In recent months we have noticed that Dell has been placing an emphasis on the cosmetic appeal of its laptops. This is another way of saying that you can buy a Dell laptop with a coloured lid, instead of settling for dull, traditional black or grey. We feel this is a smart marketing strategy as it gets away from that dull Megahertz stuff, but we weren’t prepared for the visual impact when we unpacked our sample of the Dell Inspiron 15R.
The lid of the Inspiron 15R comes in a choice of red, pink, blue or black and the deck of the chassis surrounding the keyboard is chromed. Our sample was supplied in pink, although we would argue that it was a blackcurrant sort of pink rather than a vile bubblegum colour, but we ran into a snag when we tried to get a price for this option. Did we mention that Dell charges for its fancy colours? In the UK Dell offers the Inspiron 15R in Mars Black, but if you fancy Peacock Blue, Lotus Pink or Tomato Red you need to phone Dell and quote system code N07N5016. Lord knows why they have made life so complicated.
There’s a number of other cosmetic touches as the power button and activity lights use muted white LEDs that look rather classy. When the power cord is plugged into a mains socket a blue LED lights up near the socket that connects to the laptop. This could be considered to be a handy way of finding the charger in the dark, or you might find it irritating. We took a positive view and liked what Dell has done.
Under the bonnet you’ll find an Intel Core i5 CPU which was a 2.27GHz Core i5-430M in our sample, however Dell tells that that production versions will ship with a faster 2.4GHz Core i5-450M. Core i5 is a dual core processor that uses Hyper Threading to present four virtual cores to the 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium Operating System and it delivers all the performance you need in a modern laptop.
Dell has allied the CPU with 4GB of DDR3-1066MHz memory and an ATi Mobility Radeon HD 5470 graphics chip, which delivers enough grunt to play a reasonable selection of games.
When the Dell is performing everyday tasks it is nice and quiet, but the cooling fan gets noticeably louder when the system is under load as the cooling has to deal with a decent CPU as well as proper graphics.
The screen is a 15.6-inch affair with 1366×768 resolution and LED back-lighting that presents a decent picture, but it’s nothing to write home about. The screen appears to use basic TN hardware in the panel and it doesn’t have a clever coating to improve the appearance of the image.
The 2.7kg weight is a tad on the heavy side for a mid-sized laptop but we were disappointed to see that Dell has supplied a relatively small 4080mAh battery. The combination of smallish battery and Core i5 hardware means that we only got 92 minutes of battery life in a continuous test. We would have hoped for 110 or 120 minutes.
Other parts of the specification include a tray-loading multi-format DVD writer, Dell 802.11n wireless and a 500GB hard drive. Bluetooth is notable by its absence, which is a shame, and the layout of the ports and connectors is less than ideal. In total there are four USB 2.0 ports, with one port doubling up as an eSATA port, and two of the USB 2.0 ports are located on the rear of the chassis along with the power connector, where they are rather inconvenient.