Dell Inspiron E1705


If you’re limited to a notebook PC, you’ve no doubt been wrought with envy as your desktop buddies brag about their dual-core processors. Well, suffer no more! You aren’t stuck with single-core anymore!

Dell’s Inspiron E1705 officially unveils dual-core processing for road warriors, in the form of Intel’s Core Duo T2500 CPU. Wonder what the heck a Core Duo is? We understand. Using a marketese-to-English translation converter, we discovered that the Core Duo T2500 is a Pentium M derivative CPU featuring two 2GHz cores, each with 2MB of “smart” cache. Smart cache lets a single CPU core use all of the cache—a phat 4MB—when only one core is under load, to improve performance. Core Duo is paired with the new 945 Express chipset, which supports DDR2/667 and ups the front-side bus to 667MHz.

The chassis itself is the same as the Dell XPS notebook that won our last notebook showdown (July 2005), so there aren’t many surprises. It’s got a gorgeous 17-inch screen with a wide notebook body to match. The chassis is solid and doesn’t exhibit any undue flexing. The insides, however, are quite different from the XPS. The hard drive, which we slammed in the XPS review for being too slow, is a much faster 100GB, 7,200rpm Hitachi drive. The GPU is nVidia’s GeForce Go 7800, and the optical drive is a Sony 8x DVD burner capable of supporting dual-layer +/- burns.

The real story is how well the E1705 numbers stack up. Once we were into our testing, we realized one serious shortcoming: The bulk of our mobile benchmarks aren’t multithreaded. So we ran a few more dual-core-oriented benchmarks and the Core Duo is indeed a butt kicker. In SYSmark 2004, for example, the E1705 is faster than our FX-55 desktop zero-point system, with a score of 210 versus 201. It also completely spanked the 2.13GHz Pentium M we built for this month’s DIY notebook feature.

The E1705 fared very well in our official benchmarks. In our lone multithreaded test, Premiere Pro, the E1705 turned in a score 37 percent faster than the XPS (and we might add, faster than our FX-55 desktop system). We even saw a good bump in Photoshop CS, where the E1705 turned in a 9 percent higher score than the XPS despite Photoshop CS’ minimal multithreading use. We credit the larger “smart” cache, as well as the faster FSB and RAM in the E1705. The 7,200rpm drive is also quite a performer with average read speeds of 42MB/s.

The fun stops there. Even though our zero-point XPS has an older 12-pipe GeForce Go 6800 Ultra powering it (Dell has since switched to the 7800 GTX in its top-of-the-line XPS config), the 16-pipe 7800 in the E1705 just couldn’t hang. Why? It was probably the clock speeds. The XPS cranks its GPU at 450MHz, while the E1705 sits at 250MHz. That’s enough to make the E1705 between 15 and 20 percent slower in many games. Still, the E1705 can manage 40fps in Doom 3 at 1280x1024 with 4x AA and 4x anisotropic filtering. In other words, it’ll play 90 percent of the games very well at a decreased resolution, but you probably shouldn’t expect to play at the panel’s 1920x1200 native resolution with AA on.

That jibes with Dell’s primary pitch for the E1705 as an entertainment box. The company even includes a clunky USB TV tuner so you can watch TV, DVDs, browse and edit video, and maybe play an occasional game. For gamers who want all-out speed, we recommend waiting for an XPS equipped with a Core Duo and 7800 GTX.

The most disappointing feature of the E1705 is its battery life. To test it, we loop 3DMark03 on its default settings until the box goes dead. The E1705 gave us only 78 minutes of play time, less than our zero-point rig. Worse, we weren’t able to pin down the cause. It could be that the 16-pipe 7800 sucks more power than the higher-clocked 6800 Ultra. Or possibly the Core Duo CPU requires more juice. Heck, it could even be a dud battery cell? Even though it’s a little unnerving, the Dell certainly fared better than the pathetic 51 minutes the Voodoo Envy turned in (reviewed in December 2005). Of course, that notebook has a 7800 GTX and a P4, so you know to expect asstastic battery life.

For entertainment junkies, or folks who need a notebook for content creation, the E1705 is hard to beat. But for gamers, or anyone wanting long-lasting battery life, the E1705 can be passed on.

Month Reviewed: April 2006

+ TWIN TURBO: CoreDuo smokes Pentium M; really good speakers.

- TWIN PEAKS: Poor battery life and slow gaming performance.



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