Price: £2,242 plus VAT
This muscular desktop-PC replacement includes dual pointing-devices; high-end ports; and a high-resolution (1,600-x-1,200-pixel), 15-inch screen, driven by an NVidia GeForce4 440 Go graphics processor with 64MB of DDR SDRAM. The 8200’s optical drive (an 8x DVD-ROM drive in our review unit) is fixed. The floppy drive, located on the front, is modular; users can carry two optical drives or two batteries at once – perfect for long work sessions away from an outlet or for back-to-back DVD movies. The battery life – just under 2.5 hours on a single battery – is rather disappointing. We’ve seen much longer battery lives on other, lighter Inspirons. The heaviest 8000-series notebook yet, the 8200 weighs 4.2kg with its AC adaptor and 3.6kg without it. Dual-purpose shortcut buttons above the keyboard let users control music CDs or launch applications, but a software utility to switch between the two modes is needed. The case sports a FireWire port, and S-Video ports for connecting to a TV or projector. An adaptor converts the latter to composite video, and there’s an S/PDIF port for connecting digital audio devices. The hard drive is a snap to remove: just remove a single screw, and it slides out. We like the 8000 series’ big keyboard, but the eraserhead’s mouse buttons are still small, concave, and don’t feel comfortable against the fingertips. Like its predecessors, the 8200 boasts strong sound, but still lacks a dedicated mute button –a function-key combination is used instead. Wireless network antennas are built in, but the 802.11b network MiniPCI card costs an extra £100. Though Dell now offers a version of the 8200 based on the 1.8-GHz Pentium 4-M CPU, our review unit came with a 1.7-GHz Pentium 4-M processor – and it didn’t break any speed records in our performance tests.