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
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.
|Price ex VAT||£716|
|Price inc VAT||£859|
|Features & Design||4|
|Value for Money||5|
|Dimensions||378 x 252 x 35mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i7-3612QM|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel HM77|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||2|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,920|
|Resolution screen vertical||1,080|
|Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Graphics chipset||AMD Radeon HD 7730M|
|Graphics card RAM||2.00GB|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||1|
|Hard disk usable capacity||931GB|
|Optical disc technology||Blu-ray reader/DVD writer combo|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/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|
|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|
|Hardware volume control?||no|
|Camera megapixel rating||1.3mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||5hr 27min|
|3D performance (crysis) low settings||22fps|
|3D performance setting||High|
|Overall Real World Benchmark score||0.91|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit|
|OS family||Windows 7|
|Recovery method||Recovery partition|