[Review] Dell Inspiron 700m


Tech Junkie
Folding Team
Just received the new 700m a couple of days ago. I'll have a mini-review up in the next few days (no time right now)

I think Dell did a marvellous job with the design on this one. Much better design than their previous line-up (I have a Inspiron 5100 too...the 700m is for my dad). The footprint is tiny: it's about 1.5" thick and weight a little more than 4 lbs; that's lighter than a 12" iBook G4. The wide-aspect 12.1" WXGA screen is drop-dead gorgeous (best I've seen yet). Other impressions coming up later this week.

12.1" WXGA (1280x800) wide-aspect reflective TFT display
Intel Pentium-M "Dothan" 725 @ 1.60 GHz (2MB Cache, 400MHz FSB)
512MB (2x256) PC2700 DDR SDRAM
40.0 GB Hard Drive
8x CD/DVD burner (DVD+RW/+R) w/ double-layer write capability
Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG MiniPCI IIIB Adapter (802.11b/g)
64MB Intel Extreme Graphics
Integrated 10/100 Network Adapter
Integrated v.92 56k Modem
2 x USB 2.0, 1 x IEEE 1394 (Firewire) ports
1 x S-Video out, 1 x VGA out ports
1 x Type I/II PCMCIA card slot
1 x Secure Digital (SD) memory card reader
8-cell 65WHr Li-Ion battery (~4.5-5 hours)
Windows XP Home SP1


Just delivered.
The small box on the right is the free Dell 720 Photo Printer that came with the system.

Design and Construction:
The 700m replaces Dell’s old 300m, and as a result, falls on the line between a thin-and-light and an ultra-portable machine. This is Dell’s second smallest notebook overall, following the Latitude X300, and the smallest all-in-one machine they offer. The machine is extremely portable, with a thickness of about 1.5” and a weight of a little more than 4 lbs.
The construction of the chassis is excellent, and definitely a step above Dell’s other blue-and-silver Inspiron portables. Compared to my 5100, the 700m’s outer case seems to have a better build quality overall, although it is not metal-alloy reinforced like the Latitude chasses.
The design is beautiful (as is evident from pictures) – the silver portions have a sort of matte finish to them, while the white parts have a glossy enamel-like look-and-feel.

Beautiful finish on the lid...

Small and light enough to carry with one hand.

The display wins hands down as my favorite part of the 700m (apart from its size, of course). This machine is the only one of all Dell’s systems that includes a reflective screen, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. For those who are unfamiliar with the term ‘reflective screen,’ think of those bright, vivid “XBRITE” displays that you may have seen on certain Sony notebooks. The advantage of this type of screen is that it is visible even in sunlight, unlike regular TFT displays that appear to fade in the sun. I was able to watch a movie just fine on a 6 hour road trip to the Bay Area a few weeks ago. The disadvantage, on the other hand, is that reflective screens tend to pick up dust and fingerprints much faster than regular screens. Just clean them regularly, though, and you should be fine. With that said, reflective screens are not for everyone – some people love them, some hate them. Go look at one in a store before you decide to buy a machine that includes one.
Another nice thing about the 700m’s display is the native resolution. The 12” WXGA display has a resolution of 1280x800 (yes, widescreen). I think this is the perfect resolution for a screen of this size. The widescreen is nice to watch DVDs, and work with apps like Excel and Photoshop (more screen estate), yet the readability of on-screen text is not compromised since the resolution is not too high.

A glimpse of the screen...the brightness and crispness just blew me away.

The 700m can be configured with a 1.6GHz or 1.8GHz Pentium-M 725/745 “Dothan” CPU, which is arguably one of the best mobile CPUs in the market today. With 2MB of L2 cache, these things are excellent performers, while still being the most power-efficient CPUs available.
Of course, like any modern machine, the 700m supports DDR memory – more specifically up to 2GB of PC2700 (DDR333) RAM.

The 700m is a legacy-free system, like most modern machines. That means, it does not include serial, parallel, or IrDA ports. However, it does ship with two USB 2.0 ports, one IEEE1394 (Firewire) port, headphone and microphone jacks, RJ-45 (10/100 NIC) and RJ-11 (56k modem) ports, VGA-Out (for an extra external display), S-Video Out, and one PCMCIA card slot.
Built-in Bluetooth would have been nice, but hey, those nifty little Bluetooth USB adapters work nicely and are really inexpensive these days.

As I mentioned before, the 700m, despite being so portable, is still an all-in-one machine, which means it includes a built-in modular drive bay. We configured our system with a dual-layer DVD burner, which is currently pretty cutting-edge in the portable market. The modular bay also supports a hot-swappable floppy drive, CD-ROM drive, DVD-ROM drive, or a CD-RW/DVD combination drive, but not an additional battery pack.
Our machine shipped with a 40GB 4200rpm drive. However, you can upgrade to higher capacity drives as well.

The right side of the machine - a modular dual-layer DVD burner. That's right, 8.5GB on a single disk

Graphics card:
Ok, here’s the kicker – gamers will want to stay away from this machine. It includes a 64MB shared memory Intel Extreme Graphics GPU. Definitely not your hardcore LAN party rig. Didn’t matter to me – I’m not a gamer, and more importantly, as I said, this machine is for my dad, not for me. I just get to play with it every so often ;)

Since the 700m is a Centrino machine, it includes an integrated Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG module, which supports the 802.11b/g standards. The system can also be configured with a Dell TrueMobile module instead, with a Broadcom-manufactured chipset (you won’t get the shiny Centrino sticker though :p).
The range of the Intel module is great (although not as long-range as some Atheros-chipset based cards), and the connections are reliable.

The 700m’s keyboard is smaller than your regular notebook keyboards due to the size of the machine. It might take you about a week to get used to, but it’s comfortable, and the keys feel solid. Overall, the quality of the keyboard definitely feels better than the one on my 5100.
The touchpad is my beloved Synaptics one (as in the 5100), and I can’t praise it enough. This thing is tremendously configurable/customizable, and with features like virtual-scrolling, tap-zones, tap-and-drag and everything else, it’s much more than your average touchpad.

This is possibly one of the only gripes I had about this machine, but the problem was easily solved. Read on…
Basically, to keep the size and weight low, Dell ships the system with a small, low-capacity battery that lasts for just about 2.5 hours. However, you can purchase the additional 65WHr battery (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!), which ends up giving the machine an impressive battery life.
I did a real-world test to see how long the 65WHr battery would last on that road-trip to San Fransisco. I watched two full-length, 2 hour long movies on the way, with the screen brightness turned all the way up, and the wireless radio still on (although not connected to an access point, obviously). At the end of the trip, the battery was still at about 15%! I’d predict that if you were doing something less-CPU intensive, turned down the screen brightness a little bit, and turned off the wireless radio, you’d easily be able to pull off 5.5 hours on this thing, perhaps even a little more. Very cool =)
UPDATE (Oct 11, 2004): It seems that Dell now offers you a choice to order just the 65WHr battery instead of ordering it as an extra.

Size-comparison with my 14.1" 5100. Of course, one is a mainstream machine, the other is almost an ultraportable.

Summary - Pros/Cons:
+ Small, light and very portable
+ Beautiful design
+ Latest Pentium-M "Dothan" CPU
+ Widescreen, reflective display
+ Modular Dual-layer DVD burner
+ Outer case and keyboard feel strong and solid
+ Great battery life with 65WHr battery
+ IEEE1394/Firewire port

- Keys might feel small at first
- Weak graphics chipset: not for gamers!
- No internal Bluetooth/IrDA option


Debiant by way of Ubuntu
Folding Team
product placement!

Slightly OT, but I was watching "The Italian Job" (remake with Ms Thieron in it) and as some of you will know there is a hacker cracker guy in the movie, at his most believable when asked to compute from number of gold bars down to millions of $'s and says 2.7 - when he meant 27 and has to correct himself.

Anyways, back to my point, which is although there were only glimpses Dell seemed to have stitched up the computer angle and there were a number of times I think this model was on display. From your pics it sure looks a handly little beast- are you thinking of trading over some time if you have sufficient funds? I'm on a lowly eMachines M5100 which I have still found great just for moving around the house on wi-fi. I have to admit if I wanted one for roaming further afield I would think again, particularly about battery life - now that you can get up to the five hour mark two odd just does not cut it anymore.

Back OT - if you were planning to assist on a big time heist and needed remote wi-fi from an anonymous location, how many would choose an airport baggage reclaim spot?!! (That's where he goes with his Dell in the movie!)

Electronic Punk

Staff member
Political User
Looks nice indeed, looks a bit shiny for me to get one here in the office tho.
Will try tho unless we switch to HP due to Dell having incompetent tech support and the most difficult webiste to navigate in the world.
/me hijacks thread

yeah what is with the dell site? u press back once it reloads the page. u press it twice it does the same. press it three times u go back two pages.


Tech Junkie
Folding Team
Mainframeguy said:
From your pics it sure looks a handly little beast- are you thinking of trading over some time if you have sufficient funds?
Hehe, that's not in my hands. As I said, the 700m is my dad's machine. The blue 5100 in the last picture is mine (see sig). My dad really liked the machine, so I doubt he'll be trading it anytime soon, unless for a TabletPC. Besides, if he decides to replace it, I'll be first in line waiting for it.

Electronic Punk said:
Looks nice indeed, looks a bit shiny for me to get one here in the office tho.
Will try tho unless we switch to HP due to Dell having incompetent tech support and the most difficult webiste to navigate in the world.
It's not really as shiny as it looks in those pics. The camera flash reflection was probably why it looks like that. The white surface looks and feels like enamel, and the silver part has a matte silver finish.
As for going with HP, people might have had different experiences with them, but over several years, multiple consumer surveys have reported Dell to be #1 in customer satisfaction in the x86 market (#2, behind Apple overall), including tech support. I personally would look into Dell, IBM or Toshiba, and find the best amongst those (which is what we did this time when looking too, but we were eventually sold on the 700m =P)

champ2005 said:
/me hijacks thread

yeah what is with the dell site? u press back once it reloads the page. u press it twice it does the same. press it three times u go back two pages.
Might be because one page auto-redirects to another. Pressing the back button once loads the page, which instantaneously reloads the next page. Pressing it thrice might be overriding the redirection. I don't know...that's just what first comes to mind.

~bk said:
Looks very, very nice. I want one too now!
Me too.


F@H - Is it in you?
Staff member
Folding Team
Political User
as people get older they lose their eye-sight...

use that logic to tell yer dad he needs a bigger screen to save his eye-sight :D

and nick the teeny one wid da ultra-brite :p
Sweet! I have a Latitude D800...love it! Was thinking of getting another one in the not so distant future, maybe this one might be worth checking out!