Dell Inspiron 15z review: A budget-minded 15-incher with touch

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There are a couple of less expensive configurations of this 15z, but as they lack a touch-enabled screen, I would not recommend even considering them for use with Windows 8. For an extra $200 ($1,099), you can add a discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 630M graphics card, plus trade up to a Core i7 CPU and add 2GB of RAM, for 8GB total. That's not a bad upgrade price, but if I were spending $1,100, I might start elsewhere and work my way down, rather than starting with a midprice system and working my way up.

The Dell Inspiron 15z was not the fastest low-voltage Intel Core i5 laptop of recent vintage, but it also didn't lag behind by an unreasonable amount in performance benchmarks. As we frequently point out, this basic Core i5, found in many current laptops, is perfectly fine for everyday tasks, from media consumption to basic productivity, and even fairly heavy multitasking. It's unlikely you'd run into any slowdown or stuttering, even with all-day use.

With only Intel's integrated HD4000 graphics, don't expect to do much gaming on here. Casual games will work fine, but locked in at a 1,366x768-pixel resolution, this isn't going to be a PC gaming powerhouse anyway.

Even though this is a big laptop with room for a big battery, the six-cell 44WHr battery included here performed merely adequately, running for 4 hours and 46 minutes in our video playback battery drain test. Midsize systems such as the ThinkPad Carbon X1 and the HP Elitebook Folio 9470M ran longer, but other, more budget-minded systems, such as the Acer V5, ran shorter by nearly an hour. Still, it's a decent-enough battery life for a 15-inch laptop that probably won't travel all that often.

The world needs more midsize, midprice laptops that match Windows 8 with a touch screen. And, if they can work in a slim optical drive, as in the case of the Dell Inspiron 15z, all the better. But, once you get close to that magic $1,000 mark (this 15z is $899), your options become very wide, and an upgraded Inspiron, still stuck with a low-res screen, may not be your top choice.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Load test (average watts)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

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System configurations:
Dell Inspiron 15z
Windows 8 (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 500GB HD + 32GB SSD

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Windows 8 (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3427U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 180GB Intel SSD

Asus Zenbook UX51Vz
Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.1GHz Intel Core i7-3612QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 512GB Adata XM11 SSD (256GB x 2)

Acer Aspire V5-571P-6499
Windows 8 (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm + 20GB SSD Hybrid

HP EliteBook Folio 9470m
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3427U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 180GB Intel SSD

What you'll pay

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