Dell Inspiron 700m
Construction: Field Testing (cont.)
Keyboard – This is one of the better ultraportable keyboard layout designs out there, as the function and home/end/insert/delete keys are all located in a 1 x 4 array in the upper right hand corner. Meanwhile, the page up/page down keys are reassigned as secondary keys via FN + left/right arrow. Consequently, Dell avoids the all too common vertical page up/page down/home/end strip usually found on the right side. There really is no "perfect" way to design an ultraportable keyboard at this point. Some may recommend that Dell create an arrow peninsula like on their other keyboards so that the home/end/page up/page down/insert/delete keys can all be located in the upper right hand corner, but this would really force the user to have absolutely no hand rest when using the arrow keys. This is the down side of having an ultraportable notebook, though some overcome the problem by canning the touchpad in favor of a pointing device. On spacing, Dell has set the keyboard as far up as possible to give as much palm rest space as possible, which is definitely good.
We should additionally note that the 700m does not use a full-sized keyboard, which is defined as having full-size alphanumeric keys. The keys are noticeably smaller than those you would see on a larger Inspiron or Latitude notebook. Our only caution is that those with large fingers may find it frustrating to type fast, due to the clustering and size of the keys.
LEDs – There are two LED strips: one on the front of the display and one on the back. The front LED strip contains LEDs for (left to right): WiFi status (green when enabled), power status (flashing when in standby, green when on), charging status (green when charging), hard drive activity (blinking green when active), num lock (green), caps lock (green), and scroll lock (green). The LED strip on the back of the display lid contains LEDs for (left to right): charging status (green when charging), power status (flashing when in standby, green when on), and WiFi status (green when enabled).
Touchpad & Buttons – Like the keyboard, the touchpad is spaced appropriately enough. Switching between the two is about the same as on any other average notebook. Like the Inspiron 6000, the touchpad for the 700m feels like it has a smooth/fine grain texture to it. It is very similar to the silver polycarbonate casing material.
The touchpad buttons are like the touchpad in the sense that they have a similar texture to the rest of the silver part of the chassis. The only thing we should note is that there is a slightly impressed horizontal channel in each of the touchpad buttons which is there to give you a better feel. Our only wish was that Dell took this one step further and placed a smooth rubber strip there, like on the X300.
Speakers & Microphone – Unfortunately, there is no integrated microphone on the Dell 700m, which is too bad for those who like such things as audio messaging. The only way to get a microphone running is to hook one up via the microphone port.
The speakers on the 700m at max volume are loud enough so that someone in the next room could easily hear what you are listening to. It isn't going to be on the same level as the max volume of the XPS Gen 2, but the 700m could probably cause someone a sleepless night if you wanted to (the 700m at 100% is roughly equal to the XPS G2 at 70%). While we wouldn't consider these multimedia speakers (they don't amplify certain ranges), they are very good speakers considering their size. For example, we could start to hear distortion in Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know" once we hit the 70% to 75% volume level. They work well for movies, audio tracks, etc. For the average computer user, these are spectacular speakers for any ultraportable of any size. For the audio enthusiast, they will be acceptable, though such users will probably end up connecting the notebook to their surround sound system anyway.