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Dell Inspiron 710m review: Dell Inspiron 710m

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The Good Lengthy battery life (with high-capacity cell); lightweight, portable case; large touch pad; wide-aspect display.

The Bad Lacks multimedia controls and features; includes some previous-generation internal components; some undersized keys.

The Bottom Line The Dell Inspiron 710m delivers what basic users need in an eminently portable package, but other systems deliver better features or performance for the same price.

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6.4 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 7
  • Support 5

Dell Inspiron 710m

Aside from a new color scheme, the Dell Inspiron 710m is an exact replica of its thin-and-light predecessor, the Inspiron 700m. An eminently portable laptop, the 710m is conveniently compact and stocked with a high-capacity cell; our $1,699 test unit delivered more than five hours of battery life. Dell has not updated the system's components, however, and its competitors offer more features for the money. Students, small-business people, and home users looking for a thin-and-light should check out the similarly priced Sony VAIO S series or the extremely inexpensive Averatec 3715.

Almost everything about the Inspiron 710m's design is a holdover from the prior generation's, except that the lid and keyboard are now rimmed in a more sophisticated silver instead of white, and the formerly black keyboard is now gray, which will better show off accumulated dirt. The case still measures 11.6 inches wide, 1.2 inches high, and 8 inches deep; with the extended battery, our evaluation unit stretched to 9.2 inches deep. The big battery also added a few extra ounces, but at 4.5 pounds, the system is still quite lightweight. The $1,699 Sony VAIO S series weighs 4.3 pounds and the $949 Averatec 3715 weighs 4.1 pounds. The Inspiron 710m's AC adapter adds a typical 0.9 pound.

Dell does a generally good job with the Inspiron 710m's design, though the company could have pushed the envelope in a few areas. While most of the keys are big enough, the often-used comma and period keys are extrasmall. The touch pad is exceptionally big for a system this size, and the two mouse buttons are of decent proportions. The Inspiron 710m lacks the multimedia controls found on most other Dell systems, such as the XPS M140 and the Inspiron 6000. The 710m's 12.1-inch wide-screen display, featuring a fine 1,280x800 native resolution and a light-reflective coating, looks bright and crisp, but the VAIO S series offers a larger 13.3-inch (though not wide-aspect) display for the same price.

The Inspiron 710m has enough ports, jacks, and slots to get by. You get VGA, 56Kbps modem, Ethernet, S-Video out, four-pin FireWire, headphone, microphone, and one Type II PC Card slot. The system offers only two USB 2.0 ports, whereas most thin-and-lights, such as the Averatec 3715, include three. The onboard memory-card reader supports only the Secure Digital format.

The Windows XP Home operating system came preloaded on our Inspiron 710m. The system lacked a full productivity suite but included a standard package of disc-viewing and disc-burning programs, including Sonic's RecordNow, MyDVD 5 LE, and DLA.

For $1,699, we expected more high-end features than what our Inspiron 710m test unit delivered. Its 2GHz Pentium M Dothan processor and Intel 855 chipset are a generation behind the latest Intel 915 chipset, and its 512MB of memory runs at a slow 333MHz (the current max is 533MHz). Its more modern components include a double-layer DVD burner and a large 80GB hard drive spinning at a respectable 5,400rpm.

Despite its outmoded parts, the Inspiron 710m finished CNET Labs' tests just 7 percent behind the more richly configured Sony VAIO S series. It also completely annihilated the Averatec 3715, which incorporated a 1.86GHz AMD Mobile Sempron 3000 processor. You'll have no problem working with multiple windows, watching DVDs, or running standard productivity apps on the Inspiron 710m, though we don't recommend it for graphics-intensive work or gaming.

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