Dell Inspiron 2500

On the down side however, a short battery life tops the list. One charge of the 2500's four-cell battery lasts 1.5 hours--about half as long as the typical laptop and far behind performers like Gateway's Solo notebooks, which chug along for 4 or 5 hours. (An eight-cell battery is available for about $110.) We also have a few gripes with the design of the dual-purpose buttons. Unlike other laptops, which include convenient hardware switches for dual-purpose buttons, the 2500 makes you use a software utility to change from audio-control mode to shortcut mode and vice versa. And though the Inspiron 2500 has an unusually long list of high-end options, a docking connection isn't one of them. Performance could be a little better: In our PC WorldBench 2000 tests, the 2500 lagged behind the other Celeron-700 unit we tested at the same time, the Toshiba Satellite 1755, by about 10 per cent.

The midweight Inspiron 2500 weighs 6.7 pounds without peripherals, and measures almost 2 inches tall. At this low price, you get a fixed 10X-24X CD-ROM drive on the side, and until July, a removable floppy drive in the modular front bay. By August Dell plans to end a special promotion for Inspiron 2500 laptops with 14.1- and 15-inch screens and start charging an undetermined extra amount for the floppy drive. Alternatively, you can buy a 100MB Zip drive for $230 more. Aside from a hollow travel bezel that Dell says will shave the notebook's weight to about 6 pounds, the bay does not accommodate any other types of devices, such as a second battery.

We liked the 2500's steady keyboard and the easy-to-access hard drive, which can be pulled out of the side after you've removed two screws on the bottom. The touchpad teams with huge grey mouse buttons that can be reprogrammed to launch your favourite applications or Web sites. Want to jazz up this all-black laptop's looks? You can swap the removable palm rests for another colour -- Dell sells a set of four, in blue, grey, yellow, and purple. Awash in documentation, the 2500 includes a setup guide, a thin troubleshooting manual, and desktop links to an electronic manual and online Dell technicians. However, we had trouble finding information on some basic notebook features, such as the dual-purpose buttons.

Best use

Looking for a relatively cheap notebook with lots of perks, including a big screen? With its smallish hard drive and integrated video memory, this particular configuration of the new Dell Inspiron 2500 may not be for multimedia pros, but budget-minded Web designers and penny pinchers should take a close look. You'll want to spring for the extra money to buy a longer-lasting battery, and you'll possibly want another 64MB of RAM to satisfy the memory-hogging Windows Me operating system.

Dell Inspiron 2500

Price: $2599

Phone: 1800 335 502

URL: www.dell.com.au

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