Dell Inspiron 3542, Reviewing The Value Powerhouse

Dell Inspiron 3542The Dell Inspiron series have always been a desired choice for average users due to its very reasonable prices and satisfying specs. They weren’t the best looking notebooks around in the past, because of their thickness and substandard design. But things have changed. Nowadays Dell offers laptops with decent built and sophisticated appearance while holding an inexpensive price range. And if you are looking for a good example of it, Dell Inspiron 3542 is as perfect as it gets.

Equipped with 4th Gen Intel Core i5 processor, 4 GB memory and Windows 8.1 operating system, the Inspiron 3542 is surely a good option to consider. Even with an internal optical drive, it is only one inch thick, almost like a Ultrabook. If you need a laptop with decent specs and  latest technologies, If you like a rectangular shaped laptop with matte surface for daily use and don’t mind having a plastic body, maybe the Dell 3542 is the one you are looking for.

However, to make sure you are buying the right thing, you might want to read our review on this laptop first.


  • Brand: Dell
  • Series: Inspiron 15 3000
  • Model: 3542
  • Color: Silver / Black
  • Screen Size: 15.6 inch LED Backlit Display with Truelife and HD resolution
  • Screen Resolution: 1366×768
  • Touchscreen: Optional
  • IPS Display: No
  • Processor: 4th Generation Intel Core i5 4210U
  • Chipset: Intel QM87
  • Graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400
  • RAM: 4GB Single Channel DDR3L 1600MHz
  • Storage: Up to 1 TB SATA hard drive (5400RPM)
  • Optical Drive: DVD RW
  • Keyboard: Full size spill-resistant keyboard with Numeric Pad
  • Touchpad: Multi-touch gesture-enabled pad with integrated scrolling
  • Speakers: Stereo Speakers with Waves MaxxAudio processing
  • Cameras: Front, HD (720p) capable webcam
  • Wi-Fi:11N
  • Ethernet LAN: 10/100 Ethernet network
  • Wireless LAN: Dell Wireless N 1705
  • 3G – 4G Mobile Broadband: No
  • Bluetooth:0
  • USB: 2 x USB 2.0 + 1 x USB 3.0
  • Video Ports: 1 x HDMI 1.4a
  • Media Card Reader: SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Battery: 40 WHr, 4-Cell Removable Battery
  • Maximum Battery Life:5 Hours
  • Weight: 5.3 pounds / 2.4 Kg
  • Height: 1 inch / 25.6 mm
  • Width: 15 inch / 381.4 mm
  • Depth: 10 inch / 267.6 mm
  • Operating System: Windows 8.1 (64Bit)
  • Warranty: 1 Year
  • Base Price: $500

Dell Inspiron 3542 keybPros

  • Attractive Design
  • Good Overall Performance
  • Affordable Price
  • Spacious keyboard
  • Good Ventilation System
  • Decent Battery Life
  • Stays Quiet
  • Various Options for Customization


  • Plastic Body
  • Heavy
  • Awful Keyboard Layout
  • Shallow Viewing Angles
  • Glossy Reflective Display
  • Low Screen Resolution
  • Mediocre Audio Quality

Build & Design

Dell Inspiron 3542 lid1Considering the built, the Dell Inspiron 3542 was more focused on cost efficiency and affordability rather than having a strong and premium structure, so don’t expect any revelations from the built quality. At a first glance, the laptop looks quite attractive, but shockingly whole body of the laptop is made of plastic. The lid cover has 2 different colors: silver and black. And the bottom panel is made of rough matt-black unpainted plastic as well.

Dell Inspiron 3542 lid0The cheap plastic feel is quite upsetting, as our expectation from Dell was higher. Though, if you check the lid, it is not that bad. Both silver and black covers have an interesting texture pattern. The surface is not remotely glossy and rather matte looking. The lid cover has good scratch resistance. However, the surface of the interior and sides is not that good. For an example, if you put your hand on the surface, even for a short time, your fingerprint going to leave marks on it. Though the fingerprint can be wiped, but the interior and side surfaces also can be damaged or get a scratch mark simply by using a port without being careful. And that surely is not repairable.


Dell Inspiron 3542 keysNow, if you open the lid and look inside, The Inspiron 3542 has a Chiclet keyboard with numeric keys. Built of the keys are strong and secured. Even under heavy pressure, the foundation of the keys shows no flex and remains straight. There is no backlit, but the keys are marked with neutral color. So, yet the interior is matte and dull looking, it is easy to read the keys without putting any hard effort. Still, there are some things to complain about the keyboard. First of all, there is no backlit but let’s ignore that as it is still considered as a premium feature. But the keys are too much sensitive and bouncy. Besides, they could make the layout of the keyboard better, judging by the space we have for the keys.


Dell Inspiron 3542 touchpadBeside the keyboard and a palm rest, there is a large 60mm/2.4inch touchpad. The design of the touchpad is modern and kept up with new fashionable button-less trend. Below the surface of the pad, there is only one button so far. Rest features are as usual like three-finger flicks, two-finger scrolling, double-finger taps, and Windows 8 swipes-in gestures. There is also a move button which is kind of short but quite good and flexible. But one problem we’ve faced so far is the edges of the touchpad, especially the lower edge which is slightly elevated towards the top.


As we see, the ports are well planned and organized.

Dell Inspiron 3542 ports 1The power connector socket, exhaust ventilation, HDMI output, LAN port, an audio port, one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port are on the left.

Dell Inspiron 3542 ports 2While an optical drive, a USB 2.0 port and SD Card reader are on the right.

Dell Inspiron 3542 frontOn the front there is nothing but a battery indicator, which glows red when the laptop is low on charge.

Dell Inspiron 3542 backAnd as it is hard to access the backside of the laptop, they kept it completely free of connectivity ports.

Dell Inspiron 3542 bottomHowever, on the bottom panel there is a pair of speakers in the middle. Also, there is a large removable panel provides access to the hard drive, memory modules, and expansion cards. When you need to upgrade modules, you can remove the panel without voiding the warranty.

Dell Inspiron 3542 screen 01Display

The Dell Inspiron 3542 comes with a non touch 15.6 inch LED Backlit Display panel. Maximum resolution is 1366 × 768 pixels. But in general, display is not quite good and appealing. To be honest, the only thing good about this display is the size. Dell Inspiron 3542 screen 02

The display just made of cheap and regular TN matrix with LED backlit. As a result, viewing angles are very small, so when you are working, you have to adjust the angle of the screen a lot. Color temperature is not that smooth as well. Even the white color overestimates the temperature, and that’s why the picture on the screen looks very cold and quite, which at least is pleasing to the eye. Moreover, supply of brightness and contrast are also modest, which is somehow enough for indoor use. But on the outside, the glossy surface of the screen is going to make it worse and the display will fade without a doubt.


Dell Inspiron series was never famous for the sound system, and this 3542 is not an exception. Their Waves MaxxAudio processing is not that much helpful. Of course, it’s not the worst of all tested laptops, but not even nearly good. The only good thing about this built in speakers is its pretty loud volume. The frequency range of the speaker is narrow and there is no bass at all. Yet, the sound quality of the analog audio output is one of the best among the laptops which indicates good quality of the sound card. So, if you want neat sound output, you surely will have to consider external speakers.


Dell Inspiron 3542 cpuAs it was already mentioned, the Dell Inspiron 3542 comes with 4th generation Intel Core i5 4210U processor, which can be found usually in the expensive and premium Ultrabooks. 4210U is a Haswell based ULV dual-core processor clocked at 1.7 GHz with Turbo Boost support up to 2.7 GHz and has an average of 15 watt power consumption. It also has an on chip integrated HD Graphics 4400 and a dual-channel DDR3L memory controller.Dell Inspiron 3542 gpu

We tested the laptop with a popular multiplayer game DOTA2. At maximum graphics settings it was able to provide an average of 18 frames per second, which is completely unplayable. But at minimum settings FPS was 52 which is a much more comfortable, and enough to enjoy the game with pleasure.

Noise and Heat

Haswell processors are renowned for their extremely low power consumption and temperature. So, naturally the laptop runs cool and quiet. We tested the laptop with room temperature of 22 degrees Celsius where the temperature of the hard disk was less than 40 degrees, and the processor, even during the stress test barely passed 70 degrees. Though, things can be different, if you give too much pressure to it for too long. One thing is clear that this laptop was not made for gaming.

Power and Battery Life

The 3542 comes with a 4 cell 40 Wh lithium-ion Battery. For a laptop with 15.6 inch screen, the capacity of the battery is not something to be proud of. However, as this Inspiron is running on Haswell technology, the given battery will probably be sufficient for the average user. We tested the laptop with simultaneously running music and HD videos, where it was able to last roughly 6 hours. Considering the specs of the battery, it is more than what we expected.


To be honest, the 3542 is a perfect example of how Dell can improve the Inspiron series and make it more attractive and powerful while keeping an inexpensive price tag. Having said that, we expected something better than cheap plastic body and mediocre display, but considering all the other features and the price, it is one of the best value laptops currently available on the market. After all, if you want a powerful old-school laptop with a big screen and optical drive. With the latest Haswell i5 processor and elegant outlook, the Dell Inspiron 3542 might be the right thing for you.Dell Inspiron 3542_1

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