Dell I15-157B review: Dell I15-157B

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.1
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 6.0
  • Performance: 6.0
  • Battery life: 5.0
  • Service and support: 6.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Inexpensive system with 4GB of RAM and 64-bit OS.

The Bad Missing the media controls and HDMI port from previous versions; middling battery life.

The Bottom Line This retail version of Dell's basic Inspiron 15-inch, the I15-157B, is a textbook mainstream budget computer, but lacks some of the extras you'll find in other comparably priced laptops.

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Editors' note: This review is part of our Winter 2009 Retail Roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.

Dell's middle-of-the-road 15-inch Inspiron laptops have long been 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. Fixed configuration versions available in retail stores have been more hit-or-miss, sometimes undercutting the price of built-to-order versions, but also missing some key features.

The $649 Dell Inspiron I15-157B gives you a powerful combo of Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and 4GB of RAM for not too much more than a decently configured Netbook. At the same time, it's about as stripped down as a laptop gets, with no media control buttons or HDMI port (which previous versions had). Adding another $50 bucks gets you a more upscale feel in systems such as the Gateway MD7818u, which has both touch-media controls and a bigger 500GB hard drive.

Price as reviewed $649
Processor 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400
Memory 4GB, 667MHz DDR2
Hard drive 320GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Mobile Intel GM45 Express Chipset
Graphics Intel GMA 4500MHD (integrated)
Operating system Windows Vista Premium
Dimensions (WD) 14.6 x 9.7 inches
Height 1.2-1.5 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 15.6 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 5.9/6.7 pounds
Category Mainstream

The Dell Inspiron I15-157B is a model of spartan design, and is never going to be mistaken for a high-end laptop. Its plastic construction and simple, clean lines point to a philosophy of commoditization, acknowledging that in this price range, providing the best value is paramount. The system looks basic, but not cheap. With a glossy black keyboard tray and a matte black lid, we'd almost call it two-tone.

The keyboard is the same full-size model found on Dell's other Inspiron laptops, flexing only slightly under the fingers. The individual letter keys are a bit too tapered for our tastes, but perfectly functional. Missing are the media control buttons we've gotten accustomed to finding on even low-end Dell laptops--a victim of cost-cutting, perhaps. While there's no fingerprint reader, you do still get a built-in 1.3-megapixel Web cam.

The 15.6-inch wide-screen LCD offers a 1,366x768-pixel native resolution, which is standard for budget-minded 16:9 systems. By way of comparison, Dell's online version has a 15.4-inch 4:3 screen, with a 1,280x800 resolution. None of the 15-inch systems in the Budget category of our Winter 2009 Retail Roundup had a higher 1,440x900 resolution.

  Dell Inspiron I15-157B Average for category (mainstream)
Video VGA-out VGA-out, HDMI
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0, SD card reader 4 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Expansion ExpressCard/34 ExpressCard/54
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

While you're probably not going to be hooking up a budget machine like this to a big-screen TV via HDMI, we do miss the Bluetooth antenna, which was quickly becoming standard equipment in even the least expensive systems.

Like a vast majority of the system in the Budget section of our Winter 2009 Retail Roundup (covering laptops from $600-$900), the Dell Inspiron I15-157B has Intel's 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T6400 CPU. Performance among the Intel-based systems was virtually identical, with a slight edge in some tests to Toshiba's Satellite A305-S6916, which had ATI integrated graphics instead of Intel.

Any of these T6400-powered systems are 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 slowdown.

The Inspiron I15-157B ran for 2 hours and 40 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included 6-cell battery. We like to see at least 3 hours of battery life from a midsize system. In the same price range, Gateway's MD7818u passed the 4-hour mark, but also had a bigger-capacity battery (71Wh vs. 56Wh).

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.

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Where to Buy

Dell I15-157B

Part Number: I15-157B Released: Jan 5, 2009
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Jan 5, 2009
  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • Color jet black
  • Weight 5.7 lbs
  • Optical Drive DVD±RW (±R DL)
  • Graphics Processor Intel GMA 4500MHD
  • CPU Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 / 2 GHz