A while back, we got hold of a 700m when it was first introduced and we were impressed with its small size and evolutionary design. It was one of the first ultraportables to have a wide aspect ratio display and a built-in optical drive, all while maintaining an overall profile that kept it easily mobile. Revisiting the notebook many months later is like visiting an old friend. It is still as we remember it: a fully equipped notebook for those frequently on the move.
Many people who are highly mobile prefer the docking bay design, where the optical drive is left out of the notebook itself. Because of the space requirements of an optical drive, those ultraportables without one usually take on a 12.1" XGA display. The ones with a drive are usually equipped with a 12.1" WXGA display. Generally speaking, we are looking at a one pound difference between the two designs. This is a difference that those who are highly mobile treasure. Those who prefer to have an extremely light ultraportable are better off going with another notebook, such as Dell's X1 or HP's NC4010. Generally speaking, extremely light ultraportables are the choice of traveling businessmen. For the typical student or computer user who needs high mobility, however, the 700m fits the bill perfectly. It works well as a notebook to take to class or on a long flight, outclassing its heavier 14.1"/15.0" notebook brethren. Yet, it's easily a notebook that you can use while you're walking around or when you don't have access to a desk.
Aside from their contrasting appearances, the main difference between the Latitude X1 and the Inspiron 700m is in their intended markets, which translates into different specs. With the Latitude line specifically catering to businessmen, the X1 doesn't contain an optical drive, uses a non-glare type display, and has an ultra-light weight specification of 2.5 pounds (versus the 700m's 4.1 pounds). (Latitude notebooks also differ in that they are Gigabit LAN capable.) Obviously, the 700m is geared towards multimedia users, which is why it contains an optical drive. Along with its glare type display, the 700m's overall feel and form follow this multimedia theme, whereas the X1 is strictly business.
On a technology level, this ultraportable is one of the few that can be equipped with a 2.0GHz Pentium-M (755). Since it uses the 855GME chipset while the majority of the Inspiron line uses the newer 915XM chipsets, one might suspect an upcoming motherboard revision to the 700m. At this stage in the technology timeline, it's more economical for Dell to make any changes to the 700m (or its successor) during Intel's Yonah introduction. So, if you're already eyeing this notebook, we don't recommend holding off your purchase, especially if you need to buy it sooner rather than later.
Our sample was priced at $1799 (XP Pro, 1.8GHz Dothan Pentium-M 745, 8x DVD+-RW DL, 60GB, 2 x 256MB, 2200b/g WiFi, 1 year warranty), which ended up being $1439 after the current 20% discount. As far as configurations go, we recommend a minimum 1.8GHz Pentium-M and 512MB of system memory if you plan on watching Divx encoded movies or are anywhere close to being a multimedia user. Occasional movie watchers can go the 1.6GHz route, though with the demands of applications today we still recommend a minimum 512MB of system memory. For the long run notebook owner, a 1.8GHz Pentium-M is probably going to get you the best bang for your buck considering the performance demands of upcoming applications and Microsoft's new OS.
At the current price point, Dell is putting up an aggressive selling front. Of course, the majority of the notebooks in their Inspiron line offer reasonably large discounts. It's the back to school buying cycle, after all. You need a notebook, and Dell and others are dropping prices to get you buying. In the end, we are giving the Dell Inspiron 700m a rating of 9.0 on the HotHardware Heat Meter.