Budget laptops are all about sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for a big, clunky system with a bland design and limited features. With the Dell Inspiron 15 (I15RV-6190 BLK) you get relatively good performance in a thin, textured 15-inch chassis for under $400. Granted, it uses a watered down version of last year’s Ivy Bridge architecture and can’t display full HD (1080p), but if you’re looking for a solid desktop replacement laptop for emailing, Web browsing, and light home office duty, this deal is hard to beat.
Design and Features
The Inspiron 15 doesn’t look like a sub-$300 laptop. Measuring only 1-inch in height it is thinner than both the HP 2000-2b19wm (1.4 inches) and the Toshiba Satellite C855D-S5104 (1.3 inches), and at 5.1 pounds it’s also a tad lighter than the Toshiba C855D-S5104. The lid is done up in a stylish textured black finish and sports a shiny Dell logo in the center.
The keyboard deck uses the same textured finish as the lid. The Inspiron 15′s matte finish is susceptible to faint fingerprint smudging, though nearly as bad as a high-gloss finish. The full size chiclet-style keyboard is firm, and the black keys travel well, but don’t look for backlighting at this price. A numeric keypad sits off to the right, and there’s a slightly recessed multi-gesture touchpad with two good-sized buttons at the bottom. The pad has a smooth surface and had no trouble responding to swipe, pinch, and zoom gestures.
The 15.6-inch TruLife display has a resolution of 1,366-by-768 which, means can display 720p HD videos, but it can’t display HD content at 1080p. This Inspiron 15 doesn’t support touch technology, but again, you’d be hard pressed to find a notebook in this price range that offers either one of these features, let alone both. The display is reasonably bright and offers good color quality, although viewing angles are a tad narrow.
Despite its budget-class status the Inspiron 15 offers a decent feature set, including two USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports. As with the Dell Inspiron 17-3721, the speedier USB 3.0 ports are black rather than blue, making it difficult to differentiate between the slower USB 2.0 ports. Other ports include an HDMI video output, a LAN port, and a headphone jack. There’s an 8-in-1 card reader on the front edge of the chassis and a 1-Megapixel webcam embedded in the display’s upper bezel. Wireless networking components include Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) and Bluetooth 4.0 radios.
The Inspiron 15 has 500GB of storage in a 5,400-rpm hard drive and comes with Windows 8 preloaded. It also comes with the obligatory bloatware programs like eBay and Kindle and trial versions of McAfee Security Advisor and Microsoft Office. Dell covers the Inspiron 15 with a standard one-year limited warranty.
The Inspiron 15 uses last year’s Intel Ivy Bridge technology. It is equipped with a 1.8GHz Intel Pentium 2117u processor, Intel’s HD Graphics GPU, and 4GB of system memory. It performed pretty much as expected, trailing the faster 1.9GHz Intel Core i3-equipped Dell 17-3721 and 2.4GHz Intel Core i3-3110M-equipped Toshiba Satellite C875-S7340. It blew away the Toshiba C855D-S5104 and HP 2000-2b19wm systems, both of which use a slower, less powerful 1.3GHz AMD E-300 processor.
We saw similar results across the board; the Inspiron 15 took longer to complete our Handbrake encoding and Photoshop tests than the faster laptops and was almost three times faster than the AMD-based laptops. Likewise, its Cinebench R11.5 CPU score was more than three times higher than the AMD-based systems. Graphics performance was almost identical to the two laptops using AMD Radeon HD 6310 graphics, but none of these systems was capable of handling intensive graphics work. If you want to play the latest games, be prepared to shell out a lot more money for a laptop with a powerful graphics solution.
The Inspiron 15′s 4-cell Lithium Ion battery lasted 4 hours 10 minutes on our battery rundown test, which is impressive for a 15-inch desktop replacement laptop. It beat the Dell Inspiron 17 by around half an hour and the Toshiba C875-S7340 by almost an hour and a half. The AMD based laptops had the edge here, however.
With the Dell Inspiron 15 you get a very capable 15-inch laptop at an amazingly low price. Granted, it uses older CPU technology and lacks touch-screen capabilities, but it’s not a bare-bones laptop by any means and offers enough horsepower to handle the basics, making it ideal for students and day-to-day home office computing. As such, it earns our Editors’ Choice for budget laptops.
|Processor Name||Intel Pentium 2117U|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics|
|Processor Speed||1.8 GHz|
|Primary Optical Drive||Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW|
|Screen Size||15.6 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||500 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc