Minor faults take gloss off notebook

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 June, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 June, 1998, 12:00am

The Inspiron 3200 D266XT is Dell Computer's entry into the 266-megahertz Pentium II notebook market. As with similar models from other vendors, it is designed as a high-end machine.

The 3200 comes fully loaded with all the features to be a serious competitor in this market. It works well - it is fast and the graphics appear to be quite smooth.

This makes it all the more frustrating to be let down by little things, because after using the machine for a few weeks, I found a few minor faults were getting on my nerves.

Some of these problems might seem nit-picking, but with a laptop of this quality, and a price of $23,554, users are entitled to expect better.

One of the first things you notice is the rather noisy fan than comes on whenever you run the laptop from the mains power.

While this may not be a problem for mobile users, anyone hoping to use the 3200 as a desktop replacement machine may find the sound of a fan distracting - especially if, like me, you take it as a sign the PC is getting too hot.

Another source of frustration is the machine's touchpad, which uses a double tap system to drag windows around the screen. The pad on the 3200 is a bit too sensitive, which may be a result of the processor's high speed.

When working on files that required a lot of work with the pad, I found the cursor would freeze repeatedly for no apparent reason. It was only by tapping the pad and clicking both buttons several times that I managed to reactivate it.

The notebook's floppy drive contains another niggling design fault. Similar to many notebooks today, the 3200 has a module that can house either a floppy drive or the CD-Rom drive. If you wish to use both at the same time, the machine has a cable that enables users to plug one or the other into the serial port.

However, when I used the notebook with the CD-Rom drive in the empty module and the floppy drive connected to the serial port, I found the floppy drive difficult to operate.

Ejecting discs could be cumbersome, as it is hard to get enough leverage on the disc eject button. I had to press my thumb on to the top of the drive to get more leverage, and this caused the metallic casing to bend rather alarmingly.

So, the 3200 is not perfect, but if you want serious computing power, this machine is worth looking at.

PROS AND CONS Product: Dell Inspirion 3200 D266XT notebook Price: $23,554 Specs: Pentium II 266 MHz chip, 64 Mb RAM, 3.2 GB hard drive, 24x CD-Rom drive (upgrade to DVD-ROM for $2,349), 56 kbps modem Pros: Fully loaded and fast; smooth graphics Cons: Niggling things: loud fan, on-off touchpad