Dell Inspiron 17R review
Bulky and short on battery life, but the big screen, top-quality speakers and gaming power make this a laptop not to be overlooked
If you're after a compact, dainty laptop, then Dell's Inspiron 17R definitely isn't it. Instead of a focus on balance and everyman appeal, this chunky desktop replacement crams a monstrous display, a Core i3 processor and Nvidia graphics into a 38mm thick, 3.3kg chassis.
That may sound like a bad thing, but all that extra bulk makes room for a features list that most budget laptops will struggle to match.
Open up the smooth, subtly patterned lid, and the main attraction quickly becomes apparent. The 17.3in glossy screen raises the resolution to 1,600 x 900 - the closest thing you're going to get to a Full-HD display at this low price. And it performed well when we gave it the once-over with the colorimeter.
At maximum brightness we measured it at 249cd/m2, with a contrast ratio of 252:1. The colour temperature is very close to the neutral target of 6500k too. To the naked eye it's bright, sharp and colours are vibrant, and the extra resolution really does make a big difference.
That picture quality is more than matched by the speakers, which are loud, with a well-rounded sound that packs plenty of bass. By laptop standards, and moreover by the often tinny standards of your average budget laptop, the Inspiron 17R's sound quality is really rather accomplished.
For games, there's an Nvidia GeForce GT 525M graphics card, which is just about powerful enough to get you playing Crysis at the native 1,600 x 900 resolution, with Medium quality settings. In our test it averaged 30fps, which is just about playable, and that means less demanding games should be, too, at higher settings. There's also a 640GB hard disk on which to store your media, games and applications, plus a DVD writer.
Compromises have to be made somewhere to fit the budget price and here it's in the specification. Dell sent us the 17R with a 2.2GHz Intel Core i3-2330M and 4GB of RAM, which drove it to a reasonable 0.56 in our benchmarks. Dell has since upped it to a 2.3GHz i3-2350M. And, despite its size, the battery is a small 4,200mAh unit that lasted only 3hrs 29mins in our light-use battery test.
The keyboard also feels insubstantial - but that's forgivable since it stretches a good way across the wide base. The touchpad makes amends, too, with its large surface providing responsive and accurate cursor control. Around the sides are two USB 3 ports, one USB 2 and a combination USB/eSATA port to tick all the boxes. There's also a 0.9 megapixel (720p) webcam above the screen.
A 17in laptop certainly won't suit everyone, particularly with such uninspiring battery life, but if portability isn't one of your main priorities, we can thoroughly recommend the Dell Inspiron 17R as a larger option. It's well built, has a good screen, excellent speakers and a fair bit of gaming muscle, which for £479 makes it a bargain.
|Price ex VAT||£400|
|Price inc VAT||£479|
|Features & Design||6|
|Value for Money||5|
|Warranty||1yr collect and return|
|Dimensions||418 x 287 x 38mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i3-2350M|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel HM67 Express|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||2|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,600|
|Resolution screen vertical||900|
|Resolution||1600 x 900|
|Graphics chipset||Intel HD Graphics 3000/Nvidia GeForce GT 525M|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||1|
|Hard disk usable capacity||596GB|
|Internal disk interface||SATA/300|
|Optical disc technology||DVD writer|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||100Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||no|
|Wireless key-combination switch||yes|
|PC Card slots||0|
|USB ports (downstream)||2|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||0|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||2|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Memory Stick reader||yes|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||yes|
|Smart Media reader||no|
|Compact Flash reader||no|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Audio chipset||Realtek HD Audio|
|Hardware volume control?||no|
|Camera megapixel rating||0.9mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||3hr 29min|
|Battery life, heavy use||1hr 22min|
|3D performance (crysis) low settings||76fps|
|3D performance setting||Low|
|Overall Real World Benchmark score||0.56|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit|
|OS family||Windows 7|
|Recovery method||Recovery partition, burn own recovery discs|