It was only a year ago that CPU speeds of 2GHz in a notebook computer were thought to be far off on the horizon. Yet now this milestone is imminent, with Intel's recent launch of its new mobile processor in Australia, the Pentium 4 Mobile or P4-M. Initially available in speeds from 1.6GHz to 1.7GHz and then 1.4GHz to 1.5GHz from April, the processor was tested in action in Dell's latest Inspiron 8200 notebook. Designed for users seeking a mobile desktop replacement, the 8200 boasts a swathe of new performance and multimedia technologies in its arsenal.
The 8200 features a 1.7GHz P4-M processor coupled with an 845MP chipset that brings the Processor Support Bus (PSB) speed from a previous high of 133MHz to 400MHz. In addition to utilising the increased bus speed, the P4-M processors include an on-die 512Kb Level 2 cache, which, among other benefits, helps speed repetitive tasks. Expect to see notebook vendors beginning to refresh their high-end and performance notebook product lines featuring the Tualatin PIII-M processor with the new P4-M processor. This will push the PIII-M into the more budget conscious notebook market, as seen with Dell's new PIII-M-equipped sub-$3000 notebook (reviewed in this month's Best Buys, page 114).
Another new inclusion in the 8200, and one that you can expect to see more of as the year goes on, is the use of Double Data Rate (DDR) memory. Our 8200 shipped with 256MB of DDR RAM, from a maximum 1024MB. Graphics are delivered courtesy of the new NVIDIA GeForce4 440 Go graphics controller with 64MB of DDR memory, which returned an astounding score of 5028 in 3DMark 2001 at 1024x768 at 16-bit - PC-like gaming grunt.
Our test model's enhanced 15in Ultra XGA display ran at a native resolution of 1600x1200 and features greater contrast and brightness over previous Inspiron models. Another nice touch is the inclusion of both a pointing stick and a glide pad for cursor control.
Drives include a 30GB hard drive (up to 60GB is available), an integrated 3.5in floppy drive and a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combination drive that uses some hardware playback features of the GeForce4 440 Go. Ports include two USB, serial, parallel, infrared, docking, VGA-out, serial, S-Video (that uses a dongle to provide S/PDIF audio and Composite video-out), FireWire, microphone, headphone and line-in audio jacks. There is also support for two Type II or one Type III PC Cards.
Our tested configuration reached a record notebook score of 155 in the SYSMark 2001 benchmark, placing it on a par with a comparably configured 1.6GHz P4 desktop system tested in this month's PC Best Buys. Notebooks, now more than ever, are beginning to bridge the traditional performance divide between desktops.
The Inspiron weighs just over 4kg "with the power supply and measures 27.94x58.42x133mm (HxWxD). Retailing for $5599 (plus $299 to extend the one-year warranty to three years), the 8200 may make many users begin to think twice before dismissing a notebook as a non-viable purchase option.
Dell Inspiron 8200 ****
A powerful desktop replacement incorporating a "range of technologies new to mobile computing.
Phone: 1300 303 175.