What level of notebook can you expect these days at around the $550 mark?
The Dell Inspiron 15R is certainly an affordable notebook considering its specs. It has a Sandy Bridge Intel Core i3-2310M (2.3GHz) processor and integrated Intel Graphics HD 3000 that are heavy hitters for productivity applications and some intensive programs. There’s also 2GB of RAM that lead to a respectable overall PCMark Vantage score of 4,668. A battery life of four and a half hours in power saver mode ensures that performance is long lasting.
The Inspiron looks good as well, but the 15.6in (1,366 x 768 resolution) screen is a bit too shiny for our liking. Everything else is similarly glossy, but around the keyboard the surface is matte grey. The back of the screen can be removed and replaced with some nice-looking clip-on covers from Dell, but be aware that the plastic hooks on the cover are a bit on the weak side.
Although the body’s build quality is respectable, the chiclet keyboard is not as good as it could be. Typing on it is mostly fine; there’s a light amount of travel and while the direction keys are minuscule overall the layout is good. However, it does flex somewhat during usage which is disconcerting. The touchpad is nice; it’s subtly and pleasantly rough to the touch and is responsive. There are some multi-touch commands, and while the buttons had a lot of give they worked well.
The rest of the specs are reasonable. A 320GB hard drive is small, but for the price it’s a fair compromise. Port variety is excellent; there are two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, one VGA port, one HDMI port, one USB 2.0/E-SATA port and a Fast Ethernet port. There’s also a headphone jack, microphone jack, an 8-in-1 card reader and a DVD burner. Finally, there’s Bluetooth 3.0 and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi; great connectivity all round.
I like affordable notebooks, and while shiny like glass the Dell Inspiron 15R is a real contender. The keyboard doesn’t match the generally good build quality of the rest of the notebook, but at the end of the day it’s still a very reasonable option for a prospective notebook buyer on a budget.Available from Dell, retailing from $549.APC rating: 7/10