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Dell Inspiron N5010 review

Purchase

I already have Apple PoweBook G4 laptop computer for my mobile computing needs. Unfortunately, the battery of the PowerBook is not working anymore after so many cycles. My PowerBook lacks Wi-Fi, rendering it almost useless for my traveling needs using a computer. That's why I decided it is time for a new laptop in my house, instead of investing money in the old machine that was confirmed to never be able to run the MorphOS operating system. To try MorphOS at home was one of the reasons I bought the Apple PowerPC hardware back in year 2009. Another reason was the possibility to port my games to MacOS X. After people reported that my games compiled for MacOS X Tiger does not run on the latest Intel based MacOS X Snow Leopard, I almost gave up coding on the Apple Mac. I had the possibility to buy cheap notebook that will need upgrade soon or more expensive option that hopefully will not need upgrade for several years. After visiting several shops, I purchased from the Technopolis shop a Dell Inspiron N5010, Core i7-740QM (1.73 GHz), 15.6" HD (1366x768), WLED, 1.3MP Camera, 6144MB 1333MHz DDR3, 750GB HDD, DVD+/-RW, Quad Core 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650, 802.11n, Bluetooth, Windows 7 Home Premium (64 BIT), Aluminium color for the price of 1799.00 BGN or 920 Euro including VAT. The price reduced from being 2000 BGN last time I looked at this machine, was below the psychological limit of 1000 EUR, so it was perfect for my projects.

Package

Aluminium Dell Inspiron N5010 booting Windows 7 on battery, near the original box. The laptop comes in a white carton box with dimensions 49 cm X 35 cm X 10 cm. On the front side of the box is a picture of the laptop on white background showing front of opened machine with a picture on the screen showing unique colors. On the back of the box is the same laptop showing the back side with the DELL logo on the back of the screen and the power, USB and video jacks. On the sides of the box is written information about the Service Tag number, the model - Inspiron N5010 No: 5010-8918, the color - ALUMINIUM, Country - BG, and the origin - Made in China. Inside the box are the laptop, AC Power Adapter and instruction manual. The laptop weights 2.6 kg, measured with my electronic scale and have the size of 37.5 cm X 26.0 cm X 3.5 cm. The AC power adapter is slightly bigger than the adapters of the laptops I used before. It weights 0,6 kg and have dimensions of 15.0 cm X 7.5 cm X 2.5 cm. The cable from the adapter to the power socket is 80 cm long and from the adapter to the laptop is 175 cm. The laptop can be as far as 2.7 meters from the power source making it suitable for offices and airports. The power adapter works on voltage ranges from 100V to 240V meaning it needs no changes when traveling from Europe to North America or vice versa. The only problem can be the Shucko socket, but there are easily obtainable converters for that.

Installation

The laptop came with already installed Windows 7 Home Premium. After the first start I only needed to enter personal data and activate the anti-virus software. After the mandatory service updates and fixes, which were accumulated several hundred of megabytes already, I had fully working system. The operating system worked straight out of the box, without the need of extra maintenance. The anti-virus program installed with the Windows on the laptop was one month trial version of McAfee anti-virus software. After being spammed by McAfee for a whole month with various discounts and hints of my system becoming unsecured, I decided that I will not pay extra to use my operating system, already paid, when I bought the laptop. After the first month I removed the McAfee anti-virus software and installed the free AVG anti-virus.

Usage

I am using the Dell Inspiron N5010 for more than a month now and I found it very easy to use. I worked with various laptop and desktop computers before. This laptop is one of the best and the easiest to use so far. Several features of the laptop that make it easier to use are:

  • Numeric keypad - most of the laptops lack this part of the keyboard, making it harder to enter numeric data and statistics. The extra keys are very good for gaming too.
  • Wide screen (34 cm x 20 cm) with high definition resolution and strong back-light. Perfect for indoor use, although little shiny in outdoors environment.
  • 90 mm x 50 mm sized TouchPad, representing the screen proportions making it easier to work with.
  • HDMI output - easier to connect to big screens with digital quality of the shown picture.
  • Card slot - making it easier to transfer data from my digital camera, without the use of Chronos 80 in 1 Card Reader.
  • Rough surface of almost the entire laptop. It gets dirty much harder than the other laptops, which collect dust and finger prints very easy.
  • Wider first row of the keyboard for easier pressing of the most often used keys.
  • Network connector and USB ports on the side of the laptop - easier to connect and disconnect the most used attachments.

Hardware

Dell surely is the laptop manufacturer that gives the best price/performance ratio for the customer, with the highest quality. The Dell Inspiron N5010 is not an exclusion. I ran the Belarc Advisor for the hardware report. It shows the following hardware:

System:
Dell Inc. Inspiron N5010 A08
Enclosure Type: Portable

Processor:
1.73 gigahertz Intel Core i7 Q 740
64 kilobyte primary memory cache
256 kilobyte secondary memory cache
6144 kilobyte tertiary memory cache
64-bit ready
Multi-core (4 total)
Hyper-threaded (8 total)

Main Circuit Board:
Board: Dell Inc. 0WK2G6 A08
Bus Clock: 533 megahertz
BIOS: Dell Inc. A08 09/13/2010

Drives:
734.32 Gigabytes Usable Hard Drive Capacity
PLDS DVD+-RW DS-8A5SH [Optical drive]

Memory Modules:
6080 Megabytes Usable Installed Memory
Slot 'DIMM_A' has 2048 MB
Slot 'DIMM_B' has 4096 MB

Controllers:
Intel(R) 5 Series 6 Port SATA AHCI Controller

Display:
ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 [Display adapter]

Bus Adapters:
Intel(R) 5 Series/3400 Series Chipset Family
USB Enhanced Host Controller - 3B34
Intel(R) 5 Series/3400 Series Chipset Family
USB Enhanced Host Controller - 3B3C
Multimedia:
ATI High Definition Audio Device
Bluetooth Hands-free Audio
IDT High Definition Audio CODEC

Other Devices:
Microsoft AC Adapter
Microsoft ACPI-Compliant Control Method Battery
Microsoft Composite Battery
Dell Wireless 365 Bluetooth Module
Microsoft Bluetooth Enumerator
Bluetooth L2CAP Interface
Bluetooth Remote Control
HID-compliant consumer control device
HID-compliant device
USB Input Device (2x)
Integrated Webcam
HID Keyboard Device
Standard PS/2 Keyboard
HID-compliant mouse
Synaptics PS/2 Port TouchPad [Mouse]
Generic USB Hub (3x)
USB Composite Device
USB Root Hub (2x)
Generic volume shadow copy

Communications:
Bluetooth Device (Personal Area Network)
DW1501 Wireless-N WLAN Half-Mini Card
Microsoft ISATAP Adapter
Realtek PCIe FE Family Controller
Windows 7 running on battery power, settings for two screens with different resolutions. Strong part of the hardware is the 1.73 gigahertz Intel Core i7 Q 740 processor, good enough for my tasks and the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 graphics, supporting Avivo HD. The laptop display allows resolutions of up to 1366x768, while connecting it to my LG M228WA 22 inch TFT monitor (the monitor I use for my Amiga with AmigaOS 4.1), I can set resolutions of up to 1680 x 1050. The LG TFT monitor does not have HDMI, but after I bought HDMI to DVI cable, now I run AmigaOS and Windows 7 on the same monitor. With only a single press on the remote control of the LG monitor I switch between the machines (for the RGB and DVI input). Weak part of the laptop is the relatively short running on battery time. Even if the sticker with LOTS OF FEATURES, MASSIVE APPEAL on the left of the TouchPad says Impressive battery life, my experience was not that impressive. With full charged (100%) battery, in normal usage the battery meter shows maximum remaining time of up to 1 hour and 45 minutes, that goes down pretty fast. Enabling Dell Extended Battery Life did not change much. With heavy usage, the remaining battery charge easily goes in under one hour, that is not impressive at all. If I have to use the laptop extensively for more than one hour on battery charge, a spare battery will be mandatory. Another weak part of the hardware is the heating, even after simple tasks like watching video or browsing sites with Flash content. The laptop will turn on it's internal cooling fan, which will take away the heating to the left side of the laptop, but will produce extra noise. This is not a big problem, if you are not left handed user, who wants to use external mouse. Or in my case I needed to record the screen so I turned the laptop to the monitor and placed the external mouse on the right. The heating produced from the laptop only after a day damaged the sticky mouse pad, that I used for the external mouse. So better not place objects on the left of the laptop, that can be damaged from long exposure to heating - glasses, phones, floppy disks, mouse pads, especially if you are doing heavy computing tasks like video encoding or emulation. It is also advisable to not place the laptop near to wall or other objects that will stop the ventilation on the left, as outlined in the Warranty card.

Software

As at June 2011, Windows 7 was the second most popular operating system, according to web statistics, leaving the first place to the still monolith till today Windows XP. But soon Windows 7 will become the most popular operating system, meaning that with the operating system installed on the laptop, I won't have to worry about the software supply. Thousands of applications are available for Windows. If some software title is not available, I easily can run Linux and even MacOS 10.6 under virtual machine, without having to reboot the computer at all. With the hundreds of emulators for computers and gaming consoles, I can enjoy the retro games emulated at full speed. So no worries about the software at all. Installed on the laptop together with the Windows were several software titles that I found very good for my projects:

  • Dell Webcam Central, Version 2.00.35 - excellent for recording videos with the integrated web camera on the laptop. Allows editing, effects, resize, pan, zoom, direct upload to YouTube, KinKast, Facebook, Youku, Box.net and photobucket. Perfect for home video recording and simple video processing.
  • McAfee anti-virus - one month trial version. After the trial expires, paid license is required in order to have full security.
  • Roxio Burn, Version 1.01 - CD/DVD burning software for use with the DVD+/-RW optical drive. Perfect for backup purposes.
  • Skype 4.2.169 - the most popular online tool for instant messaging, audio and video communications over the Internet. With the integrated Microphone and Web Camera on the laptop, nothing additional is required to start communicating with your family and friends over the web.
  • Microsoft Office 2010 with Microsoft Office Starter - featuring Excel and Word with advertising and lack of advanced features of the complete versions. Perfect for small home and hobby projects, but not appropriate for bigger tasks and projects.
Windows 7 running several software titles on Dell Inspiron N5010. Additionally I installed the FireFox browser, 7-Zip archiving utility, VLC Media Player, FFMPEG and the Sega emulator Fusion (all free software). My main operating system continues to be AmigaOS. I don't have many Windows software, purchased over the years. The utilities bundled with the laptop, together with the free software available on the Internet are good enough for the causal computing, video creation and social networking, so hopefully I won't need to purchase any additional software or licenses (like the license for the anti-virus utility, where I was receiving twisting arms e-mails to purchase it for the machine and raise the money spent on it). Hopefully I can keep the money for Amiga hardware and use free tools. The games bundled with the laptop and the Windows are good for people who want to play from time to time. I found the Internet Backgammon to be quite addictive. Only if it was not taking points for leaving after one or two games, it would be nice. I tested my games developed for Windows and DOS. The old DOS game AntiISDA Warrior did not work. The Windows versions of the games BoxWorld, BoxWorld 2, Chips, King Kong and MazezaM worked even better than their performance on Windows XP. I played my games with Speed Link Strike 2 gaming pad, which also worked flawlessly.

Accessories

For my tests of the laptop I attached various hardware accessories. All the hardware worked without any trouble. I attached card readers, USB keyboards, USB mouses, 4-Way USB hub, USB Floppy Drive, SingStar USB Microphone from the Playstation 2, SD and MMC memory cards into the built-in card reader on the right side, USB gaming controller pads, Nokia E-51 phone, gaming pads and many others. The 1.3 MegaPixel camera records movies in resolutions of up to 1280x1024 (HD) and I am going to use the laptop for movie recording, until I get professional HD camera.



The Dell laptop gives impression of quality made product and user friendly oriented interface. Utilizing various computer accessories is not an exclusion, where the impressive speed of the machine was more than obvious.

Conclusion

The Dell Inspiron N5010 is excellent hardware in the current Internet age, where the demanding computing power for the most simple tasks had increased drastically. The resource requirements for the causal computing used to be much lower six years ago, when I purchased my microAmigaOne. With the new multi-core machine I will not have trouble doing heavy data processing, recording videos and streaming. Only if the machine was not producing any noise it would be the excellent laptop to have. Windows 7 is more enjoyable to use than Windows XP. I will not downgrade to older Windows versions. If I need to use alternative operating systems, there is always virtualization that is easier to handle, thanks to the several cores. It is very easy to travel with it, even if it not the small netbook that people love to carry around. On the other hand the fast battery drain is not making it the best machine for hiking or traveling without power sources. As long as you are settled into a hotel with Wi-Fi and electricity, the machine allows doing computing business as usual. I dīn't regret buying it and hope to have the same opinion after two years.


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