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Dell Inspiron 6400 Core 2 Duo laptop

An inspired Inspiron?

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Decked out in "Arctic Silver" with "Alpine White" accents, the Inspiron 6400 combines subtle curves with slab-like angles to create a distinctive look that may not be to everyone's taste. The chassis measures 35.6 x 26.6 x 3.7cm and tips the scales at a moderately beefy 2.8kg. Not the most portable of machines but the build quality appears to be excellent - a fair trade-off, some might say.

You can't alter the design but the use of a replaceable QuickSnap cover on the lid offers a degree of customisation. There are apparently eight alternatives, including Natural Leather, Cherry Burlwood, Carbon Fibre and Mediterranean Blue.

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Proof of the Inspiron's multimedia aspirations is the array of seven external play control buttons lined up across the front face, all fully accessible with the lid closed. These are flanked on either side by a pair of what must be the loudest stereo speakers I've heard from a notebook. Small presentations with sound are now feasible without the burden of carrying amplified external speakers. And, like the control buttons, the speakers are unobstructed when the lid is closed.

Lifting the lid reveals a full 88-key keyboard that feels good under finger. It's possibly a little stiff for some but it'll probably free-up nicely after regular use. A smattering of multifunction keys gives quick access to oft-used functions like screen brightness, mute, battery state, Wi-Fi toggling and more. Key layout is sensible, although the whole board is shifted a little too far to the rear for my taste.

However, as a result the two buttons below the touchpad are nice and large, an asset spoilt by their vague and spongy operation. The touchpad itself is also large and has dedicated horizontal and vertical scroll areas along the lower and right-hand edges.

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