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Dell Inspiron 1150 Home review: Dell Inspiron 1150 Home

The Inspiron 1150's dimensions accommodate a comfortably sized keyboard, with big 19.3mm keys that provide excellent tactile feedback; unfortunately, the trapezoid-shape touch pad lacks a scroll button. Entertainment-oriented extras are few and far between: no dedicated CD controls, no high-end speakers, and no optical audio connections. Also missing are FireWire and S-Video connections, and there's no flash card reader. However, the Inspiron 1150 does offer the absolutely necessary ports: a pair of USB 2.0, external monitor, and audio-out ports. You'll also get one Type II PC Card slot, a Gigabit LAN, and a V.92 modem. The Inspiron 1150's sole luxury is a dual-band 802.11b/g wireless radio that uses a Broadcom chip. But all that glitters is not gold--the Wi-Fi radio has a lackluster 95-foot range, and there's no dedicated on/off switch, though you can use the unmarked Fn F2 shortcut to turn it off.


Dell Inspiron 1150 Home

The Good

Very inexpensive; good performance; excellent battery life; includes wireless connectivity.

The Bad

Big and heavy; meager memory; lacks FireWire and video-out ports.

The Bottom Line

A decent entry-level system, Dell's Inspiron 1150 offers good battery life and Wi-Fi, but it lacks features that advanced users will not want to live without.
Together, the Dell Inspiron 1150 and the Inspiron 1000 make up Dell's budget (a.k.a. mainstream) laptop line. Priced less than $1,000, the Inspiron 1150 is just barely enough laptop for a student or users in a small business or a home. While the Inspiron 1000 is available in one rather uninspiring configuration, Dell lets you choose from a variety of components for the 1150; we tested a unit with a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 CPU, 256MB of RAM, a 30GB hard drive, and a combo DVD/CD-RW drive. However, a number of common entertainment-related extras were absent: there were no optical audio connections, neither FireWire nor S-Video ports, and no flash card reader. The system won't set any performance records, either, but it's no slug, and it offers wireless connectivity and good battery life to boot. If you have road-trip ambitions, however, beware: the Inspiron 1150 is a big laptop, and it tips the scales at 7.3 pounds (without its AC adapter)--heavier than many laptops with larger screens and more features. Still, for such an inexpensive system, the Inspiron 1150 is a decent laptop for basic home or office use. Dell puts cost-cutting front and center with the Inspiron 1150, which starts at less than $1,000 (as of September 2004). Accordingly, the Inspiron 1150 doesn't make much of a design splash, but it does provide everything a small-business, student, or home user must have in a laptop. The system runs a hefty 1.9 inches wide, 12.6 inches wide, and 10.8 inches deep--about the same size as the HP Compaq Business Notebook nx9010 and the Toshiba Satellite P15, though the Inspiron 1150 has the smallest screen of the three. At 7.3 pounds, the 1150 is comparable to the Sony VAIO K series, but it's twice as heavy as the particularly light Panasonic ToughBook Y2. With its large AC adapter, the Inspiron 1150's travel weight jumps to 8.3 pounds. While we're not crazy about the AC adapter's three-prong power plug (less convenient than a two-prong plug), the Inspiron 1150's battery can go for about six hours. With battery life like that, you might not ever need to lug the charger out of the house. Although the Dell Inspiron 1150 has been around for quite a while, Dell tweaked the available components in March 2004. Now, you can choose one of two processors: a 2.6GHz Intel Celeron or a 2.8GHz Mobile Intel Pentium 4. You also have your choice of a 14.1-inch or 15-inch screen, and both feature a 1,024x768 native resolution; the larger screen costs $50 extra and adds a few ounces to the Inspiron 1150's bottom line. Hard drive capacities range from 30GB to 60GB, and you can go with a CD-RW/DVD combo drive (which can play and burn CDs but only play DVDs) or a CD/DVD burner. The model below the Inspiron 1150, the slightly less expensive Inspiron 1000, has a single configuration featuring a 2.2GHz Celeron, 256MB of RAM, and a 40GB hard drive; one step up from the Inspiron 1150 is the Inspiron 5160 model, with the performance of a high-speed bus, the convenience of extra ports, and the option to add more memory.

The unit we tested featured a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 processor and a 30GB hard drive but only 256MB of 266MHz memory; the system can hold up to 1GB of RAM, decidedly less than the 2GB that most recent systems can use, but enough for basic use. While the notebook's CD-RW/DVD drive is reasonably fast, it is not removable and cannot be swapped out for a second battery or hard drive.

Our test unit had a 14.1-inch XGA screen, powered by an Intel 852MV integrated graphics accelerator, which uses up to 64MB of the unit's already stretched system memory. Though the screen looked sharp and bright, we detected an annoying flicker.

Dell's software options are OK: the Inspiron 1150 comes standard with Windows XP Home and the WordPerfect word processor. Dell makes a number of software upgrades available: upgrading to the full WordPerfect Office 12.0 costs $50, and Microsoft's Office Pro sets you back nearly $300--about a third of the machine's price.

Mobile application performance
The Dell Inspiron 1150 gave us one of the best Mobile Pentium 4 2.8GHz-based laptop performances we've seen, testing about 29 percent faster than other similar systems. However, it came in about 16 percent behind the best-performing 2.8GHz system we've tested: the Toshiba Satellite A75-S206. The Satellite A75-S206 features the newest version of the Mobile P4 2.8GHz processor, with 1MB of L2 cache--twice as much as the Dell's processor. The Inspiron 1150's performance, 36 percent faster than that of the dismal Sony VAIO PCG-K15, is satisfactory for office-productivity and content-creation tasks.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  

Performance analysis written by CNET Labs assistant lab manager Eric Franklin.

The Dell Inspiron 1150's mobile performance, while lesser than that of the Toshiba Satellite A75-S206, gives it a slight advantage in battery life. The Inspiron 1150's 64WHr battery lasted for 232 minutes in CNET Labs' tests, 10 minutes more than the Toshiba and nearly 100 minutes better than the Sony VAIO K series, which runs a 59WHr battery. For office-productivity and content-creation apps, the Inspiron 1150's battery life is good.

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes  

System configurations:

Dell Inspiron 1150
Windows XP Home; 2.8GHz Intel Pentium 4; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel Extreme Graphics 2 for Mobile (up to 64MB); IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 4,200rpm

Windows XP Home; 2.8GHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Radeon IGP 345M 64MB; Toshiba MK6021GAS 60GB 4,200rpm

Toshiba Satellite A75-S206
Windows XP Home; 2.8GHz Intel Mobile Pentium 4 518; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 IGP 64MB; Hitachi Travelstar 80GN 60GB 4,200rpm

Dell continues to provide excellent service, but the one-year warranty that comes with the entry-level Inspiron 1150 may not be long enough for everyone. You can add two more years of coverage for $124, and some of the more expensive configurations include three years of coverage. Dell provides 24-hour phone and e-mail tech support for as long as you own your laptop; when we called, a helpful live technician delivered exactly what we needed in just less than two minutes. The company's Web site is a wealth of information for keeping your laptop running smoothly, including troubleshooting help, a multitude of downloads, plus lists of available accessories and upgrades. There's even a new performance and security page with tips, such as how to avoid spyware.

Dell Inspiron 1150 Home

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 7Battery 8Support 8