Inspiron 9400 review

  • Price When Reviewed: 799 . 1318

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Dell’s first laptop to offer Intel’s new Core Duo line of processors features the same chip as Apple’s MacBook Pro (left), but places it within a 17-inch case. As such models go, the Inspiron 9400 is small and light. Its silver and white livery crossbreeds Apple’s iBook and PowerBook lines – but overall the finish isn’t as classy as Apple’s.

The 9400 completed our standard LightWave test in 24 minutes and 18 seconds – almost twice as fast as the top rated laptop in our group test in Digit 97. This is due to the processor having two cores, which heavily accelerates most major creative applications.

This Inspiron’s LightWave score is much better than the MacBook Pro’s – though NewTek hasn’t tuned the Mac version 3D suite for Intel processors yet. Using Cinebench 9.5’s Intel-optimized rendering test, the Inspiron and MacBook Pro output almost identical scores.

The Inspiron’s real-time 3D score in Cinebench’s hardware-lighting test is a paltry 1260 – though this is hardly surprising as the 9400 uses an onboard chip with no RAM of its own.

A time of six minutes and 19s in our Photoshop test is impressive for a laptop with 1GB of RAM (the faster MacBook Pro has 2GB). Its MobileMark battery life score of 223 minutes is impressive.

The 9400 offers a lot more graphics flexibility than the MacBook Pro. You can upgrade the screen to a hi-def 1,920-x-1,200 (though neither laptops offer an ‘X-black’-style screen), and you can add a powerful NVidia GeForce Go 7800 graphics chip. If you do add these, the 9400 should become more than a match for the MacBook Pro – but as it is, the 9400 is a little weak.

Photoshop CS 2
Apple MacBook Pro: 5mins 42s
Apple Powerbook G4 15-inch: 9mins 2s
Dell Inspiron 9400: 6mins 19s

LightWave 8.3
Apple MacBook Pro: 73mins 22s
Apple Powerbook G4 15-inch: 60mins 45s
Dell Inspiron 9400: 24m 18s

Cinebench 9.5
Apple MacBook Pro: 1360
Apple Powerbook G4 15-inch: 890
Dell Inspiron 9400: 1260

The Photoshop test performs 20 actions upon a 20MB image in Photoshop CS 2. Results are in minutes and seconds and shorter bars are better. The LightWave test renders the radiosity_BOX.lws scene in LightWave 8.3 to test graphics processing power. Results are in minutes and seconds and shorter bars are better. The Cinebench 9.5 simulates scenes within Maxon Cinema 4D 9.5. Scores reflect real-time 3D power, and longer bars are better.


Processor: Intel Core Duo T2500 (2GHz)
Max RAM: 2GB
Screen: 17-inch
Resolution: 1,440-x-900
Graphics chip: onboard Intel Media Accelerator 950
RAM: up to 32MB (from main RAM)
Hard drive type: Serial ATA
Size: 100GB
Speed: 5,400rpm
Removable media drive: dual layer DVD±RW drive (16x)
Size: 391-x-290-x-44mm
Weight: 3.5kg

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