Off to school we go! Yes, it's that time of year again for many. But fear not! All is not lost, for it's also notebook hunting season. Of course, even if you enjoy going back to school, it's still a rare treat. After all, you are choosing a companion to help you stave off hours of boredom, and at the same time choosing an hombre to make your life a little easier. Mind you, this is one partner you will likely be stuck with for more than a year or two, so as always, choose carefully.
For the majority of those in "back to school" mode, shopping for a notebook will be limited to ultraportables or traditional form factor notebooks (14.1" or 15.0" displays). Why, you ask? Well frankly, these days the core of the Centrino platform, the Pentium-M, is able to match most of the performance characteristics we would expect to find in a desktop. Ergo, we don't really need to look at desktop replacements for the "average" student or computer user. Besides which, something in the 8 pound department has, at minimum, a 15.4" display. That, honestly, isn't a friendly notebook profile to carry around anywhere except between offices or on a trip down the hall. In our opinion, you'd probably want to limit such a notebook to a maximum daily trip count of one or two.
At the opposite end of the spectrum though, are notebooks like the Dell Inspiron 700m, which has been on the market for some time now. All things considered, it is a very good notebook for this time of year. It is Dell's consumer class ultraportable and is sought after by many. Now, let's see why.
•_Designed for Intel Dothan Pentium-M 90nm with 2MB On-Die L2 Cache
•_Supports 400/533MHz FSB
•_Intel 855GME/ICH4-M Chipset
•_Two 200-pin SODIMM sockets
•_Supports DDR 333/266/200 unbuffered non-ECC memory
•_Supports maximum memory capacity up to 2GB
•_Intel Extreme Graphics 2 technology
-_32-bit 3D/2D graphics with frequency up to 250MHz
-_Video Mixer Rendering
-_AGP 4x (discrete graphics only)
-_Supports Intel Stable Image Technology
-_Supports Intel Dual-Frequency Graphics Technology (DFGT)
-_Supports Display Power Saving Technology (DPST)
•_2 x DMA 100/66
•_Realtek 10/100 Mbps Ethernet
•_Broadcom 802.11b/g Wireless LAN
•_56K v.92 Fax/Modem
•_12.1" WXGA glare type TFT LCD (native 1280 x 800)
•_16-bit stereo speakers
|External I/O Connectors
•_1 x Power jack
•_1 x Lock port
•_1 x Ethernet port
•_1 x Modem port
•_1 x Headphone jack
•_1 x Microphone jack
•_1 x PCMCIA slot
•_1 x TV out port (S-Video)
•_1 x 4-pin mini 1394 Firewire port
•_2 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
•_1 x Secure Digital card reader
•_1 x VGA out port
Dimension and Weight
•_11.7" x 8.5" x 1.5"
•_~ 4.1 lbs.
•_Dell Media Experience
•_Paint ShopTM Studio(R) Trial Plus Photo AlbumTM Starter Edition
•_Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0
Measuring in at 11.7" x 8.5" x 1.5" and weighing in at about 4.1 pounds (our sample weighed exactly 4.12 pounds), the Dell 700m falls in the center or maybe slightly on the heavy side of the current crop of ultraportables. It's getting harder and harder to categorize ultraportables, since many notebook manufacturers have made the switch from the 12.1" XGA to the 12.1" WXGA display. Non-wide screen ultraportables were certainly lighter, but they usually lacked an optical drive. Of course, the WXGA ultraportables have enough real estate width-wise to avoid these design issues. Still, with the heavier ultraportables just tipping the scales at 4 pounds, they are much easier to carry around than their 14.1" or 15.0" brethren. Where 12.1" XGA ultraportables can be extremely mobile, the 12.1" WXGA ultraportables are slightly less so. They work well for those who are on the go between 50% and 90% of the time. We define this wide range due to the different needs of highly mobile users. Some need more performance, some longer battery life, some conformability, some accessibility, and so forth.