Got my new Dell Inspiron 8100

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jason Merrick, Nov 29, 2001.

  1. Jason Merrick

    Jason Merrick Supporting Actor

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    ...and I am loving life! This is my first laptop, and I absolutely love it!

    The 15" SXGA screen is phenomenal... I was thinking about keeping my 17" monitor on my desk to plug in when I was going to be at the computer for awhile so I could have a bigger screen, but surprisingly the 15" LCD appears to be just as big (probably within an 1" viewable). I'm glad I didn't go for the Ultra-XGA, this screen is sharp, but not sure I would like the fonts getting any smaller than this.

    The keyboard is amazing, feels as big as a standard keyboard and the tactile feedback is perfect in my opinion.

    XP Home is killer. I dumped the new start menu in favor of the classic style, but I really like most of the other enhancements.

    As far as the details go (as if you're interested!):

    Pentium III-866 Mobile w/speedstep

    256mb RAM

    20gb HD

    DVD-ROM

    32mb Nvidia GeForce2go video card

    Xircom PCMCIA 10/100 Ethernet & 56k modem combo card

    I skimped in some areas where I really didn't feel the need to splurge (processor & HD - up to 1.2ghz and 48gb available), and splurged in some areas where I didn't want to skimp (Xircom was $140 option in place of onboard Ethernet/Modem - I have had too many modem problems over the years to skimp here!)

    Pretty heavy for a laptop, but since it replaced my desktop, I don't mind the trade-off. Approximately 3 hour battery life... Only thing I wish I had ordered up front, was the optional 2nd battery that can be installed in the modular bay. For $99 extra, a 6-hour battery life would be very nice... might still end up making that purchase.

    $1800 shipped, with free Epson Stylus C40UX Color Printer. Also, rated #1 by PC World Magazine in 12/2001 issue.

    P.S. Question for you laptop pros, is the DVD playback always a little soft when watching fullscreen on a laptop? The picture is razor sharp when playing back in a window, but seems just a tad soft otherwise. I've heard that progressive sometimes appears a little soft at first, is this what I am witnessing?
     
  2. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Screenwriter

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    Congratulations! I have an 8000 that is virtually identical otherwise, but the hardware on the inside is a little different - ATI Mobility M4 graphics (32mb), 700 mhz CPU and only 10 GB harddrive.

    I went with the built-in network/modem combo and haven't regretted it a second. The network card works flawlessly and the modem works superbly as well - after I put in the latest drivers though. It's a Lucent Winmodem based modem - the winmodem part isn't funny but the Lucent is definitely the best winmodem available. I know, I've worked an ISP tech support for three years and you could always get the Lucent based modems running just fine.

    And the upside of using the mini-PCI card instead of the Xircom option is that I still have two PC-card slots free!

    I don't see any softness when viewing DVD's full screen (I also have the 1400x1050 screen) but then I do have the ATI graphics chipset and not the Geforce based one.

    Loved hooking it up to my TV, did it just the other day. Could watch DVD's and downloaded MPG movies on the TV screen, and the audio came through the SPDIF digital connector.
     
  3. Denward

    Denward Supporting Actor

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    I got my Inspiron 8100 about a month ago. I just upgraded to XP from ME last night (clean install). ME sucked. XP seems very quick and snappy.

    I got the UXGA, 1.13GHz P3, 20G HD, 128M RAM (that was the minimum available. Aftermarket upgrade is easy and cheaper), 16MB nvidia Video (don't play many games anymore), combo DVD-CDRW. I tested but didn't critique the DVD playback. I've got it set up on a wireless network so I can surf from my sofa.

    About the batteries, the documentation recommends running the laptop from AC power when possible to extend the life of your battery. Since it's replacing your desktop, you should plug it in when you're using it at home.
     
  4. Kevin P

    Kevin P Screenwriter

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    Congrats! The Dell Inspirons are nice machines. I got a 4100 a few weeks ago. It's a sweet machine--1 GHz Pentium III, Super XGA+ 14.1" display, 256 MB RAM, 30 GB hard drive, CD-RW, and Windows 2000 Pro. I love it. I hope to upgrade to a DVD (or DVD/CD-RW combo) and a wireless LAN card down the road, but I need moolah first. [​IMG]
    KJP
     
  5. Jesse Leonard

    Jesse Leonard Second Unit

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    I just bought an 8100 a few weeks ago. I got the 1GHz, SVGA+, 15", DVD, 32M gForce 2 GO, 20G HD, 512M Ram (ordered the minimum but upgraded through crucial.com for a huge savings). The deal Dell had running when I ordered mine was: free upgrade to DVD, free extra battery, and free digital camera.

    So far I am very pleased with it. I am dual booting Win 2k and Win XP pro. The only complaint I have is the nVidia driver has caused a few blue screens (this is a known bug and a new driver should be released soon).

    I am running a Linksys wireless network in my house. The Linksys card isn't officially supported by XP yet, but I was able to get it up and running with no issues.

    Overall this laptop is a great value and has excellent performance.
     
  6. Greg_Y

    Greg_Y Screenwriter

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    So no one else had the hard drive clicking problem? I got my 8100 about 2 weeks ago and the clicking was driving me bonkers. Dell replaced it with the same drive. Then they sent me an IBM Travelstar. Using the IBM Powerbooster application erases all noisy hard drive issues. It's running smoothly as a WinME / 2000 Pro dual boot system. I really like it. And I'm glad to report that Dell quickly sent out replacement hardware, even if it wasn't what I exactly asked for.
     
  7. Denward

    Denward Supporting Actor

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    Jesse,
    Not to make you paranoid or anything but there's supposedly a problem with 512MB of Crucial CL2 memory and the 32MB gforce video card. It's all over the Dell discussion forums. Here's a link to one of the forum. There's LOTS of threads on this subject.
    http://delltalk.us.dell.com/messages...e=insp_upgrade
    I think there's another thread buried in there that claims Dell shipped the 8100s with CL3 RAM because there's a design flaw that prohibits CL2. Crucial is the only company making genuine CL2 RAM for the 8100. Some websites claim to have Samsung CL2 but it's really CL3 per Samsung's website.
    I actually bought 512MB of the crucial ram and it seemed to be giving me trouble even though I have the 16MB video card. I reinstalled my oem 128MB CL3 and things seem to be much more stable. Now that I've upgraded to XP, I'm going to see how things run for a few days and then give the crucial one more chance. I'm hoping my problems were mostly resulting from ME.
    One of the Dell forum threads says maybe crucial part numbers ending in .opt are less reliable than those ending with .16f. That's only because the inspirons are so high end that it might be pushing ram chips to their performance limits. I'll have to check my part numbers.
    But, if you're not having problems, just forget I ever mentioned this.[​IMG]
     
  8. Jason Merrick

    Jason Merrick Supporting Actor

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    I am still less than thrilled with the DVD playback... in a window the picture is razor sharp, but full screen its a tad blurry... kind of like when you take a 640x480 jpeg and blow it up to 200% or so... there are gazillions of posts on this topic on the Dell forums so I am assuming/hoping that they will resolve the problem soon. Some people seem to be having more success with PowerDVD than with the OEM version of WinDVD 3.0 which came with the system. I am wondering if maybe the high resolution (1400x1050) is causing the player to blow up the image too much causing the pixelation effect.

    I was thinking of trying a lower resolution setting, but was surprised to see the viewable image actually shrinks when I change the resolution setting leaving a large black border all around the image... is this normal? Why doesn't the lower resolution just cause the size of text/icons, etc to be larger but on the same physical screen size?

    I am not a computer newbie by any means, but really don't know much of anything about laptop specific issues.
     
  9. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Screenwriter

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    Jason, most LCD's (or LCD drivers) have a setting where you can select to either show the lower resolution image in the center of the panel at its proper resolution or to use the whole panel and interpolate the lower resolution to fit the 1400x1050 pixels that comprise the panel itself.

    LCD panels are created with a set amount of pixels, unlike a normal CRT screen that will be sharp at any resolution it can handle. Thus you'll see a noticeable decrease in picture sharpness if you use, say, 1024x768 and set the panel to stretch that to fit the 1400x1050 pixels.

    I don't see any blurriness on my Inspiron, at least not anything objectionable. I do have the ATI chipset though... but that is less capable in most respects than the Nvidia one. Perhaps that is not true for video viewing though?
     
  10. Jesse Leonard

    Jesse Leonard Second Unit

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    Jason,

    I have the same display as you have and DVD playback full screen is very sharp and detailed. I am not running the Dell OEM WinDVD though. I am runing the full retail version. This gives better performance as it allows for hardware assist. I didn't test out the OEM version much, so I am not sure if that is your problem. But I do know that alot of people are getting choppy playback in Win2000 with the OEM version. It really sucks that Dell is giving the crippled version with their laptops. I have also sent you a private message on this subject.

    Denward,

    I was under the impression that the problems with crucial are now corrected (I could be wrong). I know crucial was aware of the issue and took steps to "fix" their ram. As it is, I am experiencing zero problems with the crucial ram and would highly recommend it based on my experience.
     
  11. Denward

    Denward Supporting Actor

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    Jesse,
    A few days ago the Crucial memory problem was still a pretty hot topic at the Dell forum. I checked the part number on my Crucial memory and it ends with .opt [​IMG]. I haven't reinstalled it yet, but I'm still going to give it another try before returning it to Crucial. What's the part number on your Crucial??
     
  12. Jesse Leonard

    Jesse Leonard Second Unit

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    Denward,
    Both my ram chips end in .opt and like I said so far I have had zero problems. Maybe I just got lucky [​IMG]
     
  13. Jason Merrick

    Jason Merrick Supporting Actor

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  14. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Screenwriter

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    Yeah, and the LCD screens themselves are slow. I find my laptop LCD especially to suffer from the LCD lag, which induces some blurriness since the pixels themselves don't refresh as fast as some of the movement on the screen is.

    Not so much blurriness as motion blur, in other words... but I've gotten kind of used to that, I guess. I just figure it's a small price to pay for a screen with 1400x1050 resolution that is attached to a great computer as well - that you can carry with you with ease.
     
  15. Daron

    Daron Agent

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    Jason,

    I'm curious. Have you resolved the problem with the blurry DVD playback?

    The reason I ask is I'm considering buying this model to do a lot of DVD watching on, and I hope the display ends up being razor sharp and clear! I can't spring for an HDTV at this point, for reasons I won't bore you with...so this might be my only way to see the full resolution of DVD for some time.

    Can anyone talk me out of this purchase?

    Thanks!
     
  16. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Screenwriter

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    I can honestly say I don't think there is a finer laptop for multimedia oriented use out there. There may be, but I'm not aware of one.
    At least, that is true of my 8000 with the ATI chipset. I haven't seen the 8100 with the GeForce2Go chipset.
    The limitations of LCD screens are visible of course, but I doubt if that is avoidable in any laptop. I may be wrong. [​IMG]
     
  17. Jason Merrick

    Jason Merrick Supporting Actor

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    Daron,

    To tell you the truth, I haven't even watched another DVD recently. I am assuming it is just my untrained eye. If I get a chance, I am going to go to a local computer store and have them demo DVD playback on another similar laptop to see if it looks the same.

    I'll let you know if/when I get around to this.
     
  18. Brandon_S

    Brandon_S Second Unit

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    Ok my cousin is getting a Dell 8100 from "Santa" for Xmas...but being the computer nut of the family I was going to configure it before Xmas morning. Anyway, the system has a GeForce2 Go chipset. I noticed that while the backgrounds and the fonts looked nice and sharp on the display, pictures on the background and web pages look horrible. I checked all settings (color is set to 32 bit and resolution is 1024 x 768) and even uninstalled and reinstalled the drivers. Eventually, I fixed the problem, but once I played a DVD through WinDVD, the problem arose again. Tech support was no help. Any of you guys had a similar experience? Thanks!

    Brandon Smith
     
  19. Jesse Leonard

    Jesse Leonard Second Unit

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    What display did the computer come with? There are three different types and each one has it's own native resolution (you should run an LCD display at it's native resolution). That is one thing to check.
    Here is a tip for everyone running XP on an LCD display. You can go to this Microsoft web site to fine tune your cleartype settings (cleartype tuner).
    Also, this week Dell has released a bunch of new drivers and bios upgrades. They even have a firmware upgrade that quiets the Hitachi harddrive clicking. Everyone with an 8100 should head on over. There are also some patches for WinDVD that you should download.
     
  20. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Screenwriter

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    Most inspiron 8x00's have a native resolution of 1400x1050 or 1600x1200, and that is the resolution one should set the screen to be at to get the best possible clarity and sharpness.
     

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