The Bottom Line
Aug 3 2012 - Dell's most recent revision of the Inspiron 15R brings with it Intel's new Ivy Bridge processors. For under $600, this gives the laptop an advantage thanks to the Core i5 processor and 6GB of memory that outperforms much of the competition. In addition, it features a surprising four USB 3.0 ports that is twice as many as most budget laptops have. If you are looking for low cost video editing, the new HD Graphics 4000 also offers improved video transcoding performance. Even with all of these, there are some issues with the laptop including a keyboard that has too much flex and lacks a numeric keypad. The gimmicky color lids also give it a less than stellar feel to the system.
- Higher Performance Core i5 Processor With 6GB Memory
- Improved Integrated Graphics
- Lots of USB 3.0 Ports
- Switchable Lids Offer A Cheap Feel To Lid
- Soft Keyboard Lacks Numeric Keypad
- Intel Core i5-3210M Dual Core Processor
- 6GB 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 4000 Integrated Graphics
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Four USB 3.0, HDMI, VGA, 8-in-1 Card Reader
- 14.9" x 9.9" x 1.3" @ 6 lbs.
- Windows 7 Home Premium, Office Starter, McAfee Security Center
Review - Dell 2012 Inspiron 15R
Aug 3 2012 - Dell's 3rd generation of Inspiron 15R doesn't really change the exterior design much from its 2nd generation but instead updates the internals to use the new Ivy Bridge processors from Intel. For their mid-range budget offering that is available for under $600, it comes equipped with the Core i5-3210M dual core processor. This offers roughly the same level of performance as the Sandy Bridge based Core i5-2450M processors except with a smaller die that offers power savings and improved integrated graphics. One advantage the processor has over the Core i3 models is Hyper Threading that allows it to better handle multitasking which is also added by the 6GB of DDR3 memory compared to 4GB often found in many budget systems.
Storage features for the most part remain unchanged from the 2nd generation Inspiron 15R. It still comes with a 500GB hard drive that provides a good deal of space for applications, data and media files. The drive does spin at the traditional 5400rpm spin rate which does make it feel slow in comparison to most expensive systems that use 7200rpm drives or offer solid state drives. One big change though is on the peripheral ports. The past version was one of the few to offer USB 3.0 and eSATA ports in a budget laptop. Now they have removed the eSATA port and increased the new USB 3.0 ports to four from two. This is double what most of the budget systems offer in terms of the new high speed ports. There is also a dual layer DVD burner for handling playback or recording of CD and DVD media.
The 15.6-inch display panel is pretty much unchanged from previous versions of the Inspiron 15R. It comes with a native resolution of 1366x768 which is typical of most laptops these days. The brightness is good and contrast typical. Nothing really makes this display panel stand out in a good or bad way from the competition. Like most budget laptops, it relies on the integrated graphics processor. The difference here is that the Ivy Bridge processor brings with it the Intel HD Graphics 4000 which is a good improvement over the past 3000 version still found on most budget Intel laptops. While it still doesn't have sufficient 3D performance to really be considered for gaming other than at the most basic levels, it does bring with even more performance for Quick Sync Video. This allows the system to be extremely fast at transcoding video with compatible applications.
One of the unique features to the Inspiron 15R is the ability for buyers to purchase addition SWITCH lids of different colors. Essentially, buyers can alter the color of the rear of the display on the laptop. While this does give it a bit more flexibility for the users to customize the look of the laptop, it also gives it a much cheaper overall feel. Also, expect to pay $30 for each replaceable lid beyond the basic Moon Silver which is just really a share of gray.
Dell opted for a bit different of a keyboard layout for the Inspiron 15R compared to many other 15-inch laptops. It still uses the standard isolated key layout design that most companies use but they elected to not feature a numeric keypad. Instead, some of the page keys have been placed on the right hand side of the keyboard. This is likely to reduce costs as the keyboard is essentially identical to those used in the 14-inch models. In addition, the keyboard felt very soft in a number of spots with more flex than there should be. The trackpad is a nice large size and offered an overall accurate experience. The trackpad buttons are dedicated which is nice compared to the integrated ones many companies are using.
Dell includes a standard six cell battery pack with an average 48WHr capacity rating that is typical of many laptops in this price range. In digital video playback tests, the laptop was able to run for just under four hours before going into standby mode. This is a bit better than was achieved from the previous 2nd generation Inspiron 15R and also above what most of the other budget laptops achieve as they are still based on the older less efficient Core i processors.