While it certainly isn't cheap, the Inspiron 9400 is Dell's budget replacement for those not willing to go all-out on the XPS range, but still have some money to spend. With a 17in (1920x1200) screen and weighing 3.7kg (without the PSU), this can be considered somewhat of a desktop replacement.
The Inspiron scored an impressive 97 in our WorldBench 5 and an adequate score of 3551 in 3DMark 2006 running on an NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 GS and an Intel T2600 (2.16GHz) Core Duo CPU with 1GB of 667MHz DDR2 RAM. While this performance is good, it's a noticeable step down from the XPS M1710 we tested last month (see page 28 in our August issue), though it has a price drop to match.
Battery tests using both MobileMark 2002 and a worst-case scenario test (playing a DVD) showed good results for a notebook with a 17in screen, lasting 163mins and 95mins respectively.
The chassis is the same that Dell has used for the other Inspiron and XPS models, a sturdy and spacious design with easily accessible media controls and a Direct Media button (for Windows free media playback). Viewing the screen at vertical angles showed some image degradation and it also suffered the same curtaining effect (dark stripes down the screen) as other models, but was otherwise clear.
The installed speakers produce a better sound than many notebooks but are not ideal for movies or gaming.
Our sample was supplied with a 60GB hard drive, but with 6x USB 2.0 ports which means there's plenty of space for external storage options.
Verdict: At $3800 it's not a cheap purchase by any stretch of the imagination. However, if you're a gamer or just like to have power at your fingertips and you require more mobility than a desktop can offer, then this might be the choice for you.
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Specifications: Intel 2.16GHz T2600 Core Duo CPU, 1GB DDR2 RAM (667MHz), NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 GS, 17in screen (1920x1200), Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g, 10/100 Ethernet, 56Kbps Modem, 60GB SATA HDD (5400rpm), 8 x DVD-RW Drive (dual-layer), 5-in-1 media card reader (MS, MS-Pro, SD, MMC, xD), FireWire, 6 x USB 2.0, VGA, DVI and S-Video out, Express Card slot, weight 4.2kg (with PSU) 3.7kg (without PSU), 3 years pickup and return warranty.