Dell Inspiron 17R review

28 Jun 2012

Bulky and short on battery life, but the big screen, top-quality speakers and gaming power make this a laptop not to be overlooked

Price when reviewed: 
479inc VAT
5

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.

Dell Inspiron 17R - front

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.

Dell Inspiron 17R - keyboard

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £400
Price inc VAT £479
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 5
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 1yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 418 x 287 x 38mm (WDH)
Weight 3.320kg
Travelling weight 3.8kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i3-2350M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM67 Express
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 17.3in
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
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 640GB
Hard disk usable capacity 596GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Battery capacity 4,200mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 100Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 2
FireWire ports 0
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel 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
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 0.9mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

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
Responsiveness score 0.68
Media score 0.58
Multitasking score 0.43

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition, burn own recovery discs