The Bottom Line
Oct 18 2012 - Dell's lowest cost Inspiron 15 laptop certainly is affordable at $400 and offers a good deal of performance from its Core i3 processor. It also sets itself apart from its competition with small things such as easy to upgrade memory and Bluetooth support. All of this is tempered by the fast that this is an older chassis so it lacks modern features like USB 3.0 or even the customization that Dell offers for its more expensive 15R series. Still, it will fill the needs of those for a low cost but decently performing laptop.
- Good Performance From Core i3 Processor
- Memory Configuration Makes It Easy To Upgrade
- Bluetooth Support
- Lacks USB 3.0 Port
- Quickship Version That Lacks Hardware Customization
- Intel Core i3-2350M Dual Core Processor
- 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 500GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- 8x DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Burner
- 15.6" WXGA (1366x768) Display With 1.0 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 3000 Integrated Graphics
- Fast Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Three USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, 3-in-1 Card Reader
- 14.8" x 10.2" x 1.4" @ 5.2 lbs.
- Windows 7 Home Premium, Office Starter, McAfee Security Center
Review - Dell Inspiron 15 (3520)
Oct 18 2012 - Dell's latest low cost laptop is actually based on the chassis from its previous 15-inch consumer laptop and thus has the Inspiron 15 designation. In terms of appearance, it lacks the two tone color of the new Inspiron 15R or the various switchable color lids for the back of the display. The laptop is also slightly thicker and longer than the newer laptop.
What is nice to see in the Inspiron 15 is the inclusion of the second generation Intel Core i3-2350M dual core processor. Most laptops in this price range elect to use the slower and less feature oriented Pentium's. This gives it a performance advantage over most of the laptops in the $400 price range. It still comes with 4GB of memory which allows for a smooth overall experience with Windows 7. The memory is configured with a single 4GB memory modules which has its benefits and its drawbacks. It makes it easy for consumers to upgrade to 8GB by installing a second 4GB module. The downside is that it only runs in single channel mode which does slightly impact performance against laptops that have two modules.
Storage features on the Dell Inspiron 15 are pretty much to be expected and just about the same as on the more expensive Inspiron 15R. It features a 500GB hard drive that provides it with a good amount of storage space for applications, data and media files. Many laptops under $400 are switching to this but a few still use the smaller 320GB drives. The big drawback is that the Inspiron 15 is based on an old chassis design and as a result does not have any USB 3.0 ports. This means that it doesn't have the ability for easy upgrading with high speed external storage devices like the more expensive 15R. A dual layer DVD burner is included for playback and recording of CD or DVD media.
Graphics for the Inspiron 15 are typical of a low cost laptop. The 15.6-inch display panel offers your standard 1366x768 resolution. It uses the low cost TN technology panels that means the viewing angles are fairly narrow and the color is a bit more muted but this is something all low cost laptops have to deal with. Since it uses the second generation Intel Core i3 processor, the graphics are driven by the Intel HD Graphics 3000. This doesn't have the same 3D performance of the newer HD 4000 in the 15R or the Radeon based graphics of the AMD processors. The result is the inability to even be used for 3D gaming at a casual level. What the graphics do provide though is acceleration for media encoding when used with Quick Sync compatible applications.
Just like the newer Dell Inspiron 15R, the Inspiron 15 uses a six cell battery pack with a 48WHr capacity rating. This is pretty typical of a 15-inch laptop. In digital video playback tests, the system was able to manage just under three and a quarter hours before going into standby mode. This isn't quite as long as the newer 15R but that is using the newer and more energy efficient Ivy Bridge processor rather than a Sandy Bridge model. This puts it pretty much in your average running time. It certainly isn't as long as the HP Envy Sleekbook 6 but that comes with a larger battery and uses a slower and more energy efficient processor.
In terms of competition, there are three models in the same price range. The ASUS X54C offers a slightly faster processor with more memory and a USB 3.0 port but has less storage space. The HP 2000t is a bit more affordable but uses a slower Pentium processor. Finaly, the Toshiba Satellite C855 is less expensive with a USB 3.0 port but also uses a Pentium processor and less storage space.