous title holder, the TravelMate 800 Acer (which has a chip ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 64MB), got a score of 7285 in this test. The advantage of 28% obtained by the Inspiron 8500 over the previous record 3D is outstanding and means that in terms of 3D acceleration, it is really able to compete with a desktop PC.

The Inspiron 8500 is a desktop replacement solution that provides autonomy that you would expect from a system like this: 2 hours 46 minutes to test BatteryMark 4.01 and 2 hours 45 minutes test of autonomy MobileMark 2002. However, this result requires the use of heavy and bulky 11.1V Li-ion battery of 6486 mAh, because of the power required by the processor speed of 2.4 GHz and large screen high resolution 1900 x 1200. The TravelMate 800 Pentium M Acer, much smaller and lighter, offers similar performance with 2 hours of battery life and more.

A very bright screen

The housing Inspiron 8500 (36,1×27,6×3,9 cm) is very broad, due to its 16/9. This bright and accurate, is available optionally in two resolutions: WSXGA + (1680×1050 pixels) or (our test model) WUXGA (1920×1200 pixels). One and the other configurations are perfect to view DVD movies, which are often optimized for viewing in 16/9 format. And when it’s time to get back to work, 16/9 screen lets you open two windows side by side.

Despite its size, the machine retains reasonable dimensions. It does indeed offers one bay for connecting a second drive or other module. Our test model included a combined DVD / CD-RW drive, but you can select CD, DVD, CD-RW drive, a floppy drive or a second battery. The whole weighs 3.53 kg. It’s a bit lighter than most desktop replacement solutions to three hinges (including the new Inspiron 8200, Dell), but it is significantly heavier than 16/9 double hinge that are half -way of desktop replacement and mobile pure (as the PowerBook G4 Apple).

The extra large casing incorporates a large keypad similar to that of desktop computers, but it seemed to lack consistency. The four mouse buttons also seemed a bit random: the first two are under the space bar (you are supposed to use with the pointing stick) and are driven too deep. On the contrary, those located below the touchpad are extremely hard. However, we enjoyed the CD buttons to the right of the keyboard and those dedicated to volume control and ‘mute’ (under the keyboard). The two speakers placed at the front disseminate clear sounds if not powerful.

The Inspiron 8500 includes ports and locations that you would expect from a desktop replacement system. On the left you will find a PC Card II slot, headphone and microphone jacks, FireWire connections and infrared. At the back are the S-Video out port, RJ-45, RJ-11, parallel, VGA, serial and two USB 2.0 ports.

Side software, the options are the same as those found on most Dell computers. You can opt for Windows XP Home or Windows XP Professional, and choose from three different office suites.