Review Dell Inspiron 15R-5521 Notebook

Florian Glaser (translated by Kevin S. ), 02/10/2013

The golden mean. With its Inspiron 15R-5521, Dell shows a rather unusual combination of energy-saving ULV processor and dedicated middle class GPU. The efficient components do not only indicate a moderate energy demand, but also a long battery life. We have tested the top-class model with AMD's brand new Radeon HD 8730M.

Dell Inspiron 15R-5521

For the original German review, see here.

On its German homepage, Dell currently offers five different versions of the Inspiron 15R-5521. The two less expensive versions are equipped with the fast 1.8 GHz Core i3-3217U, whereas the more expensive ones use the more powerful Core i5-3317U which works at a frequency of 2.6 GHz maximum. 

The graphics card shows huge differences as well. People who want to use the notebook for sophisticated 3D programs (games, etc.) should avoid the entry-level version with Intel HD Graphics 4000 and should, if possible, buy the more expensive version of the AMD graphics accelerators straight away. Because, unlike the current Radeon HD 8730M (28nm process), the Radeon HD 7670M is an old 40nm GPU, and the performance gap tends to be quite huge, as our benchmarks verified. 

The effects of the internal memory are limited. Whether four, six or eight GB DDR3-RAM (1,600 MHz): it hardly matters - at least for normal users. Also the hard disk capacity differs depending on the version. The manufacturer integrates either a 540 or a 1,000 GB HDD (5,400 RPM).

Except for the low-cost version, all the notebooks contain a 6-cell battery of 65 Wh. Glossy display (1366x768), operating system (Windows 8, 64-bit) and optical drive (common DVD burner) are identical. The 15-inch notebook varies between 449 and 649 Euros (~$604 and $873)Some details can be adjusted using the in-house configurator.

Dell Inspiron 15R-5521 449 Euro 499 Euro 549 Euro 599 Euro 649 Euro
Processor Intel Core i3-3217U Intel Core i3-3217U Intel Core i5-3317U Intel Core i5-3317U Intel Core i5-3317U
Graphics card Intel HD Graphics 4000 AMD Radeon HD 7670M AMD Radeon HD 7670M AMD Radeon HD 7670M AMD Radeon HD 8730M
Internal memory 4 GB DDR3 (1.600 MHz) 6 GB DDR3 (1.600 MHz) 4 GB DDR3 (1.600 MHz) 6 GB DDR3 (1.600 MHz) 8 GB DDR3 (1.600MHz)
Hard disk 540 GB (5.400 U/Min) 540 GB (5.400 U/Min) 540 GB (5.400 U/Min) 1.000 GB (5.400 U/Min) 1.000 GB (5.400 U/Min)
Optical drive DVD burner DVD burner DVD burner DVD burner DVD burner
Display 1.366 x 768 (Glare) 1.366 x 768 (Glare) 1.366 x 768 (Glare) 1.366 x 768 (Glare) 1.366 x 768 (Glare)
Battery 4 cells (40 Wh) 6 cells (65 Wh) 6 cells (65 Wh) 6 cells (65 Wh) 6 cells (65 Wh)
Operating system Windows 8 64 Bit Windows 8 64 Bit Windows 8 64 Bit Windows 8 64 Bit Windows 8 64 Bit

Case

Wie wir testen - Gehäuse

four colors are available
four coulours are available

For Dell, great emphasis is put on individuality. In order to address a large group of customers, the 15-inch Inspiron 15R-5521 is available in four different colors. Depending on the configuration the lid and keyboard shine in either “pink”, “red”, “silver” or “blue”. An upgrade from the silver base model to a different version costs 39 Euros (~$52).

Independent of that decision are the sides, which are made of plastic, and the silver-gray edge of the lid. The casing bottom however is black. Due to the extensive use of metal (lid + wrist rest) and the high-contrast material transition, the 15-inch notebook cuts a fancy and classic figure. Only the projecting battery cover and the extremely thick display frame at the lower part did not appeal to us. The round casing front reminiscent of the XPS 15 is also a matter of taste.

Even though the processing leaves a lot to be desired here and there (hinges, transition lid/display frame) and dirt might settle down in some gaps, the Inspiron 15R-5521 offers a decent impression of quality. In the price range below 1000 Euros (~$1344) small flaws have to be almost always taken into account. Most all-round notebooks shows a similar result in that category.

Let’s have a look at stability, which can be classified to be reasonable to good. Only the drive area steps out of line. Especially the number pad yields in case of strong pressure. Otherwise, the case is relatively pressure resistant. Since the hinges are very tight, two hands are required to open the lid. Still, the display shakes if the base is knocked.

The good mobility is a positive highlight. A maximum height of barely three centimeters (~1.18 inches) and a weight of 2.36 kg (~5.2 pounds) are surprisingly low for a 15-inch notebook. 

Connectivity

Wie wir testen - Ausstattung

The interface equipment is based on the typical all-round level, which means it is neither poor nor particularly lavish. Let’s start with the right side, which does not only have an optical drive, but also a Kensington Lock and a USB 2.0 port. Most of the interfaces can be found on the left side. Next to three additional USB ports (2 x USB 3.0), the user can find an HDMI and a power port. It is unfortunate that Dell uses a combined audio jack and a Fast Ethernet port instead of a Gigabit LAN port and that there is no analog image output. eSATA, FireWire and ExpressCard are rare in general.

Additional flaw: due to the arrangement which is based on the front, there is a lack of side space when lots of cables are plugged in; unwanted collisions might follow when using a mouse. Only a card reader is included on the front.

Wireless Communication

The Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 module supports Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n (2.4 GHz, max. 300 Mbit/s). In the test, the range turned out to be average.

left side: power input, HDMI, RJ-45 Fast Ethernet Lan, 2x USB 3.0, USB 2.0, sound
left side: current input,  HDMI, RJ-45 Fast Ethernet Lan, 2x USB 3.0, USB 2.0, Sound
front: Multi-in-1-card reader
front: Multi-in-1-card reader
right side: USB 2.0, optical drive, Kensington Lock
right side: USB 2.0, optical drive, Kensington Lock

Maintenance

As usual for the multimedia sector, the maintenance possibilities are limited to a minimum. Underneath the bottom flap, which is fixed with two cross screws, only the 2.5-inch duct and the two RAM-Banks are accessible. A comfortable cleaning of the fan is unfortunately not possible. However, hard disk and internal memory can be removed and replaced by laymen. 

Software

preinstalled software
preinstalled software

Concerning the software, Dell focuses on drivers and in-house tools. Apart from the Amazon Browser App, the Inspiron 15R-5521 is mostly bloatware free. To console the customer for the missing recovery DVD, the manufacturer installs a "Backup and Recovery” program. Optionally, the operating system can be restored with the Windows 8 function “Restore” (PC-Settings, General). 

Accessories

One should not expect a large accessory pack when buying the Inspiron 15R-5521. Two thin leaflets (Quick Start Guide + safety instructions), a 6-cell battery (330 g/~0.73 pounds) and a compact 90 Watt adapter (340 g/~0.75 pounds) is all there is. Dell could have at least included a driver DVD.  

Warranty

The standard warranty (collection and repair) extends to 12 months. The warranty can be extended at extra charge. A one-year on-the-spot service amounts to 75 Euros (~$101), two years to 115 Euros (~$155) and three years to 150 Euros (~$202). Additionally, Dell sells an accident insurance for 40-80 Euros (~$54-$108). 

Input Devices

Wie wir testen - Eingabegeräte

Keyboard

The input devices provide a good show. Especially the large key size (14.5 x 14.5 millimeters/~0.57 x 0.57 inches) of the Chiclet keyboard, the dedicated number pad and the elaborate layout impressed us. Only the small F-row and the small arrow keys disappointed us; Like many competitors, Dell restricts itself to half the height (8 millimeters/~0.31 inches). The shiny and extremely sensitive keyboard pad is also a point of criticism. Already after a short time dust particles gathered in intermediate spaces.

The pleasant feeling while typing compensates for that flaw. Only the stroke could have been better according to the author. Brightness and volume can be adjusted with the Fn keystroke combination. Additionally, there is a multimedia control and (de-)activation button for the touchpad and the radio module. Unfortunately, lighting is not included.

Touchpad

The successful touchpad is one of the greatest strengths of the Inspiron 15R-5521. Due to the excellent dimensioning (10.0 x 5.7 centimeters/~0.39 x 0.22 inches), large  screen distances can be covered without removing the finger. The orientation is eased due to the touchpad’s lowered position. Furthermore, the user can be glad about the gesture control. With two fingers, documents, images and websites can be randomly turned, zoomed or scrolled. Even though the cursor position changes slightly while scrolling, we would judge the multi-touch support to be reliable.

The precision and the sliding properties also deserve a good grade. Dell relies on a pleasant and smooth surface. On one hand the two mouse buttons sound loud and rickety, on the other hand the well-defined activation system convinces. 

Keyboard
Keyboard
Touchpad
Touchpad

Display

Wie wir testen - Display

As expected, Dell integrates a 15.6-inch HD panel. 1366x768 pixels do not allow an extensive multi-window operation, but considering the graphics power, the chosen resolution is reasonable. Less comprehensible is the shiny surface. Depending on the angle, large reflections can occur. Even indoors there are annoying reflections. 

202
cd/m²
196
cd/m²
211
cd/m²
194
cd/m²
219
cd/m²
208
cd/m²
197
cd/m²
191
cd/m²
210
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 219 cd/m²
Average: 203.1 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 87 %
Center on Battery: 219 cd/m²
Black: 0.64 cd/m²
Contrast: 342:1

Looking at the display figures, the reason for the glossy surface becomes obvious. Apparently, Dell wants to hide the poor panel quality. The N3KMP_156WH3 (LGD03AB) is only middle class. An average brightness of roughly 200 cd/m² is as modest as a contrast of 340:1. Good panels like the LG Philips LP156WF1 (Asus N56VM) achieve a contrast twice or three times as high.

A black level of 0.6 cd/m² is not outstanding either. Dark movies and games show a remarkable gray tinge. Also the poor color display needs to be criticized. The panel does not even cover a rudimentary sRGB space. Next to a high-class display, the image seems to be rather pale.

Dell Inspiron 15R-5521 vs. sRGB (grid)
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521 vs. sRGB (grid)
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521 vs. AdobeRGB (grid)
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521 vs. AdobeRGB (grid)
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521 vs. Toshiba Satellite P845-106 (grid)
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521 vs. Toshiba Satellite P845-106 (grid)

What is the result of combining poor intensity with a reflecting surface? Exactly: almost no outdoor suitability. Our photos show that the outdoor use is clearly constrained. At worst, one can only guess what is supposed to be on the screen. People who travel a lot should stick to a non-glare panel.

outdoor use Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
outdoor use Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
Outdoor use Dell Inspiron 15R-5521

As the picture below shows, the angles are rather disappointing. Elements with a high black content already show a certain change from small angles on. This is clearly visible as the typical horizontal black borders immediately show a different saturation level. Even from an optimal sitting position, the brightness drifts slightly top-down. Ergo: for many viewers, the Inspiron 15R-5521 is not suitable. Though, one should mention that most of the competing products are hardly better. 

Angles Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
Angles Dell Inspiron 15R-5521

Performance

Wie wir testen - Leistung

Processor

Ivy Bridge
Ivy Bridge

In order to keep the power consumption to a minimum, Dell does not use an “ordinary” processor, but rather an energy-saving ULV model. The Core i5-3317U is a dual-core from Intel’s current Ivy Bridge generation which is formed in the 22nm process, which can handle four threads parallel due to the hyperthreading technology.

The automatic overclocking function “Turbo Boost” cannot be missed. When the cooling permits, the clock speed is clearly beyond the basic level. In the case of the i5-3317U, up to 2.6 GHz are possible instead of the 1.7 GHz. 

An absolute highlight is however the low TDP. The standard models can only dream of using only 17 Watts (35 Watts for the two cores) and the three MB L3-Cache resembles the large dual-core versions. But specifications aside: with the Core i5-3317U, Dell undertakes an exciting experiment. ULV processors are normally found in ultrabooks. Will the choice be an intelligent move or a fail?

Systeminfo CPUZ CPU
Systeminfo HDTune
Systeminfo HWiNFO
Systeminfo GPUZ (Radeon HD 8730M)
Systeminfo GPUZ (HD Graphics 4000)
Systeminfo CPUZ RAM SPD
Systeminfo CPUZ RAM
Systeminfo CPUZ Mainboard
Systeminfo CPUZ Cache
Systeminfo DPC Latenzen
System information Dell Inspiron 15R-5521

Turbo Boost

Great: higher load results in a CPU clock speed settling close to the turbo maximum. It does not matter whether one or more cores are stressed: the Core i5-3317U operates mostly at 2.4-2.6 GHz – even under extreme conditions. The clock speed only falls below 2.0 GHz in the idle operation mode, for energy-saving reasons. 

Single Core Rendering
Single Core Rendering
Multi Core Rendering
Multi Core Rendering
CPU- & GPU-usage
CPU- & GPU-usage

Performance CPU

The performance is more than respectable for a ULV model. In the single-core rendering of Cinebench R11.5, the dual-core with 1.00 points is between the ULV colleagues Core i3-3217U (0.75 points @ Lenovo IdeaPad U510) and the fast 2.5-3.1 GHz 35 Watt Core i5-3210M model (1.25 points @ Dell Vostro 3560).

For the multi-core rendering, the gaps are similar: with 2.40 points the dual-core is 40% above the Core i3-3217U (1.71 points) and 15% below the Core i5-3210M (2.83 points). The performance of the Core i5-3317U corresponds to the 2.4 GHz fast Core i3-3110M, which does not have any overclocking (35 Watts TDP).

Cinebench R10
Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
8929 Points ∼25%
Core i3-3217U
Lenovo IdeaPad U510 MBM62GE
6676 Points ∼19% -25%
Core i3-3110M
HP ProBook 4540s-C4Z27EA
9226 Points ∼26% +3%
Core i5-3210M
Asus P55VA-XO011X
10916 Points ∼31% +22%
Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
4472 Points ∼18%
Core i3-3217U
Lenovo IdeaPad U510 MBM62GE
3159 Points ∼13% -29%
Core i3-3110M
HP ProBook 4540s-C4Z27EA
4243 Points ∼17% -5%
Core i5-3210M
Asus P55VA-XO011X
5265 Points ∼21% +18%
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
4472 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
8929 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
5905 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
2.4 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
32.7 fps
Help

Graphics Card

graphics switching
graphics switching

The Radeon HD 8730M is based on the AMD's modern GCN architecture (Graphics Core Next) which is produced in the 28nm process. 384 unified shaders point to the middle class as well as the 900 million transistors and a memory interface of 128-bits.

The old Radeon HD 7670M (Terascale 2 architecture) has to make do with 716 million transistors and a 128-bit interface. Also the clock speed distinguishes the Radeon HD 8730M and the core works normally with 650 instead of 600 MHz. Since AMD HD-8000 series has an automatic overclocking, the DirectX 11.1 graphics card achieves even 700 MHz.

Dell utilizes the GPU model with 2048 MB DDR3-VRAM (900 MHz). Due to the integrated audio controller, HDMI surround-sound can be passed through to external devices.

The most interesting aspect though is the dynamic graphics switch, which AMD labels “Enduro”. Depending on the requirements, a program is either assigned to the processor chip or to the dedicated graphics chip. While games are accelerated by the Radeon HD 8730M, modest applications like the web browser or the video player work on Intel’s HD Graphics 4000 (clocks only with 350-1050 MHz for the ULV models).

At least in theory, because amongst other things, Enduro does not really know what to do with certain programs (“Not assigned”). If a game or a 3D-application performance is suspiciously low, the user should check in the driver menu “Switchable Graphics – Application Setting” (right-click on the desktop) whether the profile “Maximum Performance” is activated. 

5.9
Windows 8 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
6.9
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
7.4
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
6.6
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
6.6
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
5.9

GPU Performance

The GCN architecture can show its strengths in computationally intensive DirectX 11 benchmarks. Take for example the 3DMark 11 (1280x720, Performance Preset). With a GPU score of 1,368 points, the AMD graphics card lines up just 30% above the 40nm model Radeon HD 7670M (1,056 points @ Toshiba Satellite L850-153) and GeForce GT 630M (1,051 points @ Dell XPS 14-L421X). The GeForce GT 640M is not a threat to the Radeon HD 8730M. Nvidia’s Kepler-GPU works around 25% faster (1,731 points @ Acer Aspire M3-581TG).

Concerning the Unigine Heaven 2.1 Benchmark (1280x1024, High, Tessellation normal), the GeForce GT 640M has definitively more competition. With 21.1 to 23.8 fps, the Radeon HD 8730M calculates ”only” 10% more slowly. The AMD accelerator easily overtakes the GeForce GT 630M (16.4 fps@ Dell Vostro 3460). The Radeon HD 7670M trails significantly: 12.7 fps is a reduction of 40%. 

DirectX 10 Benchmarks, like the 3DMark Vantage (see table), show a similar performance structure. Older DirectX 9 programs have a more straightforward gap. Altogether, the performance of the Radeon HD 8730M tends towards the GeForce GT 640M LE.

3DMark Vantage - 1280x1024 P GPU no PhysX
Radeon HD 8730M
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
5880 Points ∼13%
GeForce GT 630M
Samsung 550P5C-T02DE
4059 Points ∼9% -31%
Radeon HD 7670M
Toshiba Satellite L850-153
4255 Points ∼9% -28%
GeForce GT 640M DDR3
Gigabyte U2442N
6348 Points ∼14% +8%
3D Mark
3DMark 0319016 points
3DMark 0512762 points
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
8604 points
3DMark Vantage6329 points
3DMark 111505 points
3DMark Ice Storm38395 points
3DMark Cloud Gate5206 points
3DMark Fire Strike1073 points
Help

Mass Storage

CrystalDiskMark
CrystalDiskMark

The notebook has a 1,000 GB, 9.5 mm (~0.37 inches) high Western Digital SATA-II-HDD (Scorpio Blue WD10JPVT-75A1YT0). For a 5400 RPM model the performance is amazingly good.

Where smaller competitors only have a transfer rate of 60-80 MB/sec for HD Tune, the Western Digital levels out at just 90 MB/sec. The CrystalDiskMark judges the HDD slightly quicker: around 110 MB/sec in the sequential reading and writing test are a respectable result. The average seek time of 16.5 ms is rather unspectacular.

If you want to get the most out of the Inspiron 15R-5521, the hard disk should be exchanged with an SSD. With a Solid State Drive one can save some waiting time. Program installations profit from an SSD as well as charge, boot and transfer processes. 

WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVT-75A1Yt0
Transfer Rate Minimum: 34.3 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 122.3 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 90.2 MB/s
Access Time: 16.5 ms
Burst Rate: 116.9 MB/s
CPU Usage: 2.7 %

System Performance

With 2,414 points, the 15-inch notebook is on the same level as other multimedia notebooks like the Packard Bell EasyNote LV44H (Core i5-3210M, GeForce GT 630M & 500 GB HDD) or the HP Envy m6-1101sg (Core i5-3210M, Radeon HD 7670M & 1000 GB HDD).

PC Mark
PCMark 72414 points
Help

Gaming Performance

for occasional gamer
for occasional gamer

The game speed strongly depends on the CPU requirements of the program. DirectX 9 titles that require less graphics performance, like DishonoredCounter-Strike: Global OffensiveDarksiders II, Borderlands 2 or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 allow gambling with high details and double edge smoothing.

For titles like Need for Speed: Most WantedAlan WakeGuild Wars 2 or Far Cry 3, the user has to be content with average graphics options and deactivated anti-aliasing. In exceptional cases, the power is just enough for minimal details. Assassin's Creed III did not work in the test at all. AMD graphics cards in general have problems there.

Taking all the benchmarks together, a rather decent gaming performance results. With the Inspiron 15R-5521, Dell primarily addresses casual gamers. Although the relative weak CPU clock is noticeable, the negative effects are not grave. 

low med.high ultra
CoD: Modern Warfare 3 (2011) 112.974.445.725.7fps
Alan Wake (2012) 3724.311.4fps
Dirt Showdown (2012) 55.237.53314.8fps
Darksiders II (2012) 48.927.8fps
Counter-Strike: GO (2012) 142.4105.283.448.8fps
Guild Wars 2 (2012) 51.122.39.6fps
Borderlands 2 (2012) 51.640.430.517.3fps
Dishonored (2012) 69.255.149.627fps
Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012) 38.934.421.813.9fps
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (2012) 7247.82517.8fps
Assassin´s Creed III (2012) 18.116.86.8fps
Far Cry 3 (2012) 4837.2185.7fps

Emissions

Wie wir testen - Emissionen

Concerning the noise emission, the 15-inch notebook is not blameworthy. Like most of its competitors, the notebook is rather quiet in idle mode. The user hears primarily a subtle noise of the hard disk which is accompanied by a temporary clatter. Just 32 dB (A) from a distance of 15 centimeters (~6 inches) should not annoy anyone.

Also in the 3D mode the Inspiron 15R-5521 is not excessively loud. On average 37 dB (A) in the first scene of the 3DMark 06 represents an audible, but not annoying, fan noise. The in-house Dell Vostro 3560 reaches 42 dB (A). Our measurements showed 44 dB (A) at maximum – an acceptable value.

Only the optical drive is to be criticized. Where a normal DVD playback works quietly to some extent, this drive blasts away at 44-47 dB (A) while retrieving data. However, traditional DVD installations are becoming rarer as both digital downloads and streaming continue to grow.

Noise Level

Idle 31.5 / 32.1 / 32.8 dB(A)
DVD 36.0 / dB(A)
Load 36.5 / 43.7 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Stresstest (Furmark & Prime)
Stresstest (Furmark & Prime)

Under the item “Temperature”, the all-round notebook also gets a good grade. Let’s start with the components that do not reach a critical temperature even after a long stress phase. 85 °C (185 °F) at maximum for the processor and 72 °C (161.6 °F) for the graphics card are completely uncritical. According to the CPUID Hardware Monitor, the hard disk only warmed up to 30 °C (86 °F)

The casing heats especially on the left side. After an hour of use with the tools FurMark and Prime95, the notebook reached 43 °C (109.4 °F/top) and 49 °C (120.2 °F/bottom). On average, we could measure just acceptable 38 °C (100.4 °F). Under normal operations the Inspiron 15R-5521 remains noticeably cooler. Around 27 °C (80.6 °F) in the idle mode is no reason for complaint

Max. Load
 42.4 °C42.5 °C30.0 °C 
 43.4 °C43.2 °C30.8 °C 
 38.9 °C39.1 °C29.7 °C 
Maximum: 43.4 °C
Average: 37.8 °C
27.2 °C34.7 °C42.4 °C
29.5 °C44.8 °C47.8 °C
29.7 °C44.5 °C49.0 °C
Maximum: 49.0 °C
Average: 38.8 °C
Power Supply (max.)  43.7 °C | Room Temperature 20 °C | Voltcraft IR-550

Speakers

Waves MaxxAudio 4
Waves MaxxAudio 4

The manufacturer relies on the 2.0 system which is hidden in the front of the casing bottom. With activated MaxxAudio-4 technology (ensures more power and higher volume), the sound is indeed useful, but one should not expect miracles. For a perfect sound, the speakers have to be more precise and less tinny.

Otherwise, the sound system is above the standard level. Despite missing a subwoofer one can hear a decent bass. The biggest advantage however is the good maximum volume which is enough for smaller and middle-sized rooms. Using the successful “Dell Audio” software, the sound can be adjusted to personal needs. The MaxxAudio technology offers several preset profiles (music, gaming, language, etc.)

Energy Management

Wie wir testen - Akkulaufzeit

Power Consumption

Due to the economical ULV processor and the modern 28nm GPU, the current drain is below the level of a typical all-round notebook. When the HD graphics 4000 deals with the image calculations in the idle mode, 11-16 Watts sufficed for the test version.

34-35 Watts in operating mode is also moderate. The previously mentioned Dell Vostro 3560 needs approximately 15% more current (42-60 Watts) with Core i5-3210M and Radeon HD 7670M. Multimedia notebooks which are equipped with a 35 Watt CPU and a similar GeForce GT 640M LE are rather wasteful under high loads. As an example one can mention the Sony Vaio SV-S1511X9E/B (50-73 Watts) and the Fujitsu LifeBook AH532 (57-84 Watts). 

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.1 / 0.2 Watt
Idle 10.7 / 13.4 / 16.1 Watt
Load 34.1 / 53.5 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Life

The good battery life of the 15-inch notebook is not only due to the energy-efficient hardware, but also due to the graphics switching. Around seven hours wireless internet (70% intensity) and 4.5 hours DVD playback (100% intensity) are advantages that not all notebooks have. 2.5 hours in the classic test of Battery Eater (high stress at maximum brightness) also deserve a special compliment. Numerous competitors can only last for one hour. The 65-Wh battery is folded into the casing and not pushed – as for many other devices.

Battery Runtime
WiFi Surfing
7h 10min
DVD
4h 36min
Load (maximum brightness)
2h 26min

Verdict

Wie wir testen - Fazit

Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521 (manufacturer image)

If you do not have high requirements on the image quality, the Inspiron 15R-5521 is a good choice. Dell has designed a trendy multimedia notebook which performs “only” fair to good in most categories, but which does not allow striking flaws. 

If there is something to criticize, it is the second-class display. Brightness, black level, colors, contrast, resolution and angles do not knock anybody’s socks off. Also the poor interfaces (no VGA nor Gigabit LAN, only an audio-jack) are a disadvantage.

Otherwise, Dell does a great job. Most of the customers will not only be satisfied with the battery life and the temperature, but also with the input devices and the performance.

Intel’s Core i5-3317U and AMD’s Radeon HD 8730M form a harmonic duo. Despite the small detail deficiencies, the casing also appealed to us. Metallic surfaces are not standard in the price range below 700 Euros (~$941).

In short: for multi-purpose oriented users, the Inspiron 15R-5521 is worth considering.

In Comparison

Far Cry 3
1366x768 DX9 Medium Preset
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
37.2 fps ∼30%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
28.3 fps ∼23% -24%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
35.7 fps ∼29% -4%
1366x768 DX11 High Preset (SSAO, Standard Alpha To Coverage) AA:2x MS
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
18 fps ∼18%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
15.7 fps ∼16% -13%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
28 fps ∼28% +56%
Assassin´s Creed III
1366x768 Normal
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
18.1 fps ∼22%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
33.4 fps ∼40% +85%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
38.7 fps ∼47% +114%
1366x768 High
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
16.8 fps ∼21%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
28 fps ∼34% +67%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
36 fps ∼44% +114%
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
1366x768 Medium / Off
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
47.8 fps ∼19%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
38.7 fps ∼15% -19%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
69.8 fps ∼27% +46%
1366x768 High / On, FXAA AA:2xMS
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
25 fps ∼11%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
23.2 fps ∼11% -7%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
40.2 fps ∼18% +61%
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
1366x768 Medium / Off
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
34.4 fps ∼57%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
27.7 fps ∼46% -19%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
43.8 fps ∼73% +27%
1366x768 High / On
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
21.8 fps ∼36%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
16.6 fps ∼28% -24%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
27.9 fps ∼47% +28%
Dishonored - 1366x768 High / On, FOV: 75 AA:FX
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
49.6 fps ∼38%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
49.5 fps ∼38% 0%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
63.8 fps ∼49% +29%
Borderlands 2
1366x768 Medium / Off (PhysX low)
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
40.4 fps ∼28%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
40.3 fps ∼28% 0%
Radeon HD 7670M / Core i5-3210M
Toshiba Satellite L850-153
40.4 fps ∼28% 0%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
55 fps ∼39% +36%
1366x768 High / On (PhysX low) AA:FX AF:4x
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
30.5 fps ∼23%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
27.7 fps ∼21% -9%
Radeon HD 7670M / Core i5-3210M
Toshiba Satellite L850-153
28.5 fps ∼21% -7%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
40.6 fps ∼30% +33%
Guild Wars 2 - 1366x768 Best Appearance Preset AA:FX
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
22.3 fps ∼31%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
18.3 fps ∼25% -18%
Radeon HD 7670M / Core i5-3210M
Toshiba Satellite L850-153
21.6 fps ∼30% -3%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
22.1 fps ∼30% -1%
Counter-Strike: GO - 1366x768 High AA:2x MS AF:4x
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
83.4 fps ∼32%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
65.6 fps ∼25% -21%
Radeon HD 7670M / Core i5-3210M
Toshiba Satellite L850-153
85.4 fps ∼33% +2%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
84 fps ∼32% +1%
Darksiders II - 1366x768 2/4 Shadows, No Ambient Occlusion, AA:Low
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
48.9 fps ∼17%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
38.4 fps ∼14% -21%
Radeon HD 7670M / Core i5-3210M
Toshiba Satellite L850-153
42.5 fps ∼15% -13%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
58 fps ∼21% +19%
Dirt Showdown
1366x768 Medium Preset
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
37.5 fps ∼37%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
46.7 fps ∼46% +25%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
43 fps ∼42% +15%
1366x768 High Preset AA:2xMS
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
33 fps ∼36%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
28.6 fps ∼32% -13%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
39 fps ∼43% +18%
Alan Wake - 1366x768 Medium Preset AA:4x AF:4x
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
24.3 fps ∼20%
GeForce GT 630M / Core i7-2630QM
Schenker Xesia M501
19.2 fps ∼16% -21%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
25 fps ∼20% +3%
CoD: Modern Warfare 3 - 1366x768 High, all on, Image Quality: Native AA:2x
Radeon HD 8730M / Core i5-3317U
Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
45.7 fps ∼24%
Radeon HD 7670M / Core i5-3210M
Toshiba Satellite L850-153
43.8 fps ∼23% -4%
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
51 fps ∼27% +12%

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In Review: Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
In Review: Dell Inspiron 15R-5521

Specifications

Dell Inspiron 15R-5521

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel HM76 (Panther Point)
:: Memory
8192 MB, 2x 4096 MB SO-DIMM DDR3-RAM PC3-12800 (1600 MHz), 2 Slots, max. 16 GB
:: Graphics adapter
AMD Radeon HD 8730M - 2048 MB, Core: 700 MHz, Memory: 900 MHz, DDR3, 9.0.12.0, Enduro
:: Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, N3KMP_156WH3 (LGD03AB), TN LED, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVT-75A1Yt0, 1024 GB 5400 rpm
:: Soundcard
Realtek ALC282 @ Intel Panther Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
:: Connections
2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: Combo (input + output), Card Reader: SD,SDHC,SDXC,MS,MS PRO,MSXC,MMC,MMC+,
:: Networking
Realtek PCIe FE Family Controller (10/100MBit), Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 (b g n ), 4.0 Bluetooth
:: Optical drive
TSSTcorp DVD+-RW SU-208BB
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 31 x 376 x 259
:: Weight
2.36 kg Power Supply: 0.34 kg
:: Battery
65 Wh Lithium-Ion, 6 cells, 11.1V, 0.33 kg
:: Price
688 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 8 64 Bit
:: Additional features
Webcam: HD (1 MP), Speakers: 2.0 (Waves MaxxAudio 4), Keyboard: Chiclet, Keyboard Light: no, Power adapter: 90 Watt, Quick Start Guide, Microsoft Office 2010 Starter, Windows Essentials 2012, 12-36 Months Warranty

 

The Inspiron 15R is available in four colors.
The Inspiron 15R is available in four colours.
Removing the battery is slightly inconvenient.
Removing the battery is slighly inconvenient.
65 Wh can be judged to be decent.
65 Wh can be judged tob e decent.
According to the manufacturer, the HD-webcam has a resolution of one megapixel.
According to the manufacturer, the HD-webcam has a resolution of one megapixel.
The lower display frame is rather massive.
The lower display frame is rather massive.
What a pity: the power key is not illuminated.
What a pity: the power key is not illuminated.
After a while dust gathers in between intermediate spaces.
After a while dust gathers in between intermediate spaces.
The pathetic arrow keys are only partly suitable for gamers.
The pathetic arrow keys are only partly suitable for gamers.
The touchpad is generously dimensioned.
The touchpad is generously dimensioned.
Energy-efficient components from Intel and AMD.
Energy-efficient components from Intel and AMD.
The card reader has numerous formats.
The card reader has numerous formats.
The speakers are hidden in the casing bottom.
The speakers are hidden in the casing bottom.
The notebook only consumes around 50 Watts.
The notebook only consumes around 50 Watt.
Annoying: Dell saves at the RJ-45-Port (no Gigabit-Lan).
Annoying: Dell saves at the RJ-45-Port (no Gigabit-Lan).
There are four USB-Ports in total (2x USB 3.0).
There are four USB-Ports in total (2x USB 3.0).
A Kensington Lock is standard.
A Kensington Lock is standard.
Eight GB DDR3-RAM are enough for a few years.
Eight GByte DDR3-RAM are enough for the next years.
Dell integrates a 1000 GB HDD with 5400 RPM
Dell integrates a 1000 GByte HDD with 5400 U/Min.
Graphics card, processor, radio module and fan are not directly available.
Graphics card, processor, radio module and fan are not directly available.
The color choice refers to both the lid and the keyboard environment.
The colour choice refers to both the lid and the keyboard environment.
2.36 kg are relatively low for a 15-inch notebook.
2.36 kg are relatively low for a 15-inch notebook.
Matter of taste: Dell chose a shiny display.
Matter of taste: Dell chose a shiny display.
On the casing bottom one can find unscrewable flaps.
On the casing bottomone can find unscrewable flaps.
The all-round notebook is only three centimeters high.
The all-round notebook is only three centimeter high.
With 135°, the opening angle is average.
With 135°, the opening angle is average.
The silver frame enhances the design.
The silver frame enhances the design.
The surfaces are mainly matte.
The surfaces are mainly matt.
Lid and wrist-rest are made of metal.
Lid and wrist-rest are made of metal.
For just 700 € the processing is ok.
For just 700 € the processing is ok.
Hard disk and internal memory can be easily replaced.
Hard disk and internal memory can be easily replaced.
The 15-inch notebook has an elegant design.
The 15-inch notebook has an elegant design.
It is no surprise that most of the interfaces are on the left side.
It is no surprise that most of the interfaces are on the left side.
The optical drive is on the right side.
The optical drive is on the right side.
An ordinary screwdriver is enough to remove the maintenance lid.
An ordinary screwdriver is enough to remove the maintenance lid.
The handy 90 Watt adapter weighs around 340 g.
The handy 90 Watt adapter weighs around 340 g.

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Links

  • Manufacturer's information

Price check

Pro

+Good all-round performance
+Several colours available
+Power Saving Components
+Moderate emissions
+Good input devices
+Compact power adapter
+High battery service life
+
 

Cons

-Reflective display with moderate figures
-No recovery & driver DVDs
-Suboptimal pin arrangement
-No keyboard lighting
-Only Fast Ethernet Lan
-

Shortcut

What we like

The battery service life is outstandingly high. 

What we miss

A better display with anti-glare surface.

What surprises us 

That Dell uses a ULV processor.

The competitors 

15-inch all-round notebook with equal GeForce GT 640M LE, for example the Fujitsu Lifebook AH532, the Sony Vaio SV-S1511X9E/B, the Acer TimelineUltra  M5-481TG or the Lenovo IdeaPad Y480.

Rating

Dell Inspiron 15R-5521
02/03/2013 v3
Florian Glaser

Chassis
80%
Keyboard
81%
Pointing Device
87%
Connectivity
71%
Weight
83%
Battery
91%
Display
73%
Games Performance
80%
Application Performance
90%
Temperature
80%
Noise
84%
Add Points
81%
Average
82%
82%
Multimedia *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Dell Inspiron 15R-5521 Notebook
Author: Florian Glaser, 2013-02-10 (Update: 2013-06- 6)