Editors' note: This review is part of our spring 2010 retail laptop and desktop roundup, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
The Dell Inspiron i1564-6980CRD is the epitome of a mainstream laptop. It offers no extras, and its component combination is sufficient for everyday office and entertainment duties. The Dell's design is nice and functional, and its ports and connections should be sufficient for most people shopping in this category. For the money, you could do worse; it's essentially a no-frills workhorse.
For a little more money, you can get features such as a larger or faster hard drive, slightly better performance, additional expansion ports, faster wireless, and longer battery life. (Just check through our roundup and you'll see what we mean.) However, if you're on a budget, none of that really matters and there's nothing disastrously wrong with the i1564-6980CRD. Its biggest crime is being basic.
|Price as reviewed||$679.99|
|Processor||2.1GHz Intel Core i3 M330|
|Memory||4GB, 1,066MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||15x9.8 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.5/6.2 pounds|
The entire chassis of the i1564-6980CRD (and all Inspiron 15 models) is made of plastic. This isn't uncommon for mainstream laptops, but something about its construction makes it feel cheap and generic. The red lid, black display bezel, and silver faux-brushed-metal keyboard surround and palm rest are made of a glossy fingerprint-collecting plastic, while the laptop's bottom is matte black plastic. On the upside, the plastic keeps the system light, should you want to travel with it and not break your back.
At the top left of the keyboard sits a silver power button; there are no extra media controls or a button for turning on and off wireless. Instead, Dell clearly marks the function keys so adjusting things such as screen brightness and volume can be done quickly and you don't have to hit the Fn key. (A simple change in the BIOS settings under the Advanced tab will make the media controls the secondary function so that you'll have to hit the Fn key to use the media controls.) The keyboard is a decent size with a slim number pad on the far right. The keys are flat, but they don't have the separation you'd find on a Chiclet-style keyboard. The well-sized touch pad is an indentation in the palm rest with a textured coating allowing fingers to glide smoothly. Two adequately large buttons rise from within the bottom of the pad; however, their movement is a little mushy without a satisfying click.
The Dell Inspiron i1564-6980CRD's 15.6-inch glossy wide-screen LCD has 1,366x768-pixel native resolution, which is standard for laptops in this price range (while budget 15-inch systems typically have 1,280x800-pixel displays). It's perfectly adequate for most mainstream applications with easy-to-read text and icons. The LED-backlit LCD gets reasonably bright, too. Viewing angles off to the sides are pretty good, but like most displays in this class, you'll have to adjust the screen position to get the best contrast. Overall, the display's color and contrast performance is good.
At the top of the display are a functional Webcam and mic that performed OK in our informal Skype testing. However, the one thing that did surprise us was how loud the speakers are able to get without distortion--they have plenty of volume for movies, music, and games. They don't have any bass to speak of and they sound a bit empty, but for casual listening they get the job done.
|Dell Inspiron i1564-6980CRD||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA-out, HDMI|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, multiformat card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
If there's an area in which the Dell i1564-6980CRD comes up a bit short, it's in the port, I/O, and networking configuration. Competing laptop models have similar connection assortments to this Dell, but some have an ExpressCard slot, dual headphone jacks, and a USB/eSATA combo port. Probably the biggest error, though, is the use of an 802.11g wireless adapter instead of an 802.11n adapter. Also, Dell didn't include Bluetooth with this Inspiron, which seems to have disappeared from most of the recent mainstream laptop models we've tested.
The i1564-6980CRD is a retail system and is not configurable at time of purchase. However, on Dell's Web site you can configure the Inspiron 15 with a faster Core i5 processor, more storage, software, and select from three other color options: black, blue, and pink. The Inspiron's memory is expandable to 8GB and can be easily added via a removable panel on the bottom of the system.
The Core i3 processor and Intel GMA HD integrated graphics in this laptop provide decent performance for general computing tasks. However, for some reason, this Dell performed slower in our performance tests than other models with the same CPU, GPU, memory amount and speed. Dell dedicated only 32MB of system memory for the graphics, which may have something to do with its performance. Regardless, it didn't seem to have any trouble keeping up with most home and office tasks. It handled streaming audio and video well enough, and multitasking didn't cause any significant system slowdowns. We had no problems playing back AVCHD high-definition movies at full screen, either. That's not to say you can't overtax the system--it's not a high-end gaming laptop or media workstation after all--but it should be able to easily accomplish most day-to-day computing.
|Dell Inspiron i1564-6980CRD||Average watts per hour|
|Raw kWh Number||51.5|
|Annual power consumption cost||$5.85|
The battery life of the i1564-6980CRD wasn't great at 2 hours and 22 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included six-cell battery. This test keeps the hard drive constantly in use, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use. However, if you're looking to do a lot of work or play away from a power outlet, you'll probably want to invest in a second battery pack.