Construction: Field Tested (cont.)
Keyboard – This is one of the better keyboard layout designs out there, as the function and page up/page down/home/end are all located in logical and ergonomically sound places. Of course, we should note that while the home/end/page up/page down keys are situated well, like using a desktop keyboard you will have to stretch your fingers to use them. This has nothing to do with spacing the keyboard, which Dell has done just right; rather this is something you need to do on desktop keyboards for the most part. Either way, this is technically the correct placement, and better/more intuitive than aligning these keys on the right side in a single column.
Overall, there is a good feel for tactile feedback in the keyboard, though we have to admit that the keyboards on Dell's Latitude line are a tad better, but we do expect a difference between the consumer and business notebook lines. If you have used an 8600, you should have an idea of what to expect from the 6000, as we can't really tell that much of a difference between the two.
LEDs – There are two LED strips: one above the keyboard and one on the right hinge for the display. The LED strip above the keyboard include LEDs for (left to right): num lock (green when active), caps lock (green when active), scroll lock (green when active), wireless connectivity (green when active), and Bluetooth status (blue when active). The LED strip on the right hinge of the notebook include LEDs for (left to right): power status (green when active), hard drive activity (blinking green when active), and battery charge status (solid green when charging, blinking green when charging- roughly when battery is equal to or above 90%, blinking orange when low - roughly when battery is equal to or less than 8%, solid orange when very low - roughly when battery is equal to or less than 1%).
Notice that the front buttons light up in an aesthetically appealing neon blue hue, which are very reminiscent of the LEDs for the buttons on Dell's Digital Jukebox MP3 players. In all likelihood, Dell just migrated the idea over. The LEDs themselves are fairly bright (as bright as those on the Dell DJ MP3 players) and do make it easier to find that right button when you are watching a movie in the dark. The only problem is that these buttons only turn on once you press them, and then they have a three second delay till the LEDs turn off. Dell should have left a BIOS setting available to leave these LEDs on all the time, as that makes more sense. Having the LEDs light up after you press them in order to identify them somewhat defeats the purpose. Of course, we also want to see the same BIOS function give the ability to turn off the LEDs to conserve more power and a few other preset delay settings, i.e. 5, 7, etc... Other than that the buttons themselves feel natural and are similar to that of those on the Dell DJ MP3 players.
TouchPad & Buttons – Like the keyboard, the touchpad is spaced appropriately, enough so that switching between the two is about the same as any other average notebook. Compared to the 8600, the touchpad for the 6000 feels like it has a smoother and or a finer grain texture. Note that a portion of the touchpad is reserved for horizontal or vertical scrolling. This space can be used like a normal touchpad once the scroll function is disabled via the touchpad software suite. Personally, we prefer a scroll space on the touchpad over a scroll toggle, so long as there is still plenty of space on the touchpad allotted to "normal" touchpad use. This preference is mainly because there are so many ways to design a scroll toggle wrong.
The touchpads are like the laptop in the sense that they have a similar texture as the rest of the silver part of the chassis. The only thing we should note is that there is a slight impressed horizontal channel in each of the touchpad buttons. Our only wish was that Dell took this one step further and placed a smooth rubber strip, like the X300.
Speakers & Microphone – Unfortunately, there is no integrated microphone in the Inspiron 6000, which is too bad for those that like audio messaging and the like. The only way to get a microphone up and running is to hook up one via the microphone port.
The speakers on the 6000 at max are fairly loud. We normally test at 20% but that volume level on the 6000 is equal to roughly 35% on many other notebooks. Considering that this is a multimedia notebook, we are glad to see a wider volume spectrum, as this can only benefit the multimedia experience. The audio quality on the 6000 is about average, but in comparison, it isn't as good as the audio setup on the Z80K, in our opinion. For example, when we were listening to Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know, the audio started to lost its crystal clarity after the 50% level. There wasn't distortion, but the clarity associated with great speakers wasn't as apparent above 50%. As far as movies go, we put in the Matrix Reloaded DVD and the audio sounded great, regardless of the volume setting.