Construction: Field Tested
Charger – For the past couple of years, Dell has stuck with the same power brick. It remains to be one of the better charger designs on the market, particularly with the strap design that allows you to tie up extra cabling and the straight power plug that has thus far always been plugged in the back of the notebook.
The only thing we should note is that our D810 came with the slightly larger 90W charger (about 15% larger), as opposed to the standard 65W charger. This is necessary to enable full performance on the D810. Using a 65W unit will generate a BIOS warning, which can be overridden if you wish. The overall basic form and physical profile of the charger remains the same.
Display – Dell offers three 15.4" display options: WXGA (native 1280 x 800), WSXGA+ UltraSharp (native 1680 x 1050), and WUXGA UltraSharp (native 1920 x 1200). Our sample came with configured with the WSXGA+, which is the mid config option. Upgrading to WSXGA+ UltraSharp or WUXGA UltraSharp runs $50 and $125, respectively from the base line WXGA option. Our recommendation is to go with either of the higher end solutions. For most people WXGA isn't going to be enough working space. Keep in mind that choosing a UltraSharp display has other benefits, as these displays actually do have wider viewing angles and more vibrant colors via the higher contrast ratio. Basically, these are the displays that we have come to love on Dell notebooks, and we recommend not settling for anything less.
The highest brightness setting (8) makes this display one of brighter 15.4" displays we have seen, but it is a given that the UltraSharp displays are brighter and more brilliant than what we typically see. The lowest brightness setting seems a bit dark to use in a dark room without it becoming a strain on the eyes, but we feel more comfortable in using one or two brightness settings up (level 2 or 3). AC and battery power share the same brightness settings.
Fan - For the duration of 80% of our testing, the notebook was almost completely quiet, but the fans didn't seem to be spinning during these test segments. Other than the click of the hard drive read/write head, which seemed a bit louder for this notebook than others, the D810 didn't emit any other noises. Keep in mind that we don't just do performance testing, we also do a lot of field and usability testing.
We had to isolate the volume of the D810 differently than we did with other notebooks, because unlike most notebooks, the fans don't start spinning once you hit the system on button. We got a read on the D810's fans by putting the CPU and GPU to full load during game play (we played the entire level 1 from Halo). At that point, the variable speed fans came on to cool the heatsinks; within a few minutes of quitting the game, the fans shut down. It seems that it takes something more serious than e-mail, browsing, word processing, etc. to get the fans to turn on. In this scenario, the max volume of the fans is loud enough to hear in a quiet room, cubicle, or library. You won't have to lean in close to hear the fan, it is audible enough to hear sitting in normal computer posture. The click of the hard drive was just about as loud, while the sound to access a CD/DVD was definitely louder.
Heat – After about five hours of use, most of the notebook was still relatively cool to the touch. The only spots that got hot to the touch were the bottom of the notebook directly below the memory, WiFi card, CPU, and GPU, basically the whole area encompassing the access panel. As far as we could tell, the hard drive was just slightly warm, but not hot enough to cause any sort of concern. If you are doing high load operations, the "hot spot" on the bottom of the notebook gets fairly toasty, however.