Full reviewPacking just about everything you'd want in a desktop-replacement laptop, the Dell Inspiron 9300 has an expansive 17-inch wide-aspect display, plenty of handy connections and drives, and a range of top-notch components, including Nvidia's robust GeForce Go 6800 graphics chip. Delivering nominally lower productivity performance than the prior Inspiron 9200 model, the Inspiron 9300 provides a slightly improved gaming performance and a number of refinements, including Microsoft XP Media Center 2005, an optional TV tuner, and two additional USB 2.0 ports, for a total of six. It's not cheap, but we recommend it to home and business users who want power and features in a relatively portable rig.
The body of the Inspiron 9300 is crafted out of sturdy and stylish magnesium alloy and measures 390mm wide, 290mm deep, and 40mm thick; it has an attractive silver hue with white trim. At 3.6kg, the Inspiron 9300 is on the lighter side of robust desktop replacements. Still, it's far too heavy for regular travel. With such a big case, the Inspiron 9300 can afford to include a big keyboard, though it lacks a separate number pad. The mouse buttons are downright huge, and the touch pad is adequately sized. The latter features arrows running along its right and bottom edges, outlining where to place your finger when using the software-enhanced pad to scroll through documents or Web pages.
The Inspiron 9300's two speakers and internal subwoofer deliver crisp and rich sound, unlike the weak, flat strains that trickle out of most laptops. Better yet, because the speakers sit in the corners of the laptop's front edge, your hands won't muffle them while you're typing. Sandwiched between the speakers, a row of seven buttons lets you control disc playback and adjust or mute the volume. The buttons are handy, but we wish they let us play discs without booting up the system--a feature standard on other laptops. Though the Inspiron 9300 runs Media Center, the bundled TV-tuner box is rather bulky and probably too big to bring on the road.
Our test unit had a bright, vast 17-inch wide-screen display with a WUXGA 1900x1200 native resolution. It made newer games such as Half-Life 2 really shine, and we thoroughly enjoyed watching a DVD movie. We must note, however, that the antiglare coating on the Inspiron 9300's WUXGA screen creates a somewhat sparkly effect that's most noticeable against white backgrounds; we've heard from a number of irate users who have found this intolerable, so beware.
There's no dearth of ports, jacks, or slots: the Inspiron 9300 offers Firewire, S-Video-out, VGA, and six USB 2.0 ports; 56Kbps modem, Ethernet, headphone, and microphone jacks; one each of Type II PC Card and Secure Digital slots; and a swank DVI port, should you want to connect the laptop to an even bigger digital LCD. Last, but definitely not least, the Inspiron 9300 includes a cutting-edge multi-format, double-layer DVD drive, which is fixed and cannot be swapped out for another drive.
Like all of Dell's laptops, the Inspiron 9300 is extremely configurable; our Inspiron 9300 series review includes more details about the available components. The configuration we looked at was quite expensive. Our test model had a blazing Nvidia GeForce Go 6800 graphics chip with an ample 256MB of dedicated video RAM; a power-saving 2.13GHz Pentium M processor; 1GB of speedy 533MHz system memory; a moderately fast 5,400rpm 80GB hard drive; and a giant 17-inch wide-screen display. Our Inspiron 9300 test unit flew through most applications, so if you're low on dough, consider getting a unit with a slower, less expensive processor and less memory; if you're looking for a significantly less expensive, lower-octane desktop replacement, check out the Toshiba Satellite range.
Our test model featured a 2.13GHz Pentium M 760 CPU with a 2MB L2 cache -- an extremely robust mobile rig which outscored many comparably clocked systems we've tested. It held its own in 2D application performance and edged out other powerful laptops displaying the latest 3D graphics; the Inspiron 9300 will undoubtedly deliver strong performance for office and content-creation applications. The Inspiron 9300 flew through Half-Life 2, revving up to a speedy 64.60 frames per second, though it proved no match for our top gaming machine, the Dell XPS Gen 2. The Inspiron 9300's performance is more proof that a fast Pentium M coupled with Nvidia's latest and greatest graphics solution is a worthy competitor to a heavier, more unwieldy Pentium 4-based machine.
|BAPCo's SysMark 2004 rating||SysMark 2004 Internet content creation||SysMark 2004 office productivity|
|Atari Games/Epic Games Unreal Tournament 2004|
Edited by Justin Jaffe
Additional editing by Chris Stevens