Dell Inspiron 15 Overview

Our review unit came to us with the "ice blue" lid, and it's attractive indeed. While glossy plastics adorn the majority of the Inspiron 15, it's not quite the fingerprint-magnet and general eyesore that many of Toshiba's notebooks have been over the past two years.


Glossy plastics can be fairly attractive if used in moderation, and for the most part they are here, though even photographing the Inspiron 15 required having a microfiber cloth handy to remove smudges from fingerprints. Glossy plastic is used on the lid as well as the bezel for the screen and trim around the touchpad and keyboard. The bluish-silver coloring on the inside is attractive, with a light-brushed aluminum pattern to it. In the center is the touchpad, which is lightly textured and very comfortable to use.

Dell's designers know moderation, though, and we were happy to see a matte plastic keyboard and frame. Many manufacturers have taken to using glossy plastics even on the keyboards, which is frustrating as the texture isn't as pleasant or comfortable. The matte plastic keyboard takes advantage of the added width required to accommodate a 15.6" 16:9-aspect screen to include a numeric keypad. Overall, the keyboard layout is logical and well thought out, with no real sacrifices made to fit the keypad and dedicated keys for Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down. Dell even includes a dedicated touchpad toggle key between the F12 and Insert keys, but eschewed the Scroll Lock key to do so. The keyboard is comfortable and easy to use, and while flex isn't ideal—the keyboard isn't completely firm—it's nowhere near as bad as many other consumer laptop keyboards are.

While the overall build of the Inspiron 15 is very firm and the use of glossy plastics at least tasteful, Dell's designers seem to have missed the boat in stripping down features to produce a more affordable notebook. As we mentioned before, expandability has taken a massive hit with this model and the cuts Dell made have been cruel ones. The lack of eSATA or FireWire—not even an eSATA/USB combo port—is exacerbated by the missing ExpressCard port. The bottom panel on the unit allows the user to replace the hard drive or memory, but there's just no way to improve connectivity beyond what's there. Likewise, the limited customizability on Dell's website ensures you're stuck with the 15.6" LED-backlit screen's mainstream 1366x768 resolution. Even a matte screen would be a welcome change, especially with the default screen's mediocre viewing angles and poor contrast.

We understand that the Inspiron 15 is meant to be more of a bargain, entry-level laptop, but there's little point in upgrading from the base model Inspiron 1564 with i3-330M (2.13GHz with no Turbo Boost) to the beefier i5-520M. Not only does the added performance go to waste in most cases, but it's also a $270 jump for the CPU upgrade. We suspect Dell shipped us the higher-end model to improve benchmark scores, but frankly it's not worth the cost and we recommend the less expensive Inspiron 15 offerings for general use. If you want a faster CPU, look to the Dell Studio 15 line, which adds the missing eSATA, Firewire, and ExpressCard/34 along with a 1080p LCD and the ability to customize many other areas—or look at HP, Acer, ASUS, Toshiba and others who offer notebooks in the same price range with far more expandability than the Inspiron. Ultimately, the trade-off is going to be how much you want to sacrifice to get a mainstream processor in a fairly slim, lightweight chassis.

Index Dell Inspiron 15 Application Performance
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  • Hrel - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    Haven't even gotten past the first page yet, but a 768p screen paired with a 5400rpm hdd just makes me lose ALL interest! Especially for almost $1000, wtf! Reply
  • wolrah - Thursday, March 04, 2010 - link

    The 100mbit Ethernet connection is where I lose interest. Gigabit is cheap as dirt. There is no reason at all for any computer shipping today to not have gigabit, period. 802.11n not being there I can sort of see at the low end, since good 802.11n APs are still hard to find, but gigabit is an unacceptable omission. Reply
  • donjuancarlos - Thursday, March 04, 2010 - link

    It's the Core i5--new technology that's jacking the price (not even available at dell.com right now). If you get a core i3, you can get one for under $600. I've seen them under $500 on sale. That's just fine price-wise.

    And I agree with Anandtech- the i5 in this laptop is overkill. For better performance you're much better off to get the $500 version of this laptop and throw an SSD in it.
    Reply
  • T2k - Thursday, March 04, 2010 - link

    I disagree: it's a DTR, remember?
    And if you do video/fx/cg/3D/graphics/etc jobs faster CPU and more memory always help a lot.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, March 04, 2010 - link

    a 15" relatively thin laptop isn't necessarily a DTR. Reply
  • dagamer34 - Thursday, March 04, 2010 - link

    Because people who worry about stuff like that, Dell would rather you purchase a Studio XPS than from the Inspiron line of laptops. Reply
  • Hrel - Thursday, March 04, 2010 - link

    Only problem with that is that they START at like a thousand bucks. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 04, 2010 - link

    So skip the Studio XPS and look at the regular http://www.dell.com/us/en/home/notebooks/laptop_st...">Dell Studio line. I find those to be a lot better in overall features, customization options, etc.

    1: Please don't respond to spam posts, or you risk having your comments deleted. The following two comments were from other readers.

    jecs:
    Its ugly, but when a big fight involving big capitals has been beautiful???. Do you expect poetry? And then what is the point in a patent if it can't "protect" you or your products. And yes, I don't like it. But is better to have order and laws than not having them at all, or a system that can be fooled everywhere.

    Apple is a corporation and is no better in that sense than the rest. Don be fooled because there are no angels here and there, and don't be naive, this is the world we live in. But again, ¿Why does a corporation exist on a legal basis? It does not includes just this silly method Apple is fighting for. What's involved here is the main reason why we need a legal system, clear rules and what should be protected and from who.

    T2k:
    Screw Dell and its price gouging - http://www.jr.com/acer-computer/pe/ACE_AS5740G6979..." target="_blank">take a look at here!

    Yes, that's the SAME CPU there, bigger HDD, better screen, everything included and graphics is the LATEST DX11 Mobility Radeon 5650 1GB instead of Dell's outdated chip - all this for $750 SHIPPED.

    Last year Acer became the #2 PC maker and it's not an accident: it's killing Dell with its faster model refresh rate, better quality-control and lower prices.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 04, 2010 - link

    Technically, T2k, that's the same size screen, same resolution screen, and a cheaper CPU (the i5-520M has a lot price of $225; Intel doesn't list volume pricing on the i3 or i5-430M, but I'd expect it's at least $75 less). But otherwise, yes, the Acer you linked looks like a much better buy. Reply
  • lyeoh - Friday, March 05, 2010 - link

    Acers tend to be crappier than Dells though.

    http://www.engadget.com/2009/11/17/laptop-reliabil...">http://www.engadget.com/2009/11/17/lapt...-survey-...

    (feel free to ignore the projections)

    Dell's aren't that great but they aren't that crap either. They're smack right in the middle which I think is where they are aiming for anyway.
    Reply

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