Cheap (€888 including 20% vat and delivery)
Arrived within a week of the order
Fully supported by linux (except modem)
Battery lasts for about 3 hours and charges quickly
Good contrast ratio on the LCD
battery only rated for 500 recharge cycles (replaced)
video RAM uses main mem
conexant modem (not supported by open source software)
Doesn't seem to have an IrDA interface?

I needed to buy a new laptop on 17 Feb 2006 after being hit by a car while cycling with my laptop on my back.
I was fine but the laptop, bicycle and car windscreen were shattered. Anyway...

Here's a summary of the components:
It's a nice performance improvement over my previous laptop:
$ sudo hdparm -tT /dev/sda
    Timing cached reads:        2308 MB in  2.00 seconds = 1152.45 MB/sec
    Timing buffered disk reads:  104 MB in  3.02 seconds =   34.41 MB/sec
$ ./nbench

BYTEmark* Native Mode Benchmark ver. 2 (10/95)
Index-split by Andrew D. Balsa (11/97)
Linux/Unix* port by Uwe F. Mayer (12/96,11/97)

TEST                : Iterations/sec.  : Old Index   : New Index
                    :                  : Pentium 90* : AMD K6/233*
NUMERIC SORT        :          855.09  :      21.93  :       7.20
STRING SORT         :          73.861  :      33.00  :       5.11
BITFIELD            :      2.6375e+08  :      45.24  :       9.45
FP EMULATION        :          105.36  :      50.56  :      11.67
FOURIER             :           16892  :      19.21  :      10.79
ASSIGNMENT          :           19.65  :      74.77  :      19.39
IDEA                :            3160  :      48.33  :      14.35
HUFFMAN             :          1226.8  :      34.02  :      10.86
NEURAL NET          :            16.4  :      26.35  :      11.08
LU DECOMPOSITION    :          771.72  :      39.98  :      28.87
==========================ORIGINAL BYTEMARK RESULTS==========================
INTEGER INDEX       : 41.258
Baseline (MSDOS*)   : Pentium* 90, 256 KB L2-cache, Watcom* compiler 10.0
==============================LINUX DATA BELOW===============================
CPU                 : GenuineIntel Intel(R) Pentium(R) M processor 1.70GHz 1696MHz
L2 Cache            : 2048 KB
OS                  : Linux 2.6.11-1.1369_FC4
C compiler          : gcc version 4.0.0 20050519 (Red Hat 4.0.0-8)
libc                :
MEMORY INDEX        : 9.783
INTEGER INDEX       : 10.698
Baseline (LINUX)    : AMD K6/233*, 512 KB L2-cache, gcc, libc-5.4.38
* Trademarks are property of their respective holder.
It also has USB 2.0 support which means nice fast transfer to my external HD USB cradle
$ sudo /sbin/hdparm -t /dev/sdb
 Timing buffered disk reads:   64 MB in  3.03 seconds =  21.10 MB/sec

Update Oct 15th 2007 - Replacement power supply

The external power supply died today after about 19 months use. Pretty heavy usage to be honest, averaging 11 hours a day, 5 days a week, or around 4500 hours in total. This time was confirmed with the command smartctl -A /dev/sda | grep Power_On_Hours, which is a useful "odometer" for a system assuming the harddisk has not been replaced. I had a quick look on Dell's site where a replacement power supply would have cost me €57, so I just spent a couple of minutes on and ordered a new one for €18 which arrived the next morning. Dell really nail you on the accessories.

Update Jan 15th 2009 - Replacement battery

This system really is getting old, with smartctl saying it's been powered on for 8600 hours. You can see the state of the battery below, and I'm only getting about 40 mins out of it now which is not enough for the train journey home. So I bought a heavier one through ebay for €60 which is 7200 mAh, which lasts for 3.5 hours of normal use. As mentioned previously, don't even consider getting a replacement from Dell as they were charging €165 for the equivalent battery.
$ grep capacity: /proc/acpi/battery/BAT0/info
  design capacity:         4800 mAh
  last full capacity:      1832 mAh

Update Jan 16th 2009 - Replacement RAM

I decided to upgrade the RAM mainly because since I upgraded my kernel to I've had lots of swapping going on. I'm generously attributing this to newer kernels being tuned towards systems with more RAM, so I'll go with the flow and get some. I was surprised at how ridiculously cheap it was, and I got 2x1GiB for €18 for the pair ex. vat, from komplett. Specifically I got "Kingston DDR2 PC4200 (533MHz) CL4", SO-DIMMs.

Note be careful with using the dmidecode utility to examine RAM. It told me the system could take 4GiB, but while each slot can take 2GiB the 915GM chipset can only support 2GiB in total. It also said that both existing 256MiB modules were running at 533MHz. Now the M470T3354CZ3-CD5 RAM installed by Dell can support 533MHz, but because the 915GM(S) graphics controller shares the memory and runs at 400MHz internally, then the FSB is run at 400MHz, which the BIOS confirms. You would need the 915PM with separate video controller to run the system at 533MHz. This should not be too detrimental though as the RAM will run with CAS latency 3 rather than 4 at the lower frequency. Note my 915GM can also run the RAM in dual channel mode whereas the 915GMS variant is restricted to single channel mode.

A run of the ramspeed and memtest86+ utilities confirmed that the new RAM was functioning correctly. One disadvantage of the extra memory is that with the quick memory test selected in the BIOS the memory checking delay goes from around 2s to 10s at power on, which is noticeable. Also when idling I estimated that the new RAM takes around 80mA more than the old RAM, but that's probably more than counteracted by the much reduced swapping.

Update Oct 8th 2010 - Second replacement battery

This system really is getting ancient, with smartctl saying it's been powered on for 14146 hours. You can see the state of the battery below, and I'm only getting about 30 mins out of it now which is not enough for the train journey home. So, again from Black cat PC, I bought another 7200 mAh one for €80. I wouldn't consider getting a replacement from Dell as they charge too much for accessories, and they no longer stock this battery in any case.
$ grep capacity: /proc/acpi/battery/BAT0/info
  design capacity:         7200 mAh
  last full capacity:      1331 mAh
I was considering getting a new laptop from Dell, but noticed that they have no full hd mid range laptop. They did a few months ago with the studio line, but that has been discontinued and merged into the higher end XPS line. So I might as well wait for another while as there is a chipset change on the horizon from intel.
© May 31 2006