Dell Inspiron 630m (14.1-inch, 2GHz) review: Dell Inspiron 630m (14.1-inch, 2GHz)

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The Good Good performance and long battery life. Multi-format DVD burner with dual-layer. Can play CDs/DVDs without booting Windows. Windows Media Center operating system optional. Good-sized keyboard and widescreen display.

The Bad Somewhat heavy. No dedicated graphics card.

The Bottom Line Dell's Inspiron 630m is a great value for money laptop providing good performance, long battery life, external multimedia controls and enough processing power to breeze through common office tasks.

CNET Editors' Choice Dec '05

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Design
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.

Features
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.

An array of ports flank the right edge of the Dell Inspiron 630m
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.

Performance
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.

Eight multimedia buttons and stereo speakers are at the front and accessible with the laptop closed
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
Dell Inspiron 630m
(Proc 780 2.26GHz; 1GB RAM)
245
Acer Aspire 5502WXMi*
(Proc 740 1.73GHz; 512MB RAM)
216
BenQ Joybook S72*
(Proc 740 1.73GHz; 512MB RAM)
219
Samsung X50*
(Proc 740 1.73GHz; 512MB RAM)
207

* Tested using BAPCo MobileMark2002. Products in these tests are for comparative purposes only and are not necessarily available in the Australian market.

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Where to Buy

Dell Inspiron 630m (14.1-inch, 2GHz)

Part Number: CNETDell Inspiron 630m (14.1-inch, 2GHz)

Typical Price: $2,599.00

See manufacturer website for availability.