Note: This review is part of our Back to School 2008 roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
As middle-of-the-road as a laptop gets, Dell's Inspiron 1525 is an excellent go-to choice for basic computing, especially if you take the time to configure a system to your needs via Dell's online configurator. This $729 fixed-configuration retail version, called the Inspiron 1525-122B, offers largely the same components as you'd find in other mainstream laptops in the $700-$800 range, including an Intel Core 2 Duo T5750 CPU, 3GB of RAM, and a 250GB hard drive.
We're more partial to the optimal balance between portability and usability in Dell's 14-inch Inspiron 1420, but the 1525 boasts a newer design and has a few features the 1420 lacks, including touch-sensitive media control buttons and an HDMI output, making it our preferred choice between the two.
|Price as reviewed||$729|
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750|
|Memory||3GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||250GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Mobile Intel Express 965GM (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||14x10.1x1.45 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.1 / 6.9 pounds|
Dell has managed to shave a little bulk off its previous 15-inch Inspiron model, and this version is even thinner than 14-inch Inspiron 1420, although its bigger footprint is not as well suited for lugging around campus all day.
The keyboard is the same full-size model found on Dell's other Inspiron laptops, and it feels solid and responsive. Above the keyboard sits a row of media control buttons. These are of the touch-sensitive variety we're partial to, and the Inspiron 1525 has helped make these the industry default, even for budget-minded laptops. You also get a 2.0-megapixel Webcam built into the display, which would be a $25 option if you ordered the system directly from Dell.
The 15.4-inch wide-screen LCD offers a 1280x800-pixel native resolution, which is standard for budget-minded mainstream systems, but on a screen this big, text and icons can look a bit big and unwieldy--we generally prefer 1,440 x 900-pixel resolutions on screens of this size--that's an option on the configurable version available on the Dell Web site.
|Dell Inspiron 1525-122b||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||HDMI, S-Video||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, multiformat memory card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
There are plenty of USB jacks for all your accessories and even FireWire, which we're seeing less frequently, but no Bluetooth. Adding an HDMI jack is a nice high-end touch, even if you never use it.
Like the Inspiron 1420-123B and the Gateway T-6836, our 1525 had a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750, which is the standard right now for a mainstream budget system. There were no surprises in performance, with all three of these systems handling our multitasking test reasonably well, and you'll find this perfectly adequate for basic Web surfing, working on office documents, and media playback--although running too many applications or opening too many windows at once can lead to some stuttering or slowdown. Thanks to its 64-bit operating system and extra gigabyte of memory, the Gateway T-6836 offers the best performance for the price among this group of midsize systems currently on Best Buy shelves.
The Inspiron 1525 ran for 2 hours and 15 minutes on our video playback battery drain test using the included six-cell battery, a decent score for budget 15-inch laptop, but the shortest battery life of any of the Back-to-School midsize laptops we're looking at in the price range. Dell's 14-inch 1420 took the prize with a score of 3 hours and 15 minutes.
Dell includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system, and the Dell Web site has a robust collection of support tools, including online chat, a Flash-based question widget, and 24-7 toll-free telephone support. Retail stores offer a variety of extended warranty plans with your laptop purchase, but they're generally expensive and hard to use, so we do not recommend them.