Dell Inspiron 15R (2013) review
A sophisticated budget laptop with excellent ergonomics and a touchscreen; it’s undermined by a poor display, however
When it comes to larger low-cost laptops, you usually have to put up with a slab of cheap glossy plastic. Not so with the Dell Inspiron 15R, which lays a strong claim to being one of the most handsome going. From its gunmetal-grey lid to its silver-trimmed base, the 15R is as attractive as workhorse laptops get.
It’s a level of sophistication you might not expect from a budget laptop. What you wouldn’t have anticipated is that, for £549, you also get a touchscreen, and a good one at that. Unlike some of the other touchscreens we've encountered at this price, the Dell’s adds no irritating layer of glare or grain. In fact, we didn’t notice it had a touchscreen at all until it was pointed out to us.
The touchscreen works well, too. The silky-feeling surface is sensitive to swipes and taps, and with its 1,366 x 768 resolution spread across a 15.6in panel, even Windows 8’s desktop menus and toolbars aren’t too fiddly.
This good work continues with the keyboard, which is superb. The keys are well spaced, with a light yet positive action, and we had no problems with the layout. The cursor keys are large enough to be usable without danger of striking neighbouring keys, and since this is a large laptop, there’s also room for a number pad to the right. A wide, sensitive, multitouch touchpad tops things off nicely.
The Dell’s practicality continues as you peer around the edges. The Inspiron 15R has a generous four USB ports, two of which are USB 3. There’s also a full-sized HDMI output, a 3.5mm stereo headset jack, Gigabit Ethernet and a DVD writer. You also get a modest 5,400rpm 500GB hard disk, and wireless networking includes single-band 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.
Under the hood is an ultra-low-voltage Ivy Bridge 1.9GHz Core i3-3227U processor, which, in concert with 6GB of RAM, drives Windows 8 at an adequate pace. There’s certainly no problem with responsiveness, and the 15R boots from its mechanical hard disk in a matter of seconds.
The 15R’s Real World Benchmark score of 0.54 places it firmly in the middle of the budget pack, but the low-voltage processor does help a little when it comes to battery life. In our light-use battery test the Dell achieved 6hrs 5mins – not far behind the best 15.6in laptops you’ll find at this price.
The display is something of a low point, however. Although initial impressions are favourable, closer inspection reveals that maximum brightness tops out at a dim 181cd/m2, contrast is a mediocre 205:1 and colours are nowhere near accurate enough for photo-editing duties.
There’s no doubt the Dell Inspiron 15R is a classy-looking machine, and there’s much to like about it, not least the responsive touchscreen, superb keyboard and slick design. However, there’s plenty of competition at this price point, not least Sony’s VAIO Fit 15E, and with that poor display blotting its copybook, it isn't the budget all-rounder we might have hoped for.
|Price ex VAT||£458|
|Price inc VAT||£549|
|Features & Design||4|
|Value for Money||3|
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||374 x 258 x 41mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i3-3227U|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||2|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,366|
|Resolution screen vertical||768|
|Resolution||1366 x 768|
|Graphics chipset||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||1|
|Optical disc technology||DVD writer|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless key-combination switch||yes|
|USB ports (downstream)||2|
|3.5mm audio jacks||2|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Memory Stick reader||yes|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||yes|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad, touchscreen|
|Camera megapixel rating||0.9mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||6hr 5min|
|3D performance (crysis) low settings||31fps|
|3D performance setting||Low|
|Overall Real World Benchmark score||0.54|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 8 64-bit|
|OS family||Windows 8|