Though you can customise the Dell Inspiron 9200 with a variety of internal components, all of the systems come in the same colossal silver case with white trim. Constructed out of a strong magnesium alloy, the notebook measures 394mm wide, 288mm deep, and 41.5mm thick. However, at 3.5kg, the Inspiron 9200 is surprisingly light for a laptop of its size. Granted, it's still too heavy to haul around regularly, but the Inspiron 9200 weighs about the sames as many notebooks with smaller screens, and much less than competitors offering the same screen real estate.
The Inspiron 9200's two speakers and internal subwoofer deliver crisp and rich sound, unlike the weak, flat strains that trickle out of most laptops. Better yet, because the speakers sit in the corners of the laptop's front edge, your hands won't muffle them while you're typing. Sandwiched between the speakers, a row of seven buttons let you control disc playback and adjust or mute the volume. The buttons are handy, but we wish they let us play discs without booting up the system -- a feature standard on the Toshiba Qosmio and the HP Pavilion dv1000.
With such a big case, the Inspiron 9200 can afford to include a big keyboard, though it lacks a separate number pad. The mouse buttons are downright huge, and the touch pad is adequately sized. The latter features arrows running along its right and bottom edges, outlining where to place your finger when using the software-enhanced pad to scroll through documents or Web pages.
Like all of Dell's laptops, the Dell Inspiron 9200 is extremely configurable. The configuration CNET tested isn't the cheapest option available, but when matched spec-for-spec against competitors, the Inspiron 9200 is the better deal -- at least for users who don't need a TV tuner. Our test model had a fast ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics chip with an ample 128MB of dedicated video RAM; a power-saving 2.0GHz Pentium M processor; 1GB of speedy 333MHz system memory; a fast 7,200rpm 60GB hard drive; and a giant, 17-inch display. The Inspiron 9200 test unit flew through CNET Labs' benchmarks, so if you're low on dough, consider getting a unit with a slower, cheaper processor and less memory.
The Inspiron 9200's piÃƒÂ¨ce de rÃƒÂ©sistance is its bright, expansive, 17-inch wide-screen display. Our evaluation model's WUXGA 1,900x1,200 native resolution made Unreal Tournament 2004's graphics really pop, and we thoroughly enjoyed watching a DVD movie. We should note that the antiglare coating on the Inspiron 9200's WUXGA screen creates a somewhat sparkly effect that's most noticeable against white backgrounds. Dell was unable to provide us with an evaluation model that included a WXGA+ display for comparison.
There's no dearth of ports, jacks, and slots: the Inspiron 9200 offers FireWire, S-Video out, VGA, and four USB 2.0 ports; 56Kbps modem, Ethernet, headphone, and microphone jacks; one each of Type II PC Card and Secure Digital slots; and a swank DVI port, should you want to connect the laptop to an even bigger digital LCD. Last, but definitely not least, the Inspiron 9200 includes a cutting-edge, multiformat double-layer DVD drive, which is fixed and cannot be swapped out for another drive.
Though CNET Labs no longer officially tests battery life, we drained the Inspiron 9200's big 11.1V, 7,200mAh cell by watching a DVD movie with the laptop's huge 17-inch screen set to half brightness. The battery lasted 165 minutes -- not bad considering the system's power-hungry display.
Mobile application performance
The Dell Inspiron 9200 that CNET tested featured a Pentium M 755-2GHz CPU with a 2MB L2 cache -- a competitive setup that outscored many comparably clocked systems that we've tested this year. It even held pace with an eMachines M6811 equipped with a slightly faster 2.2GHz Mobile Athlon 64 3400+. The Sony VAIO VGN-A190, another fairly powerful desktop-replacement system, runs a slower version of the Pentium M, and it brought up the rear in this test group. The Inspiron 9200's performance is proof that even at a relatively low clock speed, the Pentium M can hold its own with higher-end CPUs. The Inspiron 9200 will deliver a strong performance for office and content-creation apps.
To measure maximum notebook application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2004, an industry-standard benchmark. Find out more about how we test notebooks.
NOTE: Products in this test are for comparative purposes only and are not necessarily available in the Australian market.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
||BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating||
||SysMark 2004 Internet content creation||
||SysMark 2004 office productivity|
Performance analysis written by CNET Labs assistant lab manager Eric Franklin.
Unreal Tournament 2004
Thanks to its ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 128MB video adapter, the Dell Inspiron 9200 comes out on the top of the heap, with a significant advantage over the eMachines M6811, which houses a slower ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 -- an earlier-generation video adapter with only half as much video memory as the Radeon 9700. The Sony VAIO VGN-A190 also has the Radeon 9700 but with only 64MB of video memory. In fact, the Dell Inspiron 9200 scored only fractionally lower than the mighty HP Pavilion zd8000, which runs a much faster and more powerful Pentium 4 processor with twice as much video memory. As such, we recommend the Dell Inspiron 9200 as a capable gaming machine.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
||Atari Games/Epic Games Unreal Tournament 2004|
Unreal Tournament 2004 analysis written by CNET Labs assistant lab manager Eric Franklin.
In order to test gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Atari Games/Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2004. Rather than isolate the graphics adapter, this test evaluates overall system performance, with an emphasis on CPU speed. Find out more about how we test notebooks.
Dell Inspiron 9200
Windows XP Professional; 2GHz Intel Pentium M 755; 1GB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 128MB; Hitachi Travelstar 7K60 60GB 7,200rpm
Windows XP Home; 2.2GHz AMD Mobile Athlon 64 3400+; 1GB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 64MB; Hitachi Travelstar 4K80 80GB 4,200rpm
Sony VAIO VGN-A190
Windows XP Home; 1.7GHz Intel Pentium M 735; 512MB 333MHz DDR RAM; ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 64MB; Hitachi Travelstar 80GN 80GB 4,200rpm
Service and support
The Inspiron 9200 delivers exceptional design, features, and performance, but its warranty maintains the status quo. Dell backs the Inspiron 9200 with an industry-standard one-year warranty on parts and labour, available by mailing your laptop back to Dell. Toll-free telephone support also lasts for just a year. However, Dell offers a long list of warranty extension options, including onsite repair, night and weekend service, and accidental-damage coverage. Since you'll be shelling out a pretty penny to get the Inspiron 9200, protecting your investment with at least a two-year warranty is a good idea.
The best part of Dell's support Web site is the customer forum, where users can go to get help from other Inspiron owners, as well as from Dell reps who moderate the forum. Otherwise, the site offers the typical knowledge base and downloads sections.