|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$1,698 / $819|
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300|
|Memory||2GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||160GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce 8400M GS|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||13.1x10.3x1.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter (pounds)||6.0/6.8 pounds|
While Dell is offering similarly revamped version of its 15- and 17-inch Inspiron laptops, the 14-inch 1420 model is a new addition. We continue to see vendors--Lenovo with its ThinkPad T61, Gateway with its E-265M, and Sony with its VGN-CR190--redefining their mainstream laptops as 14 inches instead of 15 inches. We welcome this trend; after working with 14-inch laptops for a time, we find that they offer the optimal balance between portability and usability.
The new look for Inspiron is an evolution rather than a revolution, offering softer, rounded edges and a thinner lid while scrapping the two-tone, white-on-silver design that never looked particularly inspiring. Instead, you get your choice of eight different colors for the back of the lid. Our Ruby Red model, which looked an awful lot like the Crimson Red on the 13-inch XPS m1330, had an appealing satin finish that seemed to be virtually fingerprint-proof. If you fear colorful laptops, black and white are also options for the lid.
The basic Dell laptop keyboard remains unchanged and is comfy to type on, but we were pleased to see the old Inspiron's excessively chunky mouse buttons reduced to a more manageable size, along with small square media control buttons replacing the older round ones, which were notoriously hard to hit. A 2.0-megapixel Webcam sits above the screen, or you could forgo it and save $30. Like the XPS m1330m, a small, credit-card-size remote control that pops into card slot on the side.
The 14.1-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,440x900 native resolution, which is a $50 upgrade Dell offers over the standard 1,280x800 screen (standard on both 14- and 15-inch laptops). For a screen this size, the difference is honestly negligible, but people working with digital photos, for example, may want the slightly higher resolution. Neither screen would be able to play back Blu-ray movies in full 1080p resolution.
|Dell Inspiron 1420||Average for mainstream category|
|Video||VGA-out, S-Video||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone (2) / |
|Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||Four USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader||Four USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||ExpressCard slot||PC Card slot|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; mobile broadband.||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Our review unit was tricked out with every networking option under the sun. While you can order the Inspiron 1420 with just a basic 802.11g Wi-Fi card, we had Draft N Wi-Fi , Bluetooth, and mobile broadband from Sprint (AT&T and Verizon are also available). The EV-DO cards are an extra $150, but all the major carriers offer some kind of rebate with a service plan.
While older, non-Santa Rosa CPUs are also available, they knock only $100 off the cheapest Centrino Duo option. We suggest choosing one of the three Core 2 Duo 7000-series chips that feature Centrino Duo's faster 800MHz frontside bus. Trading the integrated graphics up to an Nvidia GeForce 8400 is likewise $100. Add in options such as Bluetooth ($20) and a second GB of RAM ($150), and the $819 starting price can easily climb.
Our Inspiron 1420 featured a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 CPU, and compared to other similarly configured systems, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad T61 and the Gateway E-265M, the performance differences were negligible, especially in CNET Labs' Photoshop CS2 and iTunes encoding tests, where less than 20 seconds separated these three 14-inch laptops. It's a point we harp on, but any current Centrino Duo laptop will be able to easily handle the multiple simultaneous tasks (Web surfing, media playback, document editing, and so forth) that average users engage in on a regular basis, and the Dell Inspiron 1420 was no exception.
The only discrete graphics option available, the 128MB Nvidia GeForce 8400, isn't going to turn this laptop into a gaming powerhouse, but we got a very playable 29.8 frames per second in Quake 4 at 1,024x768, even with high-end options such as anti-aliasing turned on.
The 1420 ran for 3 hours and 29 minutes on our DVD battery-drain test, using the included nine-cell battery (a $50 upgrade), making it the longest-lasting 14-inch laptop we've seen. A smaller six-cell battery is also available if you absolutely hate batteries that stick out from the back of the system. Our DVD battery-drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use. Going for integrated graphics instead of the aforementioned GeForce 8400 will likely result in better battery life as well.