Wherever possible, it’s interesting to test the whole process of ordering a laptop from a company, and looking at the before- and after-sales support as well as the machine itself. So that’s just what we did with this Dell 1545, a smart, relatively economical machine that opts for trademark Dell efficiency over outright excellence.
We decided to customise the base laptop option, making a few important choices. At the time of ordering, Dell sold the machine with a Dual Core processor as opposed to a faster, full Core 2 Duo CPU, so we opted for that improvement, along with a bump to 3GB of memory, an integrated webcam and a different coloured lid.
As anyone who has ever tested the Dell online shopping process can testify, the firm remains keen to throw umpteen options at you if you want to customise your purchase – which is invariably worth doing – and it’s very confusing. It feels the closest you’ll get to the sales assistant in PC World trying to flog you things that you don’t want.
Once we completed our order, we were surprised that it was going to take several weeks to deliver it. That’s the price you pay for customisation, though as it turned out we did have our machine in under three weeks, and you can’t quibble with the level of communication that Dell puts in place. We found this too when testing the after-sales support, with e-mail responses both prompt and friendly.
But what of the machine? Laptop prices have been sneaking up over the past year, or at least the prices of the components have, and manufacturers have been protecting the assorted price points by slightly compromising on specifications (such as the use of Pentium Dual Core CPUs over Core 2 Duos, for instance). There’s not too much evidence of that here, though, and in fact, since we conducted this test, Dell’s specifications have improved further. In short, we were pleased with the make-up of the 1545.
The spec of the machine we ended up with boasted a 250GB hard disk (partitioned by default to allow a small recovery partition), a DVD writer, a glorious 15.6-inch widescreen display, built-in webcam, 3GB of RAM and a T6400 Core 2 Duo processor running at 2GHz.
There are generous connectivity options built into the laptop and, for a tidy £470 price tag (of which just over £30 was accounted for by the colour of the lid, an easily dispensible luxury), the upgrades we chose proved their worth.
In terms of performance, our benchmarks found that – once we’d unloaded the usual Dell pre-installed clutter – the machine performed well, with the Core 2 Duo processor outperforming reference Dual Cores and also leaving AMD equivalents in the rear-view mirror. In the sub-£500 price bracket the Dell machine was steadfast, and we’ve found in recent times that the endurance of the company’s machines is extremely impressive too.
We were pleased with both the service and the product that Dell delivered here. There’s little to shift our thinking that the firm doesn’t produce spectacular laptops, but when it comes to efficiency and reliability, it’s hard to quibble with what Dell does provide.
It’s a comfortable computer to use, and it’d be interesting to see it installed with Windows 7 rather than the Windows Vista Home Edition that Dell is currently including in such systems by default. Vista does the 1545 few favours, sadly.
But still, this is a fine machine at a solid price. A front runner it isn’t, but this is a laptop potentially primed to give you a good few years of service. The after-sales service is encouraging, too.
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