Dell Inspiron 600M for Home (Pentium M 1.4GHz review: Dell Inspiron 600M for Home (Pentium M 1.4GHz

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.3
  • Battery life: 6.0
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 7.0
  • Service and support: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Fast 3D performance; smart case design; dual-band wireless 802.11a/b/g antennae; integrated Bluetooth support; built-in smart-card reader.

The Bad Relatively slow office-productivity speeds; short battery life; no FireWire port.

The Bottom Line The Dell Inspiron looks fancy and features wireless options beyond the Centrino package, but it offers only middling performance.

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Among a brand-new crop of Pentium M (PM) notebooks, the Dell Inspiron 600m is one of the smaller systems. This thin-and-light laptop weighs a modest 5.6 pounds but packs Intel's new Pentium M CPUs in speeds up to 1.6GHz and the new Intel 855 chipset. The 600m isn't always a true Centrino, but it can be. Dell offers either the Centrino-completing Intel Pro Wireless mini-PCI card, known as Calexico, or its own TrueMobile Wi-Fi mini-PCI cards (supporting 802.11a/b/g). The 600m includes cool additional wireless features, such as two dual-band 802.11a/b/g wireless antennae and built-in Bluetooth support. Coupled with a smart, new case design, the 600m's impressive wireless parts nearly make up for performance and battery life that lag behind its PM peers' (note, however, that we didn't test the more battery-friendly Centrino model). For a faster, longer-lived Pentium M thin-and-light, check out the Compaq Evo N620c.



Don't like the new silver look? We do, but you can snap on a colored lid for an extra $35.
The thin-and-light Inspiron 600m represents an entirely new case design for Dell. Based on the mostly gray, 6.3-pound Inspiron 4150, the 600m comes in a sophisticated, 5.6-pound silver case made from a combination of strong magnesium alloy and aluminum. The case measures 1.3 by 12.4 by 10.1 inches. Add about another pound for the AC adapter. Dell has designed the adapter so that the power cord wraps conveniently around it, and it attaches with a rubber tie. As with Dell's new desktop replacement, the Inspiron 8600, you can personalize the 600m with colored QuickSnap lid covers in Graphite Swirl, Bamboo, Burlwood, Venice Blue, or our fave, Red Lava. The covers cost $35 a pop.

The Inspiron 600m remains fairly lithe by including just one swappable bay for optional drives and modules. While our evaluation system shipped with a DVD/CD-RW drive, you can order CD, DVD, CD-RW, and floppy drives. A second battery and hard drive also fit the bay.

The Inspiron 600m's keyboard resembles the 8500's, with a couple of exceptions. The comfortably familiar, desktoplike layout of both boards huddles Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys in the upper-right corner. Yet the slightly shorter length of the 600m's board makes it feel sturdier in the middle. The 600m lacks a pointing-stick option, including only a blue-rimmed touchpad and two mouse buttons in the wrist rest. The same blue plastic lines the top and bottom of the keyboard. Volume-up, -down, and mute buttons are ensconced above the board as well, providing easy access.




We like the Inspiron 600m's roomy, sturdy keyboard.


There's no pointing stick--just a standard touchpad and mouse-button combo.


Dell doesn't clutter the Inspiron 600m with too many ports and slots. The left edge sports headphone and microphone jacks; an IrDA port; and one Type II PC Card slot with a handy, embedded smart-card reader that allows you to store and read sensitive password, credit card, and other info on optional smart cards. (The cards are available in a number of sizes and prices from third-party manufacturers.) The front edge features two speakers with clear, but not deep, sound. Most ports sit on the back edge. There are S-Video out, 56K modem, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, parallel, VGA, and serial ports, as well as two ports for USB 2.0. Unfortunately, there's no FireWire port.


Cutting edge is the name of the Inspiron 600m's game. This thin-and-light notebook, aimed at both home and SOHO users, is based on Intel's new, battery-saving Pentium M processor, at your choice of 1.3GHz to 1.6GHz. Primary RAM starts at 128MB of speedy 266MHz DDR SDRAM and maxes out at 1GB. Hard drive options spinning at 4,200rpm measure 20GB, 30GB, or 60GB; a pricier, 5,400rpm, 40GB choice is also available. The system ships with ATI's fastest graphics chip, the Mobility Radeon 9000, including either 32MB or 64MB of dedicated video memory. The configuration we tested included a 1.6GHz Pentium M; 512MB of DDR memory; the fast 40GB hard drive; and 64MB of video memory. Swappable modules for the internal bay consist of CD, DVD, CD-RW, DVD/CD-RW, and floppy drives, as well as a second hard drive and a second battery. In an attempt to keep case weight manageable, Dell offers only a 14.1-inch display but provides both an average 1,024x768 native resolution as well as the more graphics-friendly 1,400x1,050 resolution.



Dell keeps the weight off with a 14.1-inch display, but it has a 1,400x1,050 resolution.


The audio ports are on the side.


The Inspiron 600m can, in the right configuration, carry Intel's new Centrino label. (Read more about Centrino technology here.) Dell built two dual-band wireless antennae into the case that support all three wireless flavors currently available--802.11a/b/g--and it comes standard with the new Intel Pro 802.11b Wireless mini-PCI card known as Calexico, which completes the Centrino trio. But you can configure the Inspiron with a non-Centrino TrueMobile mini-PCI card, which supports the three Wi-Fi standards--that's the model we tested. You'll also find integrated Bluetooth, and you can even order your 600m with built-in GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) for yet another layer of wireless connectivity.

The same solid software package ships with all Inspirons, including the 600m. You can get either Windows XP Home or Windows XP Professional. The thin Corel WordPerfect Office 2002 minisuite comes standard, but you can upgrade to either Microsoft Works or Microsoft Office XP. Roxio Easy CD Creator and InterVideo WinDVD come free and are handy for CD burning and DVD play, respectively. Dell's own bundled PictureStudio, Jukebox, and MovieStudio allow for additional photo, music, and movie tweaking.


Mobile application performance
When compared to all seven Pentium M notebooks tested in CNET Labs, the Inspiron 600m lagged behind three of them. The pacesetter was the Acer TravelMate 803LCi; its score of 211 was far above the 600m's 169. However, when we put the Inspiron 600m against two other notebooks for the home user, it faired better, winning this narrowly defined test group. The five-point spread it enjoyed over the IBM ThinkPad T40 is relatively small and would not offer any noticeable difference in real-life performance. The Dell Inspiron 600m beat the Gateway 450 by 22 points. The Gateway 450 was no doubt hindered by its relative lack of RAM. For a 1.6GHz Pentium M system, the Dell Inspiron 600m scored only slightly below average, but its mobile performance ranked high even among systems with faster CPUs.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 performance rating  
Dell Inspiron 600m
169 
IBM ThinkPad T40
164 
Gateway 450
147 
 
To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both application performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).

SysMark2002 performance
Once again, the Dell Inspiron 600m is the leader of the performance pack. The system had no problem running the office-productivity and Internet-content-creation applications that comprise the maximum performance test. With its fast 5,400rpm IBM hard drive, the Dell Inspiron 600m scored exceptionally well in the office-productivity test. The system scored high in Internet content creation (ICC) as well, getting the second-highest ICC of the Pentium M systems we've tested.

Maximum application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo SysMark2002 rating  
SysMark2002 Internet content creation  
SysMark2002 office productivity  
Dell Inspiron 600m
181 
197 
167 
IBM ThinkPad T40
173 
192 
156 
Gateway 450
161 
190 
136 
 
To measure maximum notebook application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark2002, an industry-standard benchmark. SysMark measures a desktop's performance using off-the-shelf, office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).

3D graphics performance
The 3D score is affected by the quality of the graphics adapter as well as the speed of the CPU. The 1.6GHz Pentium M Dell Inspiron 600m includes an ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 64MB and scored significantly higher than its comparison systems. Its closest competitor, the IBM ThinkPad T40 houses an ATI Mobility Radeon 32MB and as such, scored more than 2,000 points less. In this case, the extra 32MB of video RAM in the Dell Inspiron 600m made a huge difference.

3D graphics performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
Futuremark's 3DMark2001 SE  
Dell Inspiron 600m
6,986 
IBM ThinkPad T40
4,985 
Gateway 450
4,072 
 
To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses Futuremark's 3DMark2001 SE. We use 3DMark to measure desktop-replacement notebook performance with the DirectX 8.1 interface at the 32-bit color setting at a resolution of 1,024x768.

Find out more about how we test notebook systems.


System configurations:

Dell Inspiron 600m
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 64MB; IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 5,400rpm

Gateway 450
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility M7 32MB; Toshiba MK6021GAS 60GB 4,200rpm

IBM ThinkPad T40
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 80GN 80GB 4,200rpm


Among the first crop of Pentium M-based notebooks we've tested, the Dell Inspiron 600m is the only one that failed to last four hours. Its smaller 11.1V, 4,320mAh battery just didn't have the juice to keep up with the Pentium M competition. Nevertheless, its score of three hours, 21 minutes would still be quite good when compared to notebooks based on Pentium 4-M or even Pentium III-M processors. Though we don't test with wireless on, it's also worth remembering that the Centrino configuration with Intel's wireless 802.11b should offer slightly better battery life than Dell's TrueMobile implementation.

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate longer battery life)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 battery life (in minutes)  
IBM ThinkPad T40
416 
Gateway 450
311 
Dell Inspiron 600m
201 
 
To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both application performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).

System configurations:

Dell Inspiron 600m
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 64MB; IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 5,400rpm

Gateway 450
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility M7 32MB; Toshiba MK6021GAS 60GB 4,200rpm

IBM ThinkPad T40
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 80GN 80GB 4,200rpm


Dell comes out of the service-and-support gate neck and neck with other laptop manufacturers, offering the standard one year of parts and labor, plus mail-in service with 24/7, toll-free tech support. But the company quickly pulls ahead with a vast assortment of for-fee extended warranty choices, including three years of service, accidental damage protection, onsite repair, and expedited service.

The company's excellent self-help program, Dell Solution Center, helps it cross the finish line ahead of the competition. Dell preloads this program, which contains a general user guide, plus individual guides to using specific system components such as the modem, the graphics card, and the wireless card. It also offers an entire section on how to tap your system's multimedia capabilities. Finally, you can click from the guide onto Dell's online support site, where you'll find help from other users in the customer forum, as well as FAQs, downloads, and more.

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Where to Buy

Dell Inspiron 600M for Home (Pentium M 1.4GHz, 512MB, 30GB)

Part Number: 600MRM Released: Mar. 12, 2003
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Mar. 12, 2003
  • Color Gray
  • Weight 5.6 lbs
  • Installed Size 512 MB