Review Dell Inspiron 15R Notebook

Shao-Hung Liu, 09/09/2010

Dell Inspiron 15R(eloaded)! After we reviewed 17-inch representative of the Inspiron series from the well-known manufacturer, Dell, it's now the Dell Inspiron 15R's turn to take on our tests and our critical glances.

The Dell Inspiron 15R that has been made available to us for the purposes of the review has a Core i5 430M with a clock speed of 2.27 GHz, four GB DDR3 RAM from Hyundai Electronics as well as the entry-level graphics card ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 with 1024 MB GDDR3 VRAM. Consequently the built-in hardware is identical to the Inspiron 17R that we have already reviewed.
As is typical of Dell, you can customize your prospective laptop to your individual desires, so that your own demands are fulfilled.
For this reason, sections that are greatly dependent on the deployed hardware, like performance, emissions and battery life, are only partly transferable to a differently equipped Inspiron 15R.

Case

Like the Inspiron 17R, the visual appearance of the smaller Inspiron 15R isn't to be overlooked. In terms of design, the representative of the 15-inch segment is very similar to the Inspiron 17R. Thus on the 15R, for example, both hinges are offset from the rear, so that when the laptop lid is shut, the rear area of the base unit overhangs somewhat.

According to Dell's intention, this should on the one hand bring the display closer to the user whilst additionally offering the advantage of being able to pick up the laptop from the rear much more easily.

Also, several colours can be chosen, which should spruce up the laptop even further. The Dell Inspiron 15R is, according to the manufacturer's homepage, available in four colours. Ex works you have to settle with black, which Dell calls Marks Black and which should appeal to customers that prefer a classic look. For those that just want more colour, our test model also comes in Peacock Blue, Lotus Pink and Tomato Red. If you want to call a Dell Inspiron 15R notebook your own in one of the three fancy colours, you're met with a modest surcharge of 29 Euro.

Our test laptop, in Mars Black, has a brushed black display rear with a high-gloss surface, and when closed is most certainly a looker. In the central area of the display rear there's the well-known Dell logo. Just as visually pleasing is the chrome wrist rest, in the middle of which the keyboard is embedded, together with a separate number pad. Apart from the touchpad, the surfaces of the Inspiron 15R are rather lustrous, where the wrist rest has got a brushed silver finish, so that visible fingerprints are greatly diminished - this is in contrast to the black display rear, on which you can see such remains particularly well. 

As for stability, the Dell Inspiron 15R has luckily inherited the good qualities of its big brother. Thus our test device is also very resistant to selective pressure and subsequently makes an impression of being really stable and robust. You can also be pleased with the workmanship. The individual components blend into teach other cleanly, without leaving behind sharp edges.
The 15.6-inch display is held firmly and stably in position by two hinges with a slight see-sawing. Opening the display takes place without any great physical effort from your hands and without giving off unpleasant squeaking noises in the hinges. Here, a complicated and visually not-so-convincing locking mechanism is done without.

Connectivity

Dell splashes out with the connection possibilities of the Inspiron R15 and in doing so packs in and arranges all important ports on the 15.6-inch case. Apart from the front section where the two stereo SRS Premium loudspeakers are found, the connections are intelligently arranged across the remaining three sides, without giving off the impression of being untidy or overloaded. 

Thus on the left side from the rear to the front there's a USB 2.0 port, the fan vent, two audio ports for microphone and headphones and the HDMI port.
The power supply, two further USB 2.0 ports (in each case on the left and right sides), the battery slot and the analogue VGA output are found on the rear side of the notebook.

Also, from the left to the right of the right side of the case the following can be found: 7-in-1 card reader, optical drive, USB 2.0/eSATA combination, RJ45 LAN port and the apparatus for attaching a Kensington Lock.
In this way, the Dell Inspiron 15R offers all popular connections for everyday life and is well suited for left-handed people as well as right-handed people through the thoughtful distribution of the individual connections. Only the HDMI port could be somewhat problematic for left-handed people when occupied.
Alongside the total of four USB 2.0 interfaces, HDMI and eSATA, our test device even offers a 1.3 Megapixel webcam integrated into the display borders, with the corresponding microphone array.

Left: USB, ventilation shaft, microphone, headphones, HDMI
Left: USB, ventilation shaft, microphone, headphones, HDMI
Right: card reader, optical drive, USB/eSATA, LAN, Kensington Lock
Right: card reader, optical drive, USB/eSATA, LAN, Kensington Lock
Rear left: power supply, USB, battery
Rear left: power supply, USB, battery
Rear right: battery, analogue VGA out, USB
Rear right: battery, analogue VGA out, USB

For communicating with other devices or the internet, three possibilities are available for the Inspiron 15R: the tried and tested RJ45 LAN port, a WLAN module (Dell Wireless 1501 Wireless-N WLAN Half-Mini Card) as well as Bluetooth (internal Dell Wireless 365 Bluetooth® -Mini-card 2.1 with EDR).

Ex Works the Dell Inspiron 15R is supplied with Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit preinstalled. There doesn't seem to be any other OS option for the notebook or respectively any supply without an operating system, at least not when ordering online. Alongside a driver DVD there's Microsoft Works 9 and a Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit DVD in the packaging.

Input Devices

Keyboard

The keyboard of the Inspiron 15R has a standard layout and is very similar to the keyboard of the Inspiron 17R, whilst also succeeding in convincing us. Thanks to the standard layout, the time needed to get used to the keyboard is reduced to the minimum and from the outset facilitates touch-typing without errors. The typing feel can be thoroughly described as positive, with a significantly noticeable pressure point. The built-in keyboard indeed has a separate number pad, which, however, has to accept curtailments when it comes to the key sizes due to space limitations. Nevertheless, comfortable use of the number pad is possible, even for users with large fingers. 
Dell does without the popular multimedia bar between the keyboard and display and instead incorporates this into the keyboard. Thus the keys from F7 to F12 are marked strikingly and noticeably with the appropriate multimedia icons.

Helpful: the F-numbering of the keys is very small in the right corner. Dell gives the laptop control keys for brightness, WLAN, touchpad, display or multimedia keys precedence. This means that no key combination with the FN key is necessary as it would be on most laptops when, for example, reducing the brightness or turning on the WLAN module. Such a combination is only necessary when you actually require F-key commands, for example help with F1 or renaming data with F2. This is initially rather odd, but after some time it's actually convincing.

Touchpad

More and more laptops have a multi-gesture touchpad, including the Inspiron 15R. Scrolling, zooming, flipping photos... this and much more is possible with gestures on the touchpad and also works flawlessly.
Likewise, the touchpad fulfils its intended purpose to our satisfaction. It works very exactly and precisely, so that pixel-perfect photo editing is possible to a certain degrees, which positively surprised us. Also there's nothing to criticise regarding the gliding qualities.

Above all we fell for the two chrome mouse keys. When clicking the mouse keys the pressure point is clearly noticeable, without an annoying 'click' or 'clack'.
The touchpad has its own key for turning it on and off, which is found on the right next to the F12 key. Therefore just a single click is enough, without having to use a special key combination.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Touchpad
Touchpad

Display

The Inspiron 15R has reflective display with a diagonal display size of 40 cm, which the manufacturer describes as a TrueLife high-definition WLED display. The built-in display has an aspect ratio of 16:9 and is also HD ready (720p) with its maximum resolution of 1366x768 pixels. When playing HD videos there's a thoroughly sharp and clean image, with realistic colours that are convincing.

As for the display brightness of the built-in panel, the Inspiron 15R unfortunately can't keep up with the display that we tested in the Inspiron 17R. The brightness of the Inspiron 17R was rated 'very good', yet the brightness of our test device can at best be described as above average.

193.9
cd/m²
173.3
cd/m²
167.3
cd/m²
188.3
cd/m²
182.6
cd/m²
176.2
cd/m²
198
cd/m²
192.3
cd/m²
192.9
cd/m²
Information
Maximum: 198 cd/m²
Average: 185 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 84 %
Black: 0.79 cd/m²
Contrast: 231:1
Distribution of brightness

The average display brightness is 185 cd/m², compared to 249.4 cd/m² of its big brother. Admittedly, the display illumination of our test candidate is more balanced.

We made out the maximum display brightness to be 198 cd/m² in the left lower corner. The darkest area, however, was in the right upper area with 167.3 cd/m². Apropos dark areas: the black value is 0.79 cd/m² and is thus somewhat lower than on the Inspiron 17R. The directly related contrast value of 231:1 is indeed not outstanding, yet it corresponds to the current trend among low-cost multimedia laptops.

Scattered illumination
Scattered illumination
Light sources behind the user
Light sources behind the user

As far as the ability to use the laptop outdoors is concerned, the Inspiron 15R has a clear disadvantage compared to notebooks with matte displays. Admittedly this doesn't mean that it is completely impossible, as long as you seek out a shady place for working. The load on your eyes is somewhat greater here, as you still have to deal with reflections. 
Under direct sunlight you are, however, lost and without hope, as the light reflects like a mirror and you can recognise little or even nothing of the display contents - this you can easily see with the aid of the photos.

As for viewing angle stability, not only the vertical plane but also the horizontal plane proves to be susceptible to changes in the seating position or tilt angle of the display, which brings swift contrast changes.

Performance

Dell equips the Inspiron 15R range with the newest CPU and GPU generations. Thus the Inspiron 15R is available with Core i3 and also with the more potent Core i5 processors. However, weaker CPUs are also present in the Inspiron 15R portfolio, like, for example, the Intel Pentium processor P6000 at 1.86GHz for small wallets. As for GPU, the already integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD comes into play, or respectively an optional dedicated graphics card, the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470, with 1024 MB GDDR3 memory, as was the case in our test model.

Thanks to the combination of Intel's Core i5 430M processor and the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470, the Inspiron 15R has more than enough performance reserves for the most popular everyday tasks like office applications, surfing the internet, writing e-mails, watching HD films or playing MP3s, or respectively letting these run simultaneously.

Our test device is equipped with a Core i5 430M, whose two cores go to work with a clock speed of 2.27 GHz. Thanks to HT (hyper-threading) these two cores are capable of computing with up to four threads at the same time. Furthermore, the Core i5 430M also has the Turbo Boost feature, which can underclock unused cores to save energy, whilst automatically increasing the core speed up to 2.53 GHz, as long as additional performance is needed.

System info CPUZ CPU
System info CPUZ Cache
System info CPUZ Mainboard
System info CPUZ RAM
System info CPUZ RAM SPD1
System info CPUZ RAM SPD2
System info GPUZ
System info HDTune
System information Dell Inspiron 15R

In terms of technology, the Arrandale architecture corresponds to the Clarkdale architecture, the desktop equivalent, whilst being optimised for use in notebooks– amongst other things with a reduced clock speed and clamping, in order to reach a lower TDP (Thermal Design Power) and to allow a longer battery life. Intel states a TDP of around 35 Watt for the Core i5-430M processor manufactured in the 32nm process.

Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
2573
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
6357
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
4390
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
3454 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
7788 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
4369 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
10.38 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
2.05 Points
Help
PC Mark
PCMark Vantage5764 points
Help
5.1
Windows 7 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
6.6
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
5.9
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
5.1
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
6.2
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
5.9
3D Mark
3DMark 2001SE22483 points
3DMark 039958 points
3DMark 056787 points
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
3720 points
3DMark Vantage1323 points
Help
500 GB - 5400 rpm
Transfer Rate Minimum: 30 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 79.1 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 62.9 MB/s
Access Time: 17.1 ms
Burst Rate: 106.4 MB/s

A 500 GB Toshiba hard disk is deployed as the mass storage device. For all that want to know more about it: the precise inscription of the built-in HDD is MK5065GSX, which goes to work at 5400 RPM. From the transfer speeds (HDTune), this leaves behind a really average impression.

Gaming Performance

As the graphics solution, a Mobility Radeon HD 5470 from ATI with 1024 MB GDDR3 memory is used. The GPU is the successor of the Mobility Radeon HD 4570, equipped with a somewhat higher clock speed and DirextX 11 support. Admittedly it has too little brute performance to be able to smoothly render DirectX 11 effects.
As an entry-level mid-range graphics card it is more or less capable of smoothly playing current games (depending on the game) with a lowered resolution and reduced details level.

You can find a detailed test report of the gaming ability of the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 graphics in combination with an Intel Core i5 430M CPU here in our review of the Acer Aspire 5740G in the Gaming Performance chapter.
Also interesting for our gamer community is the following link: Computer games on laptop graphics cards.

Emissions

System Noise

The relationship to the Inspiron 17R is once again obvious here. Thus the Dell Inspiron 15R unfortunately has the same weaknesses concerning the system noise and its behaviour. When idle, you can chum up with a good average of 34.7 dB(A), yet under load the at times measured and significantly audible maximum value of 45.8 dB(A) is clearly too loud. On average we measured 42.1 dB(A) under load, which is still thoroughly reasonable.

Noise Level

Idle 31.8 / 34.7 / 34.7 dB(A)
HDD 31.8 dB(A)
DVD 36.6 / dB(A)
Load 42.1 / 45.8 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:     (15 cm distance)

Temperature

In contrast, the surface temperatures of the Inspiron 15R are pleasing. Despite the small case and higher surrounding temperature our test notebook remained on the same level of the Inspiron 17R in terms of the development of waste heat and respectively its results partly undercut it. 
When idle the temperatures look good not only on the upper side but also on the underside. Under load we made out 42 degrees Celsius in the warmest area in the middle of the underside, which is equally a completely unproblematic value.
Our test device doesn't have to fear comparison to similarly equipped competitors.

Max. Load
 40.2 °C37.8 °C30.9 °C 
 38.1 °C37.9 °C31.8 °C 
 33.5 °C38.2 °C34.3 °C 
 
30.4 °C35.9 °C40.3 °C
32.7 °C42 °C40.9 °C
30.2 °C35.1 °C36.7 °C
Maximum: 40.2 °C
Average: 35.9 °C
 Maximum: 42 °C
Average: 36 °C
Power Supply (max.)  58.1 °C | Room Temperature 25 °C

Loudspeakers

The built-in loudspeakers can in any case be heard. The SRS Premium sound system is capable of producing a clean and clear sound, without droning or overloading the loudspeakers. The two stereo loudspeakers are found on the underside towards the front of the base unit and both have a performance of two Watt.

The maximum volume is thoroughly sufficient for everyday use. For increased sound demands we recommend external speakers or high quality headphones.

Battery Life

Charge
Charge
Readers Test
Maximum battery life (Readers Test)
Classic Test
Minimum battery life (Classic Test)

Our Dell Inspiron 15R is equipped with a Lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 48 Wh (10.8 V, 4080 mAh).
The maximum battery life was obtained with the help of Battery Eater ii the Reader's test, where we deactivated all unnecessary energy users like WLAN and Bluetooth, and reduced the display brightness to the minimum, whilst turning on all energy-saving mechanisms to the maximum. In this way the Inspiron 15R reached a satisfactory battery life of 242 minutes. This is anyhow more than four hours of mobile independence.

We simulated the minimum battery life with the 48 Wh battery via the Battery Eater tool, admittedly this time in the classic cycle, in which our test notebook was exposed to continuous system load. We used the energy-saving profile 'high performance' for this, whilst the display brightness was set to maximum and equipment like WLAN and Bluetooth were activated. Here, the Dell Inspiron 15R's lights went out after just 62 minutes.

When surfing via WLAN with maximum display brightness in energy-saving mode the battery life is acceptable, where only after an acceptable 176 minutes (2h 56min) a power supply is needed. Also okay is the battery life when playing a conventional DVD, where the battery hits the wall after 137 minutes. For this reason a film of no more than excessive length will run out.

All battery life results seem ok for a notebook with this equipment and a 48 Wh Lithium-ion battery.

Only for comparison: the Packard Bell EasyNote TM87 notebook with the same hardware, also equipped with a 48 Wh battery, reaches similar values to the Dell Inspiron 15R. This is also true of the Acer Aspire 5740G, whose battery life, with the same hardware and battery capacity, is only slightly different to those of both of the other laptops.

Battery runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
4h 02min
WiFi Surfing
2h 56min
DVD
2h 17min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 02min

Power consumption

Off / Standby 0.4 / 0.8 Watt
Idle 14.8 / 17.6 / 18.8 Watt
Load 45.8 / 60.1 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         

Verdict

An Intel Core i5 430M processor at 2.27 GHz (Turbo Boost to 2.5 GHz), an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 with 1024 GDDR3 VRAM, four GB DDR3 RAM from Hyundai Electronics (upgradeable up to a total of eight GB), a reflective 15.6-inch TrueLife display with a maximum resolution of 1366x768 pixels and a 500 GB hard disk - this overall package is available from Dell for around 779 Euro, and goes by the name Inspiron 15R. 

Over the course of the review the Inspiron 15R really convinced us with its fancy visuals, the clean workmanship and its associated stability. However, the inner values also seem to add up. Indeed the Inspiron 15R has no high-end components, yet the hardware belongs to the current generation.
The Inspiron 15R only shows weaknesses in system noise and cooling, which can eventually be remedied with a future BIOS update. 

Ex works the Inspiron 15R is supplied with Microsoft's Windows 7 Home Premium in its 64 Bit version as the operating system. When ordering online there are currently no other options.
The version of the Inspiron 15R described above changes hands for around 779 Euro. The delivery costs shouldn't be forgotten, which aren't included in the given price and amount to an additional 29 Euro. Included is one-year of Collect&Return standard support (guarantee). Here Dell offers different options for protecting the newly acquired laptop, so that there should be something for each type of security, even inclusive of personal negligence – provided the wallet tags along.

In Review: Dell Inspiron 15R-N00N5014
In Review: Dell Inspiron 15R-N00N5014

Specifications

Dell Inspiron 15R-N00N5014

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel HM57
:: Memory
4096 MB, 2x2048, DDR3, Hyundai Electronics
:: Graphics adapter
ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 - 1024 MB, Core: 750 MHz, Memory: 800 MHz, GDDR3, 64 Bit, atiumdag 8.14.10.0723 / Win 7 64
:: Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, 15.6" High Definition (1366x768) WLED, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
500 GB - 5400 rpm, 500 GB 5400 rpm Toshiba MK5065GSX
:: Soundcard
IDT 92HD81B1X @ Intel Ibex Peak PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
:: Connections
4 USB 2.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 eSata, Audio Connections: 2 (microphone, headphones), Card Reader: 1,
:: Networking
10/100 MBit Lan Adapter (10/100MBit), Dell Wireless 1501 Wireless-N Half-Mini Card (g n ), Dell Wireless 365 Bluetoth Module Bluetooth
:: Optical drive
TSSTcorp CDDVDW TS-L633C
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 30 x 380 x 260
:: Weight
2.64 kg Power Supply: 0.47 kg
:: Battery
48 Wh Lithium-Ion, 10.8V , 4080 mAh
:: Price
829 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
:: Additional features
Webcam: 1, 12 Months Warranty

 

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Pro

+Workmanship
+Keyboard and touchpad
+Four colours to choose from
+Price/performance ratio
 

Contra

-Colours only available with surcharge
-System noise under load

In ShortCut

What we liked

We also liked the visual appearance and the design of the Inspiron 15R. Above all the combination of the optionally available coloured colours for the display rear. With that, we're on to the next point, what we missed...

What we missed

Equality in terms of price for the optionally available coloured covers. This way, Dell would surely be able to score points with the customers. 

What surprised us

That we have a top seller in front of us.

The competition

The Acer Aspire 5740G would be an alternative. Same CPU, GPU, RAM and a somewhat cheaper price range. Likewise a competitor for our Dell Inspiron 15R might be the Packard Bell EasyNote TM87 notebook.

Rating

Dell Inspiron 15R-N00N5014
12/04/2010 v2
Shao-Hung Liu

Chassis
86%
Keyboard
82%
Pointing Device
84%
Connectivity
68%
Weight
79%
Battery
74%
Display
71%
Games Performance
66%
Application Performance
89%
Temperature
84%
Noise
76%
Add Points
83%
Average
79%
78%
Multimedia *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Dell Inspiron 15R Notebook
Author: Shao-Hung Liu, 2010-09- 9 (Update: 2013-06- 6)