What a difference a year (or two) makes. In mid-2006, when the Blu-ray format was making its debut, the only players available were priced at around $1,000. Today, we see that Dell has started offering customers entire notebook PCs that pack Blu-ray drives and cost less than a grand each. The machines in question aren't exactly new—Dell has simply slapped optional Blu-ray drives in the Inspiron 1525 lineup it introduced a few months ago—but the PC vendor definitely offers some mean value to HD movie lovers.
Starting with the second-cheapest option on the Inspiron 1525 page, we were able to configure a system with a 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo T5550 processor, a 15.4" 1280 x 800 display, Intel GMA X3100 graphics, 2GB of DDR2-667 memory, a 120GB Serial ATA hard drive, 802.11g Wi-Fi, and a Blu-ray reader/DVD writer combo for a total of $949. Folks willing to settle for a lower-capacity hard drive, less RAM, and Vista Home Basic can shave that down to only $879, too. And if the built-in 1280 x 800 display isn't good enough for you, you can either pay a little extra for a denser 1440 x 900 panel or use the Inspiron's HDMI connection to hook the system up to your HDTV.
Unsurprisingly, Dell doesn't offer the Blu-ray option on systems without at least a 1.83GHz Core 2 processor. The Blu-ray combo drive option also costs $250-280, so Dell is by no means tossing these drives in for free. Still, the appearance of Blu-ray drives in mainstream laptops like these definitely says something about the Blu-ray camp's plans for increased market penetration.