Dell purchases can either be a bargain or a burden, and it’s almost impossible to tell without a trial. Yet for getting such a notorious reputation as the humble suburbanite’s portable computing companion, the Dell Inspiron line of laptops have tended to work as well as their price tags would have you hope. The $599.99 Inspiron 15R is no exception. With that said, like many of the deals Dell provides, the 15R is not without its limitations and desired improvements. It’s important to consider your desired level of performance and portable power before purchasing such “middle-of-the-road” laptops. While for most people the exchange of cost and overall strength equates to a bargain, the occasional user with a particular demand will see these sacrifices as an unwanted burden.
Genuine Windows 7 Home Edition Premium
2nd Generation Intel Core i3 Processor
6GB Shared Dual Channel DDR3 type memory
640 GB 5400 RPM SATA hard drive
Intel HD Graphics 3000 with up to 1.6 GB of Dynamic Video Memory
1366 x 768 native resolution 15.6 720p LED display with TrueLife
The signature highlight of the 15R series is the interchangeable lid feature. Users will receive their laptops with either the candy apple red or space age blue solid lids, but with a learned snap of the hinge this lid pops off and can be swapped with a variety of different options that can be purchased through the Dell.com store. There’s function in this seemingly teenage market-aimed offering: think of the replaceable shell as a way to ward off outward damage to your laptop. With that said, individual lids can be priced particular high, with most starting out at $25.00 and certain styles going up as high as $40.00.
The rest of the outward design of the 15R is innately Inspiron. The right side houses the DVD drive and one of three USB ports. The left side is where you’ll find the Kensington lock, charger port, VGA out, Ethernet hub, and the two remaining USB hookups. The left side is also where you’ll find the Inspiron’s large and loud cooling fan, which as always takes up a hefty portion of the sidewall space.
The 15R’s all-black keyboard is not to the tune of the times, but instead sticks to the standard flat-brushed style consistent with previous Inspiron releases and laptops in general. For what you’d expect from Dell it’s nothing to complain about, but it would have been nice to see a conversion over to a spill-resistant island-style. Not only would a more modern looking keyboard that enables stronger strokes have looked swell matched with the lid-swapping feature, combined they could have justified claims that the 15R was a revolutionary Inspiron release. Instead the 15R, both inside and out, continues to look like more of the same.
Yet the gunmetal gray metal palm rest is an incredibly stylish feature that makes the 15R distinct from previous Inspirons. Not only does it look great, but it serves several functions too. It provides much needed weight to the otherwise lofty top of the 15R’s bottom-half. It also gives your wrists a solid place to rest. Smudge resistance is a quality of the 15R’s palm rest you’ll appreciate when using the super-flat keyboard for any length of time, or else your laptop will quickly start to look like a crime scene.
The Synaptics multi-touch tool on the touch pad is an improvement over previous incarnations of the Inspiron, though it remains a talent yet to be mastered for most novice users including yours truly. Whether it’s the lack of anchorage or the dull sensitivity, finger-flicking to your favorite application is tricky no matter how simplified the necessary motions become.
For being an average-priced laptop marketed for the home running on an Intel i3 processor, the 15R systematically exceeds performance expectations. The user is immediately impressed by the high-end graphics display, which is the most likely place you’ll see Dell go out of their way in terms of giving the consumer more than they paid for. Various mixtures of co-operated applications including professional grade video editing software and audio mixing programs ran without unanticipated delay and minimal command-to-action imperfections.
While gaming is certainly possible on the 15R, there should be no surprises when it comes to the 15R’s failure to faithfully integrate premier 3D games. You’ll be reminded of these limitations by the loud whirling of the 15R’s powerful cooling fan. In fact unless you’re wearing headphones you’ll be unlikely to hear anything any game character says.
That’s because not only is the cooling fan obnoxiously loud, but the audio is cost- reflectively weak. Similar to previous Inspirons the speakers are crowded toward a thin strip near the bottom of the display. This combined with the position of the cooling fan, but most importantly the position of the user’s ears, makes it nearly impossible to enjoy movies and games without a pair of quality headphones.
The 15R’s surprising amount of punch comes at the cost of battery life. If you hit the three-and-a-half-hour mark you’ve been able to reach a level of energy efficiency I wasn’t able to accomplish. The inspiring state of the Inspiron’s battery life can leave you high and dry when you’re away from an outlet and work needs to be done. Then again you’re much more likely to suck energy out of the 15R by remotely watching the autumn network TV lineup than running a word processor. It’s apparent that media watching is the 15R’s true calling anyway.
The 15R is an indecisive consumer’s dream, since it allows for a wide variety of outward customization through the seemingly simple adjustment of the lid. This makes it a worthy opponent to graphics-designed oriented competitors such as the Gateway NV55S05U, which gives users an exotic style without much in the way of option. With that said, it’s a bargain laptop with limitations inherent to a portable device with such a price. It won’t deliver the long-term battery life you might need and high-end software and high-speed Internet use will compromise that short lifespan further. A classic choice for those seeking a mid-range option, the Inspiron rarely fails to deliver. The addition of consumer creative control only adds to the charm.