Dell Inspiron 15R Special Edition review
Plasticky build and plain looks mask a luscious display and top-notch specification - the Dell is a fine all-rounder
Review Date: 24 Aug 2012
Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray
Price when reviewed: £716 (£859 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
When you’re spending almost £900 on a laptop, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect a little luxury. Yet despite the Special Edition tag, this Inspiron doesn’t look luxurious. It’s clad in thick, dowdy plastic, and finished in a rather naff honeycomb texture that would be more at home on a sub-£500 machine.
Its looks aren’t the only disappointment. Part of the appeal of the SE is supposedly its interchangeable lid panels (blue, pink, red and white are also available), but the black unit backing our review laptop had an unsightly 0.5mm gap running along its top edge – perfect for catching dust and crumbs.
To be fair to this 15in laptop, however, there isn’t an awful lot wrong with the rest of it. The specification list leaves no stone unturned: 1TB of storage, four USB 3 sockets, HDMI and D-SUB outputs, Gigabit Ethernet and a Blu-ray player. The warranty, as with the 17R, offers a year of on-site cover, which is better than most.
We like the layout of the keyboard: it lacks a number pad, but there are no compromises on any other front, with a large Enter key, sizeable cursor keys, and a sensibly organised navigation cluster. The action is on the woolly side and the keys rattle, but there’s no flex in the base, and the multitouch touchpad with its separate buttons is flawless.
Above the keyboard sits an excellent display. It’s Full HD, bright (321cd/m2) and has good contrast (655:1) – although it can’t match the Asus N56VM’s display for sheer punch. It’s an ideal display for anything from movie watching to photo editing, with a semi-matte finish that successfully keeps distracting reflections at bay.
Although it looks and feels cheap, the plastics are tough, affording plenty of protection for the display and the components hidden away in the base. And when it comes to those core elements, again, there’s little room for criticism. The Inspiron 15R is equipped with a quad-core 2.1GHz Intel Core i7-3612QM, which scored 0.91 in the PC Pro application benchmarks – not the fastest we've seen, but not far behind the 0.95 of the Asus.
This is a laptop that will shrug off the most challenging multitasking, and it’s a competent gamer, too. Where many of its rivals have opted for Nvidia’s GeForce graphics chipsets, Dell has equipped the Inspiron 15R with AMD’s Radeon HD 7730M. It's a potent chip, and delivered 22fps in our 1,920 x 1,080 High quality test - four frames quicker than the Asus and its Nvidia GeForce GT 630M chip.
Aside from the looks, the battery life is the only area of concern, and even then 5hrs 27mins in our light-use test isn’t a complete disaster. This adds up to a laptop that, while not pretty, will certainly get the job done. However, for a little more elegance, better all-round build quality and a little less cash, you can buy the Asus N56VM - and that's why it's still our favourite.
Author: Jonathan Bray
New R series steps backwards about 10 years in design
That really is the cheapest, nastiest looking lump of plastic I have seen for a long time with regards notebook design. seriously, what were they thinking?
By mr_chips on 27 Aug 2012
Just bought one...
Really can't agree with mr_chips - it's actually NOT bad. I walk round Curry's of a lunch time & there are 20 units that look pretty much the same. So far (early days) it seems A-ok - screen is great and performance is excellent. Loads of disk space and memory - excellent external connections. Mr_chips you're obviously a real connoisseur with regard the look of a laptop to be SO scathing about this one.
By halian on 28 Aug 2012
not a connoisseur by any means. it might be that the pictures don't do full justice. however, silver plastic round the edges and like the review says large gaps between finishes are not a good combination. the silver will scuff badly with black showing through after its been in and out of a bag and lugged around for a year or so. not to mention all the dust and debris that will get lodged in those joints you would need to tease out with compressed air and a fine brush to keep it looking like new.
i prefer clean a simple finish in one uniform colour.
as long as you are happy with it that is the main thing :)
By mr_chips on 28 Aug 2012
Good features for the price
I just received one of these, except with a lower resolution screen (which I plan to upgrade at some point). The performance is very good for the cost even if the looks leave something to be desired. Personally I don't think it looks too bad but my girlfriend disagrees!
I noticed in your benchmarks section you've listed the high settings 22fps frame rate under "3D performance (crysis) low settings" which is incorrect.
By KaveyKave on 8 Jan 2013
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