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Dell Inspiron E1705 Hands-on Impressions
Posted April 24, 2007, 12:17 pm by Steve
Categories: Review, Tech

I got home last night around 5:30 and didn't have time to open the new Dell box containing my Inspiron E1705 until after a conference call with work. After the call I figured I better eat dinner first because I knew I'd be on the new computer for awhile. Finally, around 7-ish I got to unpack the new system. It is bigger then my old Inspiron 8600 (15.4" screen vs. 17" screen). The case has a weird white paint along the edges. Looks kind of cool and, I think, adds extra protection since it is a bit rubber-like. It has the same keyboard as my other laptop which is fine. I'd prefer one with a number keypad, however. There is easy access to media playback controls even if the lid is closed which is a nice touch. About the only things I don't like about the design is the Intel Due Core 2 sticker is on a bit skewed, there is no middle mouse dial button on the touch pad (my old one didn't have one either) and the slots where the monitor lid snaps into when closed are pretty big and deep when operational. This is a "crumb magnate" as my wife called it. "No food by the new 'puter" was my immediate demand ;-)

Initial setup was a breeze. I basically plugged in the laptop, turned it on and went through the wizard (which just asked for your name and computer name). The process ended with a couple clicks and entry of my home network ID to get up and running online. After completion and numerous auto-updates for both Vista and Office 2007 I spent an hour or so messing around with Vista before taking an hour break to watch Heroes. During commercial break I ripped a couple CDs which was a painless process. My only complaint here is I wish Windows Media Player (WMP) would add a "space" before and after the "-" between artist and song title. My analness (is that a word?) causes me to manually rename each ripped MP3 (which I have decided to up my bitrate from 128 to 256 now on all future rips). The display for artist and albums inside Vista and WMP is really cool. It has a folder icon with the album covers stacked inside it! After Heroes and a couple rips were over I decide to test out the internal speakers. It took 30 seconds to load an MP3! I figured it must be an DRM issues so I played around with the various options inside WMP. Nothing worked. I decided to sit down at the kitchen table in attempt to solve this issue, and check the life span of the battery. After about an hour of research it was not a DRM or WMP issue, but a driver issue with the sound device. After "approving" access to access Windows Device Manager (more on this security burden in a bit) I selected to update the drivers for the device. Windows claimed the they were up-to-date. I decided to manually search the Internet and finally found a slightly newer version. The install seemed to have fixed the audio issue. Shew!

While working unplugged I had the monitor brightness set around 35% and wi-fi enabled. My battery had about 20% charge left after two hours. I was hoping for a little more battery life considering I spent $50 extra to upgrade it. A bit disappointing. Speaking of disappointing, the security features are really over the top to the point of a major burden within Vista. As mentioned earlier, I have to "approve" each access attempt to Windows Device Manager. When trying to access this and other system features the screen goes black with a pop-up requesting permission to access them. Also, this goes for every piece of software and firmware installed even with full administrative privileges I'll have to explore options for setting the security level of system access more.

As mentioned before, the touch pad doesn't have a middle mouse wheel. But it does come with a very clever vertical and horizon page scroller. On the right and bottom of the touch pad are printed scrollbar icons. Just move your finger on top of them then slide in the appropriate direction to scroll the page. Works great when tested in Internet Explorer. I love this feature! Next up is the sidebar. This feature is cool! There are options of individual transparency settings of each gadget, if the sidebar is always on top of applications, adding more gadgets, rearranging gadgets (complete with cool animation) and more. Each gadget also has it's individual options as well. This is a much welcome edition to Windows especially when you have a 1920x1200 widescreen display.

Speaking of display, the glossy nature is a great technical inclusion. It is not as glossy or high contrast as I expected, but still great none the less. I'm not sure if this is a video card, display or Windows issue, but I did notice some odd screen redraw issues when minimizing/restoring WMP sometimes. It is like the on-screen windows would flicker and shift position for a split second. It didn't happen all the time and hopefully won't become an ongoing issue.

The user interface for Vista is great! It is very crisp, clean, fluid and user friendly. At this comes the cost of RAM, however. I have 2 GB of RAM and would highly recommend this to be the minimum requirements for running Vista. Besides that I really like it. There are a lot of features in the OS I still have left to explore like customization, Windows Media Center, Office 2007 and more. I could go on and on about Vista but I'll have to save that for another time since this is getting pretty long already.

Overall I'm satisfied with my system customization choices and purchase. I'm glad the audio issues was fixed fairly easy, but it is still a bummer that a system shipped with it. I'm very anxious for more hands-on time and the complete migration from the old system to new. But, after cleaning up the system and removing unnecessary pre-installed software, it was late so I called it a night. I never did get to fully test those internal speakers.

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