Dell Inspiron 15R review

20 Nov 2012

Dell's Inspiron 15R partners good looks with a capable all-round specification and, best of all, the price is eminently reasonable

Price when reviewed: 
479(£479 inc VAT)
5

There’s no such thing as the perfect budget laptop. When it comes to building a great all-round machine for a reasonable amount of money, compromise is an inevitable part of the process. However, Dell is no stranger to the challenge of making tight budgets work in its favour, and now the computing giant has taken its Inspiron 15R right back to the drawing board.

Dell’s Inspiron 15R Special Edition clinched a Recommended award in August, but the one major complaint we had concerned its looks. It was finished in a dull, textured matte black, and the Special Edition model both looked and felt entirely plasticky.

Dell Inspiron 15R

Funnily enough, this bog-standard version of the Inspiron 15R is considerably more attractive. It’s still plastic, but the glossy, faux-metal finish makes for a laptop that looks far smarter than its £479 inc VAT asking price might suggest. It’s heavy, though – at 2.79kg, this laptop is considerably burlier than slimline models such as the HP Envy 6.

Whereas some of its rivals have squeezed in Ivy Bridge processors, Dell’s 15.6in laptop balances a nippy Sandy Bridge Core i3 CPU with an AMD Radeon HD 7670M GPU [Since our review, Dell has updated the Inspiron 15R with an Ivy Bridge processor - the Core i3-3110M]. Neither of these are top-end parts, but the Core i3 CPU, 6GB of RAM and huge 1TB hard disk provide enough power to keep Windows 8’s interface feeling fluid and responsive. An overall result of 0.61 in our Real World Benchmarks is competitive, and places the Dell in the middle of the pack.

Gaming is where this laptop’s real strength lies, and with Crysis cranked up to a resolution of 1,600 x 900 pixels and using Medium quality settings, the Inspiron 15R achieved a smooth average of 39fps. That's among the best results we've seen from budget laptops, and it means gaming on the Inspiron is within reach.

Dell Inspiron 15R

If there’s a downside to such fine all-round performance, it’s that battery life suffers. Even with the Core i3’s integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 core taking the reins, the Inspiron 15R managed to last only 5hrs 27mins in our light-use battery test.

Unlike many of its 15.6in laptop peers, the Inspiron 15R doesn’t attempt to squeeze in a numeric keypad alongside its keyboard. That’s no bad thing, however, since the very slightly concave shape of the keyboard’s Scrabble-tile keys hold the tips of your fingers nicely while typing. The wide channels between each key keep wrong key presses to a minimum.

The touchpad is good, with the ample touch area and dedicated buttons proving more usable than the buttonless touchpads on rival models. Another potential boon is that the touchpad is almost flush with the laptop’s wristrest – the current drivers don’t support Windows 8 gestures, but if updated drivers appear, swipe-in gestures should work well.

Details

Price ex VAT £399
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 347 x 240 x 21mm (WDH)
Weight 2.790kg
Travelling weight 3.3kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i3-2370M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM77
RAM capacity 6.00GB
Memory type DDR3

Screen and video

Screen size 15.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset AMD Radeon HD 7670M
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1

Drives

Capacity 1.00TB
Hard disk usable capacity 931GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Battery capacity 4,400mAh
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 key-combination switch yes
Modem no
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

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 27min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 39fps
3D performance setting Medium
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.61

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 8 64-bit
OS family Windows 8
Recovery method Recovery partiion