Dell Inspiron 500mEnduring battery life, snappy performance, and a slender case with attractive design touches highlight the Inspiron 500m. A model from one of Dell's two new consumer lines that uses Intel's power-saving Pentium M processor (the other is the 600m), our test machine squeezed almost 4 hours out of one battery charge. But you won't need to keep checking your watch while working: Just flip the notebook over to see the power gauge. We have not tested any other notebooks equipped with the 1.3-GHz Pentium M. However, the Inspiron 500m's PC WorldBench 4 score of 114 is 16 percent faster than the 98 earned by a 1.4-GHz Pentium M-powered Toshiba Satellite Pro M15-S405. The 1.4-GHz version of the 500m should do even better.At just 5.5 pounds (without its power adapter), the slim 500m won't strain your back when you're hiking through an airport. If you often swap out multipurpose-bay devices (a second battery, a second hard drive, or an internal floppy drive, for example), you'll love the machine's spring-loaded release mechanism. Instead of a nail-breaking latch on the bottom of the notebook, Dell put a pop-out pull tab on each media-bay device, making removal quick and easy, and you no longer have to flip the notebook over.
Our 500m came with both memory slots filled (each had a 128MB DIMM). A 500m with a single 256MB DIMM (allowing you to upgrade RAM without tossing out one of the DIMMs) costs an extra $100.
Dell has added a bit of fashion to the Inspiron line. Popping open the 500m's dark-silver lid reveals a blue accent panel above the keyboard and a blue border around the square mouse buttons. You can dress up the 500m with a snap-on lid cover in blue, burlwood, red, graphite, or tan. Aside from that, it's a fairly basic notebook. You get an S-Video-out port and a generous assortment of older connections, including parallel and serial ports, gigabit networking, and a docking connection. But it lacks higher-end features like FireWire or a flash media reader, and it does not have quick-launch buttons or music CD controls. Our test unit did not come with 802.11 wireless networking, but you can add Intel's Pro/Wireless 802.11b or Dell's TrueMobile 1300 (802.11b/g) Mini-PCI card for $49, or Dell's TrueMobile 1400 (802.11a/b/g) card for $69. Our unit had a 14.1-inch screen with a resolution of 1024 by 768, but you can purchase the notebook with a screen that can reach 1400-by-1050 resolution.The 500m's keyboard felt slightly stiff. The speakers, located on the front of the notebook, won't rock your world, but they should suffice for listening to CDs in a hotel room. The print documentation is thorough and includes a four-color setup poster; there is no on-screen manual, however.
Though a bit pricey for the features you get, the 500m is tidy and lightweight, yet still plenty powerful enough for basic computing needs.