My review of Dell Inspiron 8600

Discussion in 'Dell' started by srdhkl, Apr 2, 2004.

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  1. srdhkl

    srdhkl Notebook Evangelist NBR Reviewer

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    Well, I just thought I'd give my thought on the Inspiron 8600 after having played with it for a few days.

    For the last couple of months, I was truly frustrated with Dell's customer service and technical support, to the point that I was starting to regret ever purchasing from them. Last summer I bought the Inspiron 5150 and as in my previous post, my screen would flicker whenever I was using battery. After months of repair work and complaints to Dell, I was forced to contact the Better Business Bureau. To make a long story short, Dell let me exchange my 5150 for the 8600. And I must admit, I am very pleased with my new machine.

    I received a Pentium M 1.7 ghz, 1 GB 333 mhz RAM, 128 MB ATI 9600 video card, Dell 1300 b/g wireless card, 15.4 " WideSXGA screen, DVD/CD-RW Drive, Windows XP Pro, 60 GB 7200 RPM Hard Drive.

    The computer is about 1.5" thick and weighs about 6 to 7lbs, although not the lightest, it's a relief compared to the almost 9 lb. 5150 beast I used to own. It's a fairly sleek design for a desktop replacement with a nice silver exterior. The keyboard feels a little bit flimsy but I've gotten used to that. It has both a touch pad and an eraser head pointer stick. On the keyboard are volume control and mute buttons, as well as buttons for CD drive functions. It has 2 USB ports, 1 firewire port, VGA, serial, parallel ports, and S-video port, with 1 PCMCIA slot.

    I am very impressed with the speed of this system. I reformatted the drive to get rid of all the excess Dell garbage. To me, this system runs as fast or even faster than my 5150's 3.06 ghz processor without any annoying fan noise! Even at the battery saving 600 mhz speed, all my programs seem to fly.

    Since I plays games fairly regulary, I love the ATI 9600 128 MB video card. I recently played Freedom Fighters at max resolution and the frame rate was outstanding. I ran 3dMark 2003 benchmark and got a score of almost 3000. My old 5150 with a 64 MB Geforce 5200 and 1 GB Ram, only got about 1100!

    The speakers, while not the greatest, do give adequate sound. However, I wouldn't count on them for sound intensive DVD movies.

    I am very impressed with the battery life. I had the wireless connection on the whole time, surfed the net, and got about 3.2 hours on battery. Without wireless, I approached 4.5 hours. Very solid.

    Some negatives: I'm not a fan of the plastic Dell uses in the Inspiron series. It doesn't seem very sturdy. The biggest complaint I have of this machine is that the bottom where the RAM is placed gets incredibly hot, almost to the point that in can get uncomfortable on the lap. I'm not sure if it's the type of memory or the amount, but it does get annoying.

    After my terrible experience with the 5150 I made sure Dell gave me a 3 year warranty, since I still question the Inspiron quality. However, I will admit, I believe Dell has made a pretty good desktop replacement with the 8600. It really does balance power with mobility.

    For those looking for a desktop replacement at a reasonable price, the Dell Inspiron 8600 may not be a bad choice, HOWEVER, do get an extended warranty on it.

    Hope this helps!
     
  2. Andrew Baxter

    Andrew Baxter -

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    nesbo, glad that your story with the 5150 turned out okay (in the end). I hope the 8600 fairs better, seems you're pretty happy with it now. I totally agree, Dell makes good machines but a warranty is always good. It might be the fact that Dell sells more notebooks than anyone else in the U.S. that we hear so many more complaints about them as far as quality issues with notebooks...after all, people often only speak up when there's a problem and not when things go right.

    thanks for the review!
     
  3. Run1track

    Run1track Notebook Deity

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    Hey Nesbo:

    I found it very interesting when you said "To me, this system runs as fast or even faster than my 5150's 3.06 ghz processor" I have tried to stear clear of Pentium M machines because I wanted the power of a 3 ghz P4. I have heard that a 1.6 Pentium M is equal to a 2.4 P4. Could you please elaborate on the speed comparison between the 5150 and the 8600. Do you think I could get as good of performance with a Pentium M as with a high end Pentium 4? Anything you can tell me would be great. Anyone else is also welcome to give their input.

    Thanks!
     
  4. srdhkl

    srdhkl Notebook Evangelist NBR Reviewer

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    Well, while I haven't actually run any specific benchmarks regarding speed of my processor, games and programs seem to load and run at least the same as my former Mobile Pentium 4 3.06 ghz. Both had 1 GB RAM and 7200 RPM Hard Drive.

    However, again this is just from personal experience and I don't have any hard numbers to give you.

    I think if you search in some of the old posts in this section, I believe I posted something that compared high end P4's to PM using various benchmarks.

    I'll see if I can find it.
     
  5. srdhkl

    srdhkl Notebook Evangelist NBR Reviewer

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    This is a post from Dell's Community Forum, someone ran a little informal comparison between the 8600 and 5150:

    I just ran a PassMark Performance Test comparison betwixt two fresh Inspirons,

    1> My brand-new Inspiron 8600, 1.7GHz P-M, 1GB RAM, 128MB Radeon 9600 Pro Turbo, 60GB 7200RPM 8MB hard disk - appears on the attached chart in Red.

    2> A friend's brand-new Inspiron 5150, 3.06GHz P-4M, 512MB RAM, 32MB GeForce Go 5200, 40GB 5400RPM 2MB hard disk - appears on the attached chart in Blue.

    Both systems were freshly loaded with WinXP Pro SP1a, and all the appropriate updates and drivers were applied. All unnecessary services were temporarily disabled on both systems. SpeedSwitchXP was used to lock both systems at their top CPU speed.

    The I5150, with its speedy processor and 533FSB, walked all over the I8600 during the CPU Mark and Memory Mark tests suites.

    The I8600's video card pulled far, far ahead on the Graphics Mark suites - approaching 400% druing the 3D tests. Given the relatively small textures used in the 3D Graphics Mark tests, I submit that the 32MB vs. 128MB video memory means less in this instance, than which GPU is used.

    Oddly enough, the I8600's fast hard drive equated to less than a 1.5% performance advantage over the slower, but much less expensive, hard drive in the I5150. I know that the faster drive with the larger cache makes good sense, but you wouldn't know it from the Disk Mark tests.

    Summary - need 3D performance in a Dell notebook? Buy the I8600. Need acceptable GUI performance, with blistering processing speed for programming or number crunching? I5150.

    (Asides - the I5150 SXGA display is WAAY brighter than the I8600 UXGA display. And that frickin' I5150 130w power brick is a monstrosity!)

    Now, as soon as I click the "Submit Post" button, Dell will announce a Radeon 9800 Pro Turbo option in the I5150. That option will almost certainly go live the day after my 30-day guarantee expires ;->
     
  6. bootleg2go

    bootleg2go Notebook Deity NBR Reviewer

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    Hi Run1track,
    I too agree, the pentium M is one fast CPU. You can learn more about it at intel's site, but here is the basics.
    I have an IBM R40 with a 1.5Ghz Pentium M CPU and ran SiSandra's CPU benchmarks on it a few weeks back and it beat my desktop system(P4 2.4Ghz) by a 2% margin. I would guess a 1.6M would be right up with a 2.6Ghz P4. The main reasons for this is 1 MB of L2 cache in the M vs. 512k in the P4, better branch prediction, shorter pipeline. You can read more at Tom's hardware as well. http://www.tomshardware.com/mobile/20030205/index.html
    On top of it all is that it is done with a small fraction of the power consumption of the P4, so a notebook with a pentium M CPU will have about 3 times the battery life as a P4 notebook. I personally think the pentium M is the coolest thing to come out of Intel in a long time.

    Just my opinion
    Jack
     
  7. Magiciaen

    Magiciaen Notebook Guru

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    Hey Nesbo,

    I've ordered an 8600 with exactly the same specs as yours, and it should be arriving this Tuesday. Will post a review as well after checking it out. [:)]

    Funny thing is I do research on nanocomputation (next generation of reversible/quantum processors), and I'll be using the 8600 for simulations and design work on this. Need a microcomputer to design a nanocomputer!!
     
  8. viendo

    viendo Newbie

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    Hi,
    First, thanks nesbo for the benchmark tests! I am considering buying a dell laptop (8600 or 5150), what surprised me is that you said that the 5150 screen was much brighter than your 8600... how come? The 8600 has a 300:1 contrast ratio and the 5150 has 250:1 contrast ratio. Is this maybe an assembly problem? I work in the radiology field and the screen quality is a primordial feature for me. Saw the sony XBrite technology and I think it`s a marvellous screen but I don`t like the specs for the price.

    Thanks for such a good site!
     
  9. srdhkl

    srdhkl Notebook Evangelist NBR Reviewer

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    Hi,

    Actually, that benchmark was done by someone else and I just posted it here. I agree with you, the 5150 SXGA should not be brighter. I think maybe the person doing the test actually had a 5150 UXGA, because that screen was brighter. (I used to own a 5150 with a UXGA screen)

    So, I agree with you, the 8600 should have a brighter screen than the current 5150's out there.
     
  10. zylamorph

    zylamorph Newbie

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    I am also looking to purchase either the 5150 or the 8600.

    Has anyone tried running AutoCAD 2000, Adobe Premiere 6.0, Photoshop, or Dreamweaver MX with the 8600 compared to the 5150 ?

    If these are the applications I plan on running, is the 8600 a wise choice ? I'm another newbie torn between the 5150 and the 8600.
    My previous laptop was a Sager - which had it's share of problems,
    and now is resting comfortably in pieces.. in my closet...

    I'm looking to get OUT my office and do some work on the road.
    (with or without a wall outlet close by)

    Will the Pentium M processor handle these apps robustly?
    I recently read a forum SOMPLACE that the Pent. M chip did not have a math co-processor, but I do believe it DOES. That being said - is the 8600 a better laptop ?
     
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