Dell Inspiron 640m 

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This is a very powerful notebook with a reasonable sized screen, put the two together and the weight is not gigantic. Add the ability to work in Media Centre mode and it should suit most.

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The biggest task with Dell machines is to match the sent configuration with what is available on their site. I was sent a Intel 2GHz processor with 1GB of RAM and Windows Media Centre Edition of the 640m laptop. The hard disc was shown as 93GB and I assume that was the 100GB option.

Sorry to be so vague but I all I get sent is a total insurance value, it would be so nice to have a sheet detailing the parts that make the whole.

This is a 14.1inch screen machine, the total measurements are 32.5x23x3.5cm, the screen is 30.5x20cm giving the 14.1inch diagonal measurement. The screen display is 1440x900.

The front edge has some quite nice speakers and eight silvered round buttons to allow easy control of audio and visual controls. The left side has an SD/MMC slot above a PCMCIA slot. Beside this are microphone and headphone sockets then a 4pin FireWire and an S-Video socket. The rear has the DC input and two USB2 ports. The right side has the DVD/CD recorder player, two further USB2 ports, the modem and network ports and finally the outlet for an external monitor. There is an internal 'g' wireless card.

There is an 88 key keyboard of which 65 keys are full size. In front of this is 7.5x4.5 trackpad with the left and right mouse keys in front of it.

The stated price of what I was sent was £1300 but when I customised what was available on the website it came to £1079 however the media centre edition of Windows was not shown anywhere as an option although I was sent it.

Basic packages with Microsoft Home and a 80GB hard disc with a 1.6GHz processor are shown at around £870. Logging on another day found Media Centre listed and the whole package at only £709 including VAT and shipping, so with Dell it's certainly on the day you look.

This unit handled everything I asked of it, I installed several software packages and attached various items via USB. Connecting to my router via Ethernet was a breeze, using Wireless was a little more difficult as persuading my router to accept it was not as easy as it should be but once connected all was well. One word of caution when using the unit on batteries it will automatically turn off the Ethernet connection without telling you and when you next try to connect it will not. To solve this you have to right click on the connection and disable it and then right click again to enable it. Easy when you know but very frustrating should you miss the warning message that appears very briefly on the screen. I only saw it the third time it happened. One use of the FireWire port is to download camcorder content and to then edit it within software, this worked without any problems.

Battery life was around four hours in light use somewhat less with Internet activity and or CD activity. I did try the Media Centre features and they worked well, certainly for someone with little knowledge who wants the machine for video and audio it makes things easier.

I am not grading this unit for value as when the price varies between £709 and £1300 and the only noticeable differences are a slightly larger hard disc and faster processor working out the value is hard. At £709 I would certainly consider it.

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Comment by editor, May 6, 2007 17:13

Dell are offering an extra £100 off the Inspiron 640m - between the 4th and the 9th of May. Just
click on the this link and enter the code DSJNJN971BZS3$ at the checkout.

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