Dell Inspiron 17R Special Edition review

30 Aug 2012

Dell's desktop replacement delivers high performance and a sterling screen, but the build quality disappoints

Price when reviewed 
959
5

With a huge 17.3in Full HD display, a powerful quad-core processor and speedy Nvidia graphics, Dell’s Inspiron 17R Special Edition stands out as a low-cost powerhouse. And from a distance it looks smart too.

Get up close, though, and the budget heritage is plain to see. The 3.34kg Inspiron is entirely constructed from plastic, the hollow-feeling body and patterned finish feel cheap, and the keyboard or the touchpad’s rattly buttons leaves no doubt as to where Dell has spent its budget.

Dell Inspiron 17R Special Edition

All the money has been put towards the components inside. The quad-core Intel processor gives the laptop a fine turn of speed – it achieved a result of 0.94 in our benchmarks – and the GeForce GT 650M GPU powered through our Crysis tests. With an average of 28fps with Crysis running at High detail settings in Full HD, the Dell is a capable gamer.

The Dell’s screen is superb and makes the most of Crysis’ lush jungle scenes. The 17.3in panel is 
a Full HD unit, and while colour reproduction is a touch cold, it’s bright and the contrast ratio is superb at 664:1.

Despite the plasticky chassis, there are redeeming factors. Tap away on the keyboard and the Scrabble-tile keys fall nicely under your fingers. The touchpad is effective, with discrete physical buttons that work more reliably than the integrated buttons on other laptops in this Labs.

Dell Inspiron 17R Special Edition

The Dell’s tiny 4,000mAh battery is a disappointment, surviving only 3hrs 48mins in 
our light-use test. We were also frustrated to find that Dell had skimped on the Inspiron’s networking capabilities – 10/100 Ethernet and single-band 802.11n wireless are stingy at this price.

The cheap feel is our biggest bugbear with Dell’s super-sized laptop, though. The single year of on-site warranty might be enough for many people, but with the Asus N56VM trading all-out speed 
for better build and more assured ergonomics, we’d think long and hard before splashing out on the Inspiron.

Details

Price ex VAT £799
Price inc VAT £959
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 5
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 1yr on-site

Physical specifications

Dimensions 417 x 276 x 38mm (WDH)
Weight 3.300kg
Travelling weight 3.8kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i7-3610QM
RAM capacity 8.00GB
Memory type DDR3

Screen and video

Screen size 17.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset Nvidia GeForce GT 650M
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 1.00TB
Hard disk usable capacity 931GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Battery capacity 4,000mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 100Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
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
FireWire ports 0
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
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.0mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 3hr 48min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 28fps
3D performance setting High
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.94

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7