Dell notebook delivers the goods

The Inspiron 6400 is a good-looking beast, without being flashy

I’ve been seriously underpowered, computerwise, for over a year now after a Sony Vaio I had overheated and died — just out of warranty, of course.

My father gave me his old PC as an interim measure while I pondered, deeply, what to do next. A Mac was very tempting, and I was determined to stick with a desktop rather than a troublesome notebook.

Not determined enough, though. A couple of weeks ago, pretty much on impulse, I logged into Dell and bought one of their mid-range Inspiron notebooks, a 6400 with 1GB of RAM and no other extras.

Surprisingly quickly, the box was delivered to Computerworld central command, where I eagerly unwrapped my new machine.

The Inspiron 6400 is a good-looking beast, without being flashy. If it were a car, it’d be a Ford and, as I’m a Ford kinda guy, so far so good. The silver metal finish (you can choose other options when ordering: carbon fibre, cherrywood or charcoal leather) is matched with white plastic trim. It’s a pleasing combination.

My 6400, as I said, is pretty standard, powered by an Intel Core Duo processor running at 1.6GHz with 2MB of cache (on checking Dell’s website while writing, the basic processor is now a 1.8GHz). It comes with the 15.4-inch screen. Naturally, being a Dell, you can change the configuration when ordering, but the only changes I made were for a slightly larger hard drive (120GB) and an extra bit of RAM to make the machine Vista-proof.

Which brings me to the OS. Again I went basic with, you guessed, Vista Basic.

The Inspiron has some nifty features like the now commonplace media control buttons on the front so you don’t have to use software controls.

I never realised how handy these were until now, with more and more multimedia content coming down Telecom’s creaking pipes.

The machine performs crisply and processes bulk digital images, one of my main applications, with impressive speed, at least compared with my Dad’s old dunger. Overall I’m really pleased with my hardware, but there are some non-Dell issues. First, it’s still a PC. As I said, I was considering a Mac. Instead, every time I start up I get asked if I want to shut down again — to install endless updates.

Secondly, it’s got Vista. I have no beef with the new OS per se, but even with the limited amount of software I wanted to install there were a number of annoying incompatibilities. So off you go looking for more updates and patches.

But top marks to Dell for a solid product at a very good price — a shade over $1400 including GST.

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