Dell Inspiron 15R (2nd generation) review: Dell Inspiron 15R (2nd generation)

What you get for $499 is indeed a bargain, especially when compared with HP's more expensive entry-level system, the HP Pavilion g6, which has last year's Core i3 processor.

Our configuration, not counting the extended nine-cell battery that Dell packaged with our review unit (an extra $179 on top of everything else), came to $709. For 6GB of RAM, a Core i5 processor, and a two-year warranty, that's a pretty decent deal.

The 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M CPU in our Inspiron 15R configuration is the same second-gen Sandy Bridge processor we've seen in many laptops recently, including the Lenovo ThinkPad X1. It's suitably fast for nearly every mainstream consumer's needs. Multitasking, including HD video streaming, iTunes encoding, and game playing, was easy, especially with the added RAM.

Graphically, however, the Inspiron 15R inevitably suffers a little due to the integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics. As often noted, they're much better than Intel integrated graphics circa 2010, but their power equates to an entry-level Nvidia GPU. Street Fighter IV ran at 26.9 frames per second at full-screen 1,280x720-pixel resolution, and better results might be obtained by lowering the graphics settings further. Unreal Tournament III ran at 66.7fps at native 1,366x768-pixel resolution with graphics set to medium.

This isn't a gaming laptop, but if you're determined to play PC games, you'd be better off spending $70 to upgrade to the AMD HD6470M.

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

Adobe Photoshop CS3 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)

Annual power consumption cost

Juice box
Dell Inspiron 15R Avg watts/hour
Off (60%) 0.51
Sleep (10%) 0.64
Idle (25%) 8.75
Load (05%) 44.72
Raw kWh number 41.99
Annual power consumption cost $4.77

The true letdown with the Inspiron 15R is its battery life. The included standard six-cell only lasted 2 hours and 21 minutes in our video playback battery-drain test. Anything less than 3 hours is a big disappointment, especially with a second-gen Core i5 CPU and no dedicated graphics. An optional $179 nine-cell battery lasted 4 hours and 13 minutes, which is still not that great, and the larger battery sticks out from the back of the system. Budget buyers can't complain too much, but anyone spending more than $600 has a right to expect more.

Dell offers a standard one-year warranty for the Inspiron 15R in lower-end Core i3 configurations, but includes an extra year of service if you opt for a Core i5. You can upgrade to a maximum four-year warranty through Dell's Web store ($90 extra for the two additional years), or add an Advanced Service Plan for accidental damage protection, which costs an extra $80 for two years or $190 for four.

System configurations:

Dell Inspiron 15R
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 6,144MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 500GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

HP ProBook 6360b
Windows 7 Professional (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated)/1,696MB (Total) Intel GMA HD; 320GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

Toshiba Satellite E305-S1990X
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420s
Windows 7 Professional (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated)/1,696MB (Total) Intel GMA HD; 320GB Seagate 7,200rpm

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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