The silver, white and black Inspiron 630M is a 14.1-inch thin-and-light notebook with a multimedia twist. Measuring 330mm wide x 244mm deep, the thickness of the solidly built laptop slopes down from 38mm at the rear to 31mm at the front. Here you'll find eight multimedia shortcut keys to control movies and music. They are accessible even when the notebook is closed, which ishandy for playing CDs without having to lift the lid.
Stereo speakers also sit at the front so sound isn't muffled playing music this way. While we found music played through the onboard speakers crisp, like most laptops, it lacked bass.
Not the lightest notebook on market, the Inspiron 630m weighs 2.48kg with a 6-cell battery installed, while the 9-cell battery adds an extra 150g. This can be a strain on your shoulder after a long walk, but the additional bulk is worth it when you take into account the 1,280x800-pixel widescreen aspect of the display, typing friendly-sized keyboard, large track pad and two mouse buttons.
Dell offers the Centrino-based Inspiron 630m in a range of configurations starting at a AU$1,599. The AU$2,599 review model we received was fitted out with a 2.26GHz Intel Pentium M processor 780 running Windows XP, 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM, an 80GB hard drive, a DVD+/-RW combo drive that supports dual-layer burning and an integrated Intel 915GM graphics chip that borrows up to 128MB of system memory. For networking, there is 802.11g wireless, 10/100 Ethernet and a 56K modem.
Windows Media Center pre-loaded costs AU$90 extra, although strangely we couldn't find an option for a built-in TV tuner on Dell's Web site, which leads us to believe you'll need an external USB tuner if you want to use Media Center's TV features.
On the left side of the 630m you'll find an S-video connection for outputting the display to a projector or TV, a FireWire port (IEEE 1394), microphone and headphone jacks, a 5-in-1 memory card reader (Memory Stick / Pro, SD, MMC, xD), Express Card slot and a Kensington security lock. The right edge houses two USB 2.0 ports, VGA-out, an Ethernet jack, modem and the multi-format DVD burner.
Pressing the Dell MediaDirect shortcut button bypasses the Windows operating system and gives users "instant on" access to digital photos, music and videos.
The 630m lasted 4 hours, 45 minutes and scored 245 under the MobileMark 2005 office productivity benchmark test, which performs everyday tasks like creating Word documents, editing and viewing Powerpoint slides, creating spreadsheets in Excel and sending e-mail in Outlook.
During DVD playback, the 630m's battery lasted 201 minutes. Although not advertised as a gaming notebook, we tested the 630m with the 3D role-playing game Fable, and found the frame rate a tad slow for our liking, although it's acceptable for a mid-range notebook.
The Inspiron 630m comes with a one-year limited warranty with next business day onsite service and phone support Monday-Friday (8am-10pm) and Saturday (10am-4pm). Dell also offers a range of premium three-year warranties depending on individual needs.
All up, the Inspiron 630m balances good battery life, decent performance and multimedia treats for students, office workers and home users with customisation options to suit most budgets. However, the lack of a dedicated graphics card will deter gamers and frequent travellers might be better suited to a lighter laptop.
|BAPCo MobileMark2005 performance rating|
* Tested using BAPCo MobileMark2002. Products in these tests are for comparative purposes only and are not necessarily available in the Australian market.