Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Holiday Roundup, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
At what cost to battery life? That's the question we're left asking Dell after testing its Inspiron 1470-3282, a $729 laptop sold at Best Buy that employs a consumer ultra-low-voltage CPU. We've seen Intel's ULV chips creep into 13.3-inch thin-and-lights, such as the Asus UL30-A1 and the Lenovo Idea Pad U350, and even a roomy 15.6-inch model in the Asus UL50AG-RBBBK05. The Inspiron 1470 splits the difference, pairing Intel's Core 2 Duo SU7300 processor with a 14.1-inch screen. As with the Asus UL50AG, we don't think the Inspiron 1470's processor is the right pick.
The laptop certainly offers excellent battery life, running for nearly 5 hours on our demanding battery-drain test. A 14-inch laptop, however, must be considered a mainstream laptop--not a portable second system that you take on the road. For a do-it-all, workhorse laptop, the performance hit that results from a ULV processor is simply too great. The Inspiron 1470-3282 finished dead last in CNET Labs' testing when viewed against other Best Buy laptops in its price range, all of which use standard-voltage, dual-core processors. Unless battery life is paramount and you're buying a laptop for the most basic of tasks, we'd counsel you to think twice about the Dell Inspiron 1470-3282, which is a shame, because we like almost everything else about it.
|Processor||1.3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 ULV|
|Memory||4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz|
|Hard drive||320GB at 7,200rpm|
|Chipset||Intel GM45 Express|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||13.4 x 9.6 x 1.0 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.6 / 5.4 pounds|
The Inspiron 1470's design is understated yet stylish. The cover is a deep, glossy red, with a small Dell logo in the center. The keyboard tray is a silver plastic, and the screen bezel is matte black. The screen itself features LED backlighting, resulting in an impressively thin display. The laptop measures only 1 inch thick and weighs only 4.6 pounds. It feels much lighter than you'd expect it to. Two other 14-inch laptops we've looked at, the HP Pavilion dv4-1555dx and the Toshiba Satellite E105-S1802, weigh 5.4 and 5.0 pounds, respectively. Despite its light and trim chassis, the laptop feels solidly built, with very little flex.
The spacious keyboard keys are wide and feel sturdy. They're quiet and they offer just the right amount of travel. It's a far superior keyboard to the glossy, clacky keyboard on the HP Pavilion dv4-1555dx, it's a bit more comfortable than that found on the Toshiba Satellite E105 (though without backlighting), and on the same footing as the keyboard on the 15.5-inch Sony Vaio VGN-NW270F/S. The touch pad provides a good feel, too, and the mouse buttons are soft and quiet. The touch pad also supports gestures, including the two-finger scrolling that MacBook users have come to enjoy.
The Inspiron 1470 does not offer any media control keys. Instead, the F keys perform volume, mute, play/pause, fast forward, and rewind functions. In a smart reversal, you don't need to hit the Function key to perform these various tasks; instead, you hit the Fn key to perform the functions mapped to F1, F2, and so on.
The display measures 14.1 inches and features an extra-wide 16:9 aspect ratio that matches that of movies and HD video. With 1,366x768-pixel native resolution, the Inspiron 1470 can display 720p video. It feels a bit squat, however, when scrolling down long Web pages or Word documents. The screen features a glossy coating, but it strikes a decent balance between enhancing the appearance of movies and games and keeping glare and reflections to a minimum.
More impressive is the audio output. We don't expect greatness from small, integrated laptop speakers, but the Inspiron 1470's Altec Lansing speakers produced surprisingly rich and loud sound. Output at max volume was loud enough and still clear to enjoy a movie without needing headphones.
|Dell Inspiron 1470-3282||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||HDMI, VGA||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, mulitformat memory card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The ports and connections here are sparse. HDMI thankfully made the cut, but missing are eSATA and FireWire data ports. You'll also have to make do without an ExpressCard slot. The most glaring omission, however, is Draft N Wi-Fi; you're left with 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. A DVD burner is included--a feature absent on the Asus UL30-A1 and the Lenovo Idea Pad U350, thin 13.3-inch laptops using ULV processors.
The Dell Inspiron 1470-3282 features a fairly standard configuration for its price, serving up 4GB of DDR3 memory, a 320GB hard drive (spinning at 7,200rpm), and integrated Intel graphics. Its processor, however, can't keep up with the more standard voltage CPUs. The Core 2 Duo SU7300 is an ultra-low-voltage, dual-core CPU clocked at 1.3GHz, and slow than the Core 2 Duo T6600 and P7450 found in mainstream models. Granted, the SU7300's TDP (thermal design power) of 10 watts is much more efficient than the 25-35 watts found in those laptops.
Looking at the performance charts, you can see how much slower the Inspiron 1470's performance is than its mainstream competition. The HP Pavilion dv4-11555dx was 24 percent faster on CNET Labs' multitasking test, and both the Pavilion dv4-1555dx and the Toshiba Satellite E105-S1802 were 42-percent faster on our Photoshop benchmark. Likewise, the HP and Toshiba finished encoding an album's worth of tracks in iTunes in roughly 3 minutes, while the Dell Inspiron 1470 took more than 5 minutes to complete the same task. These are discernible differences.
In anecdotal testing, we found ourselves waiting for commands to be completed. Opening applications occurred only after slight pauses, though we found the performance held up fairly well under heavy multitasking scenarios. Generally, navigating in and around Windows 7 felt relatively smooth. The performance isn't so bad that it should be considered a deal-breaker, but you should weigh carefully the performance hit required for the Inspiron 1470's extended battery life.
|Dell Inspiron 1470-3282||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||0.30|
|Sleep (10 percent)||0.65|
|Idle (25 percent)||11.2|
|Load (5 percent)||24.87|
|Annual energy cost||$4.26|
The Inspiron 1470's battery life is impressive, running for 4 hours, 46 minutes, on CNET Labs' demanding video playback battery-drain test. That's a great score for a laptop using a standard six-cell battery; most six-cell batteries run for roughly 3 hours on our battery drain test. The Toshiba Satellite E105-S1802, however, presents an interesting alternative. It's a 14-inch laptop that weighs only 0.4 pound more than the Inspiron 1470, but it manages to squeeze in an eight-cell battery that sits flush with the bottom of the system (many extended-cell batteries protrude from the bottom). Using a standard-voltage Core 2 Duo processor, it ran for only 14 minutes shorter than the Inspiron 1470.
Dell backs the Studio S1440-022B with a standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty. Calls to tech support are toll-free and available 24-7. Dell's support pages contain an extensive knowledge base, user manuals, and driver downloads.
Dell Inspiron 1470-3282
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 1.3Hz Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 ULV; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 32MB (Dedicated Video)/1291MB (Total) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 320GB Seagate 7200rpm
Dell Studio 1745-3691MBU
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6600; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 32MB (Dedicated Video)/1695MB (Total) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 500GB Seagate 7200rpm
HP Pavilion dv4-1555dx
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6600; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 64MB (Dedicated Video)/1695MB (Total) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 320GB Hitachi 7200rpm
HP Pavilion dv6-1375dx
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7450; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 64MB (Dedicated Video)/1695MB (Total) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 500GB Seagate 7200rpm