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Dell 6400 – update

I’ve had my new Dell 6400 laptop for a couple of months now and I thought I would write a bit about my impressions so far.

The Good

It’s fast – fires up and is ready to go pretty quickly.  It also opens programs and saves stuff nice and rapidly.

It’s built well – the keyboard is not mushy, which cannot be said for many sub-thousand Euro laptops on the market. Overall it feels quite robust.

The screen is impressive – it’s bright clear and easy to ready, and despite some people’s comments the shiny screen does not cause me glare problems. The screen is big enough to run presentations to small groups directly without having to hook up to an overhead projector.

It’s quite light – the unit is lighter than my smaller screened Sony Viao and even the power supply is smaller too, so it has turned out to be much more portable than I was expecting.

The battery lasts ages – for the moment the battery life is impressive, unlike my old Sony which could manage 2 hours when new, this beast seems to keep on running for 5 odd hours making it a real portable computer.

The CPU runs cool – around 26°C on average, although I have not been running anything that requires much CPU horsepower yet.

The Bad

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Stop reading, start speaking

Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.

It’s locked up a few times – mainly mysterious memory parity errors, but once no error message was given and I just had to switch the thing off and restart it.  I don’t know what caused the crash though, which worries me a little.  Could have been a hot hard disk – see below.

The temperature of the hard drive – I ordered a 7200 rpm 100gb unit and I think I went over the top.  The hard drive’s specs indicate that the maximum operating temperature is 55°C – and I see between 47 and 50°C.  This is OK in winter, but I’m worried about summer.  I make regular back-ups just to be on the safe side.


The wi-fi can be a bit temperamental – it does not drop the signal much but sometimes after re-starting from standby I do not get a signal immediately and have to mess around with re-setting the wi-fi to get back on-line.  On balance though it is about the same as my Sony in this respect, although the Sony did not have built in wi-fi.

The speaker/mic connectors are both black so I cannot remember which is which and cannot see them easily either.

It would have been nice to have had more USB ports on the sides – the two on the back are in the middle of the back panel and are a little difficult to reach without, poor little me, having to stand up.  This really is a minor niggle, I know.


I am pleased with the thing and it has enabled me to speed up my work a little, mainly because I do not have to hand around waiting for it to save stuff.   In order to speed up my wi-fi connection to the WWW I had to tweak a few settings both system-wise and within FireFox – but as a result it loads many web pages, except ad laden CNET, very quickly.

I would recommend Dell IT equipment to others, especially if they know what they want and like the idea of being able to create the spec they need/want.  This is a great feature of Dell’s on-line service.  It would be nice to be able to see the products ‘in the flesh’ though, although I am probably rather old fashioned in that I like to see what I am buying generally.

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