Last September we had a close look at Dell’s new Inspiron 15R 15.6in laptop, which had a respectable Intel Core i5-450M CPU clocked at 2.4GHz allied to a punchy AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5470 graphics card. While general performance was good without being exceptional, it seemed generally overpriced and had noticeable design issues.
Dell has obviously had time to reflect, and has re-issued the laptop as the Inspiron 15R N5110, with the same sleek chassis – but a number of significant performance changes, not least of which is the decision to showcase one of Intel’s brand new second-generation Core CPUs, known under the codename of Sandy Bridge.
Brand new look
Before moving on to discuss the merits of the new processor, it’s worth observing that the prototype’s four visually uninspiring replaceable lids (blue and black for the boys, pink and red for the girls) have now been supplanted by 23 much more funky and original alternatives supplied by SWITCH Design Studio to help you stand out from the crowd.
In terms of ports and connectors, there are still four USB sockets with one of them doubled with an eSATA, but two of the USB 2.0s ports have now been replaced with USB 3.0 for much faster transfer times. However, one of the USB 3.0 ports has been positioned pointlessly round the back, along with the VGA and Ethernet – but you do have an HDMI output which will be handy if you choose the optional Blu-ray drive in place of the standard DVD writer.
Which brings us on to the new processor, the Sandy Bridge 2.1GHz Intel Core i3-2310M CPU, which is backed by 3GB of DDR3 SDRAM. The beauty of these second-generation CPUs is that they integrate the graphics (in this case, the Intel HD Graphics 3000) with the cores on to a single chip, thus enhancing overall performance. So although the maximum screen resolution remains at 1366×768, movies look sharp and reasonably demanding action games like Hellgate: London still look impressive with little or no judder.
You still have the same six-cell Li-Ion battery as the last version (we noticed a slight improvement from 92 to 95 minutes of constant usage), as well as the smooth action chiclet-style keyboard, 500GB storage and large, responsive touchpad. In addition, you now have Bluetooth capability and Intel’s novel Wireless Display, which lets you project Full HD video plus 5.1 surround sound to your TV (the surround sound has always been a major highlight of this machine).
Price-wise, this has now become a much more attractive option, having dropped from the original hefty £649 to a much more affordable £479, which should give the opposition plenty to think about.
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- Performance-enhancing Sandy Bridge CPU; USB 3.0.
- Still some port design niggles.
Dell have given the Inspiron R a total makeover with a few new features and cheaper price tag, with the Sandy Bridge CPU providing a much appreciated boost to overall performance and some extra battery life.