The Bottom Line
Apr 4 2013 - Dell's retooling of their Inspiron 15 may sacrifice a bit of performance but ends up with a platform that is not only very affordable but gives it an advantage over the competition. The system is thinner and lighter than most while including features such as Bluetooth and more USB 3.0 ports. Most buyer's will probably not notice the slight reduction in performance but the glossy exterior that seems to attract fingerprints and smudges is bothersome to frequently clean.
- Very Afforable
- Thinner And Light Than Most 15-inch Systems
- Lower General Performance Than Many Competing Systems
- Exterior Shell Attracts Fingerprints and Smudges
- Intel Core i3-3227U Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 500GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- Dual Layer DVD+/-RW Burner
- 15.6" WXGA (1366x768) Display With 1.0 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 4000 Integrated Graphics
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 3.0, Two USB 2.0, HDMI, 6-in-1 Card Reader
- 14.8" x 10.2" x 1.0" @ 5 lbs.
- Windows 8
Review - Dell Inspiron 15 3521
Apr 4 2013 - While much of the appearance of the Dell Inspiron 15 3521 is similar to that of the past Inspiron 15 3520, they have made a number of changes to the system which have improved the overall ability of the system. One of the big changes was in the peripheral ports. The old VGA port is gone which is a good thing as few monitors use this anymore in favor of the HDMI port. In its place, a USB 3.0 port has been added along with switching one of the past USB 2.0 to also be USB 3.0 port. This definitely gives the system an advantage as most low cost laptops either lack the new port or only provide a single one.
Another big change with the Inspiron 15 is the processor. Rather than using a standard class laptop processor, they now use an Intel Core i3-3227U dual core processor. This is a lower voltage processor that would typically be found in inexpensive ultrabooks. It does sacrifice some performance in order to use less power but it still provides a good level of performance for that typical user that is just using their laptop to browse the web, watch media and use some productivity applications. The processor is combined with 4GB of DDR3 memory which is typical of such a low cost system and it runs well enough under Windows 8 but those that might want to do a lot of multitasking can benefit from upgrading to 8GB.
Storage features a standard for a low cost laptop. The primary storage is handled by a 500GB hard drive that provides a decent amount of storage for applications, data and media files. Performance is pretty much on par for a lower cost laptop and definitely now as quick for booting as a low cost ultrabook that will use some SSD to enhance a drive. If you do need additional space, there are the two USB 3.0 ports that were previously mentioned for use with high speed external drives. The system still has a dual layer DVD burner for playback and recording of CD and DVD media unlike the Inspiron 15z.
The graphics have been upgraded a bit from the past version thanks to the new processor. Now it features an Intel HD Graphics 4000 over the past 3000 graphics. This provides better 3D performance but it still shouldn't be considered for PC gaming beyond the most casual play at low resolution and detail levels. It does provide improved speeds for video encoding when using Quick Sync enabled applications. The display remains the same with a 15.6-inch TN based panel that offers a 1366x768 native resolution common to all low cost laptops. Viewing angles are limited as is the color and brightness such that it doesn't really stand out or feel any worse than its competition.
The weight of the Inspiron 15 has dropped to just five pounds and is primarily attributed to the reduction of the battery size from a six cell 48WHr capacity pack to a four cell 40WHr unit. This is a notable drop in battery capacity but it is using a lower power consuming processor. In digital video playback testing, this resulted in four and a quarter hours of playback before going into standby mode. This is actually longer than the previous Inspiron 15 but it still falls short of what HP's Envy Sleekbook 6 can achieve with a low power processor and larger battery pack.
Normally the Dell Inspiron 15 is priced around $450 but with various incentives can generally be found for under $400. This makes it extremely affordable compared to many similar systems. The primary competition for Dell comes from Acer, ASUS and Toshiba. Acer's new Aspire E1 is slightly more expensive and offers less storage space and peripherals ports. The ASUS X55C provides a bit higher performance but also has less running time and is larger than the Dell. Finally, Toshiba offers more storage and a bit more performance but at less running time while being thicker and heavier.