The Motherloot Blog: Product Reviews

Review: Dell’s Tiny, Inexpensive, & Earth-Friendly Computers

Ok, I admit it. We have more computers in our house than people. While it’s nice to be able to read up on the latest celebrity gossip from anywhere in the house, one thing that is always in the back of my mind is the amount of energy we’re burning. My husband swapped the some parts in his desktop with some energy-efficient replacements, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Recently, we had the chance get our hands on two really interesting computers from Dell that are built specifically to address the Earth conscience consumer. First up is the shockingly tiny Inspiron Mini 9. To give you a sense of its size relative to “normal-sized” laptops out there, I took this picture:

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That’s the tiny little Dell on top of my husband’s 17″ laptop from work. On either side are two 15.4″ laptops which are the most common size sold. As you can tell, it looks almost like a toy compared to the others. Also, unlike my husband’s behemoth that he has to haul around, this machine weighs just a little over 2 pounds. Even so, I was surprised how nicely it was built.

We had a family get together where I passed it around. Everyone was shocked at the size and that it was a fully functioning laptop. Sure, the hard drive and memory is small and it doesn’t have a CD drive, but it’s perfect for everyday tasks like email and surfing the net. Actually, my father-in-law immediately started pricing them out immediately after seeing it as he travels all the time and having something that easy to carry would be a huge benefit.

That brings me to the other huge plus for this laptop: the price. Starting at just $249, it’s one of the least expensive out there. Adding options like more memory and a bigger hard drive can double the price, but that’s still incredibly cheap.

dell-inspironDell has also released a very cool desktop computer along the same lines call the Studio Hybrid. Boasting it as their most energy efficient desktop ever with 70% energy savings over a typical desktop, they’ve really gone to extremes to make sure it’s as Earth-friendly as possible. Arriving in tiny packaging that’s 95% recyclable, I honestly kept looking for a big box that would have the actual computer. What I found instead was a computer less than 8 inches high and less than 3 inches wide. That’s smaller than some books I’ve read. It’s so small we actually placed it next to our Nintendo Wii and hooked it up to the TV.

The design is definitely chic and like nothing I’ve seen before. They come with your choice of a rainbow of colors and you can even get it wrapped in leather or bamboo. If you get tired of one color, you can buy one of the other shells and swap them out like a Swatch watch.

Again, the tiny size means a tiny starting price: $399. Unlike the Mini 9 laptop, there are a lot of options that you can pack into the box. Pimp it out with everything, like a player for Blu-Ray movies, and the price will easily skyrocket to $1300. On the upside, this means you’re not limited to a low powered machine if you need some extra “oomph”.

With the energy efficiency and low starting prices, both of these computers are extremely appealing to me. Though they wouldn’t fit everyone’s needs, I would highly recommend considering one if they fit yours. If that’s the case, I’d start your shopping at Dell’s online outlet, which usually has both of these available at even better prices.

Website For More Details: Dell

A Review of HP’s Budget Laptop Powered by AMD

It’s the height of the shopping season and we’re all diligently looking for the best deals out there as these are tough times. One of our biggest scores from a recent Black Friday sale was my laptop that I managed to buy for just $300. My proud smile didn’t last longer however because as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. The performance was dismal and one of the first things we had to do was shell out more money just so it was merely usable. Since then I’ve been cursing it every time I had to do anything remotely useful like open a photo or try to watch a movie.

That’s why I was interested when AMD (who makes the brains inside a lot of laptops that do things like graphics) told me they were promoting a new line of chips that would let a laptop do all the things a family would want to do without breaking the bank. Skeptical, I took them up on the offer and tested out an HP dv5z laptop that has AMD’s graphics chips inside. It’s labeled an “entertainment” laptop because it’s supposed to handle all sorts of different jobs beyond just writing emails and doing your bills. Much like the HP TouchSmart we reviewed a while back, computers are now focused on consolidating a lot of the different electronics you might otherwise need to purchase separately. Instead of having to invest in a computer, video game console, and DVD or Blu-ray player, you can just buy this one laptop and save yourself some money.

My first test was to download and touch up some of the photos I took in my homemade light box I recently made. This process usually takes my old laptop ages to do and touching up a lot of photos is a painfully tedious process. My jaw dropped when the photos loaded in seconds and there was little to no hesitation when playing around with the different effects in Picasa. I was able to complete my editing so much faster because I wasn’t waiting around for the computer to finish applying each effect.

I then decided to try something that my laptop could never do. The videos I record have to be chopped up and converted to a YouTube-friendly format before I post. My laptop would always crash when we were working on them and we’d have to move everything over to my husband’s desktop and try it there. Even still, it would take forever. AMD wasn’t kidding when they said this could handle that too. The movie converted in less than half the time as before and I was even able to check emails while I waited, something we never dared try even on the desktop.

Finally, we decided to try something really different. We plugged the laptop right into our TV and watched movies. Not only can it play DVDs, but you can get an optional Blu-ray player! That’s right, those fancy new players that cost a bundle came right in this computer. Here’s a secret, it costs less to add Blu-ray to the laptop than it would to buy a standalone player.

That’s what I like about this laptop, it can do everything you throw at it and costs less than it would to buy all this entertainment equipment separately. The dv5z series starts at $549 and even the base configuration comes with the same AMD graphics chip that we used in our testing. Do yourself a favor, instead of aiming for the cheapest thing out there, do some research and find the best value out there when shopping this season.

Suggested Retail Price: Starting at $549

Website for More Details: HP