We shall be reviewing the Dell Inspiron 15R (N5050) laptop today - this is not to be confused with another model which also bears the same classification of 'Dell Inspiron 15R', but comes under the subcategory of N5100, and which features a switchable back-lid.
The review model we received came in an Obsidian Black colouring which covers the backlid and the palmrest - the rest of the laptop has a regular black plastic finish. The overall design of this laptop is nothing much to write home about - it has an overall regular look except for the bulge at its rear, which provides space for the removable battery.
The backlid is glossy and features the Dell logo that is positioned at its centre - by virtue of its glossy nature, the backlid attracts more than its fair share of fingerprints, smudges and scratches. The plamrest, on the other hand, has a matte finish - so you don’t have to worry about fingerprints and the sort leaving their mark on it. The screen bezel also has a matte finish. In a design choice that we saw previously on the Dell Vostro 3450 as well, the keyboard's background area has a glossy finish - the same goes for its border. While the glossy background surface does provide a contrast to an extent to the matte finish of the rest of the laptop, given that the entire laptop has a darkish colouring, talking of this contrast is a rather moot point - the black glossy background area should contrast better with the Apple Red colour option.
The screen is held in place by a two hinges - the wide centrally located connector also hold the monitor - there is a Dell logo positioned centrally at the lower section of the screen bezel - in place. Both the hinges extend outward to cause a bulge, which is the most distinctive feature of this laptop. The power socket is located on the right side of this bulge.
The overall build quality of this laptop is good. The edges are curved and the entire laptop, when closed, resembles a rectangular slab - there are no angular sides, save for the slight curvature that extends from the base to the front side of the laptop. There is a 0.3 MP camera placed at the top central section of the screen's bezel.
The power button is located at the top left corner. There are two very slim speaker outlets located at either end of the top part of the chassis - placed below the screen. There are four LED indicators positioned along the front of the laptop, for indicating whether the laptop is powered on, for hard drive access, whether the battery is charging or not and for wireless connectivity respectively.
The 15.6-inch glossy screen does a good job of displaying text and video. The viewing angles are decent - two people, sitting within comfortable distance of each other, should be able to watch the screen without having to see the darkish hue appear over the particular picture/video. The screen can be titled backwards to an angle of approx 120 degrees.
The keyboard features chiclet keys, but comes without a dedicated numpad. Given that this is a 15.6 screen laptop, Dell could have easily incorporated a numpad, given how there is a lot of free space around the keyboard border area. Typing on this keyboard was not too pleasant an experience given the springy tactile feedback from the keys. Interestingly Dell has added a function button for disabling the touchpad - which is a very handy feature to have, especially when typing a document, and when you don’t want your cursor to keep moving just because your palms came in to contact with the touchpad. Acer was the only manufacturer I had seen who implemented this feature, and its a welcome addition by Dell. I hope they continue having this feature in their other laptops as well.
The smooth textured touchpad is very responsive, and features two mouse buttons. I did find that the mouse buttons tended to depress too much when pressed - the buttons would depress to the extent that your fingers would be touching the border of the touchpad. This was quite an irritant - Dell could have really done with steadier mouse buttons.
The Dell Inspiron 15R features a Second Generation Intel Core i3 2310 processor (2.1GHz), 4GB DDR3 RAM, a 500 GB (5400 RPM) HDD, and Intel HD graphics.
The left side of the laptop chassis features, one Ethernet port, one VGA port, an HDMI port, one USB 2.0 port and headphone and microphone jacks. On the right hand side you would find an optical drive and 2 USB 2.0 ports. At the front of the chassis, you would find a multi-card reader - positioned to its left, you would find the four LED indicators. It also features Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/ n and Bluetooth 3.0 wireless connectivity.
More details can be seen on this review's "Specifications" page.
The laptop comes pre-installed with Windows 7 Home Premium service pack 1. Among the Dell software included on this unit are the Dell DataSafe local backup, Dell DataSafe online, Dell Stage - includes MusicStage, PhotoStage and VideoStage, Dell Support Centre and PC Checkup and Dell webcam Central which allows you to add some interesting effects to your photos.
Among the other pre-installed software are McAfee Security Centre trial edition, Roxio Creator Starter Edition, and Skype.
The Inspiron15R laptop received a score of 99 on the Worldbench 6 benchmark - for comparisons sake, that would be 2 points more than what the Lenovo IdeaPad Z570 scored. This Dell laptop should be able to cope with carrying out your daily tasks and performing most multiple processor and memory intensive tasks without any issues - save for gaming. During synthetic testing, the laptop's hard disk recorded an average read speed of 72.5 MB/s and recorded a PC Mark Vantage score of 5547.
Given that the laptop has the integrated Intel HD graphics, playing contemporary games shouldn’t really be considered as a viable option on this laptop. This is not a downside in any way as the laptop was never intended for such a purpose, and if you were indeed looking for a more moderately priced machine to play games on, you would be better off looking at other options - such as the Lenovo IdeaPad Z570. Having said that, you just might be able to get away with playing some of the retro games, run at appropriate settings, on this Inspiron 15R laptop,
Watching both 720p and 1080p HD videos was a comfortable experience. The sound output from the built in speakers, is appropriately loud for a small to medium sized room, although higher frequency sounds do tend to sound quite screechy. Listening through headphones would be the best option.
Throughout our testing, the Inspiron laptop did a good job of keeping itself cool, which is a positive aspect for any laptop. However when used for an extended period of time or when running some intensive tasks, you do notice that the mid-to-top left section of the laptop's base, that is next to the exhaust, heats up slightly and becomes quite warm to the touch. Moreover, the laptop was barely audible during operation, which is another positive to take from this laptop.
The laptop's six-cell battery lasted for 1 hour 32 minutes through one of our battery tests, at high performance mode, and having the wireless internet mode enabled - this result is pretty much the norm we have come to expect of mainstream laptops. Having said that, you should be able to extract around 4 plus hours out of the laptop's battery for doing lighter every-day work such as browsing the web and listening to music.
The entire base is a single cover slot, and the entire base will have to taken off - we tried to remove it, but to no avail - to look at the Inspiron laptop's innards. Consequently, in case you are thinking of upgrading this unit, that task is better left to Dell, and is not an activity that I would encourage regular users to engage in.
The Dell Inspiron 15R is not exactly a laptop that will awe you with its design - the same can be said of its tech specs as well. It has a simple design and its specs are oriented towards those users looking to get a home laptop on an economical budget. In our test benchmarks, it performed well. However given some of the laptop's drawbacks, such as the keys being springy, there are better alternatives available in the market, at a similar price range - one such alternative would be the Lenovo IdeaPad Z570.