By Anush Yegyazarian Dell's new $2685 Inspiron 4100 packs a lot into one case, including Intel's latest mobile processor, the 1.2-GHz Pentium III-M. It's heavy, at about 8 pounds with AC adapter and floppy module included, but you get your money's worth for mainstream business use.
With the fastest notebook CPU available, the 4100 performed very well on our PC WorldBench 2000 tests, scoring 211. Our top-performing Windows 2000-based notebook remains the HP Omnibook 6100, with a 1.13-GHz PIII-M CPU, which scored 215. The difference would be barely noticeable during casual use. (Both systems came with 256MB of RAM.)
In our tests, the Inspiron's battery life was fair: 2 hours, 58 minutes. You can use one of its two modular bays to add a second battery.
You also get a sharp 14.1-inch LCD that has one of the highest notebook resolutions available (1600 by 1200, at 32-bit color), powered by ATI Mobility Radeon graphics with 16MB of DDR RAM. The Inspiron 4100 package also includes a fair-size 20GB hard disk, a combination 8X DVD-ROM and 8X/8X/24X CD-RW drive (hot-swappable in the dual bays, just like the spare battery), a built-in antenna for wireless networking, a touchpad, a pointing stick, a 56-kbps modem, an ethernet adapter, and Microsoft Office XP Small Business 2002. You'll need to order a mini PCI card (one of these came included with our notebook) to enable the wireless networking.
In my tests, the keyboard was comfortable and quiet, the video playback was good, and the sound was acceptable. If you like color-customizing, for $20 to $50 you can get different sets of modular colored panels you can easily interchange by snapping onto the laptop's lid and onto the wrist rests. You might want to upgrade the warranty, however--you get only one year with the standard version. From the December 2001 issue of PC World magazine