Dell Inspiron 17R Special Edition review: Dell Inspiron 17R Special Edition

This $1,099 configuration is the power-to-price sweet spot for the 17-inch Inspiron SE models. Cut $100, and you can drop down to an Intel Core i5 CPU. Add $200 and you'll get stereoscopic 3D support (plus 3D glasses), and a Blu-ray drive. Go all the way up to $1,499, and you'll keep those extras and double the hard drive size to 2TB. But if you're looking to spend $1,500 on a laptop, you're probably looking for a premium experience (which could even include laptops from Dell's own XPS or Alienware lines).

The 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM CPU in the Inspiron 17R SE is near the top of Intel's current third-generation Ivy Bridge line. In our performance benchmark tests, it matched up very favorably against some much more expensive laptops, including models from Origin and Maingear. Getting that high-end processor for under $1,100 is one of the real selling points of this configuration.

In gaming performance it's not as comparable to more expensive laptops, as many of those systems have Nvidia's GT 675M chip, rather than the more mainstream 650M version found here. It's a strict price-to-performance trade-off, and if you're a superserious gamer, you probably want the top-of-the-line GPU, even more than a quad-core Core i7 CPU. That said, this system is still excellent for mainstream gaming, even on the latest games. It ran our very tough Metro 2033 test at 1,920x1,080 pixels at 22.2 frames per second, and Street Fighter IV at the same resolution at 87.6 frames per second. Anecdotally, I was able to run Modern Warfare 3 smoothly at full resolution, with graphics settings on high.

No one expects a desktop-replacement laptop to run for very long on its internal battery. Given that plus the power-hungry high-end components and the modest price, I'm surprised it can run for more than 2 hours. It actually lasted for just under 3 hours on our video playback battery drain test, at 2:51. That's longer than many big-screen laptops, but gaming and other intensive tasks would certainly shorten the time.

Dell's higher-end XPS laptops include extras such as accidental damage protection and LoJack service. The more basic Inspiron plan does include on-site service, which is welcome, but only 90 days of what Dell calls premium phone support, which it claims means shorter wait times. A three-year plan (including the upgraded phone support) is $149.

If you buy a Dell Inspiron 17R SE, no one is going to see it and marvel at your aesthetic sensibilities or experience serious tech envy. But, you'll at least be secure in the knowledge that gadget beauty is only skin-deep, and you've assembled a powerful set of components for a few hundred dollars less than some slicker, thinner machines with similar specs.

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)

Street Fighter IV (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Native resolution, 2X AA, V Sync Off  
Dell Inspiron 17R SE - 2051BK (7720)
87.6 
Dell XPS 15
73.1 

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

Annual energy consumption cost
Dell XPS 15
$4.36 
Dell Inspiron 17R SE - 2051BK (7720)
$5.11 
Maingear EX-L 15
$11.40 

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations

Dell Inspiron 17R SE - 2051BK (7720) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 650M / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000;; 1TB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Dell Inspiron 15R SE 7520
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.1GHz Intel Core i7-3612QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 2GB AMD Radeon HD 7730M / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 1TB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Dell XPS 15
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.1GHz Intel Core i7-3612QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 750GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Origin EON17-S (Ivy Bridge - Intel Core i7-3920XM)
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.9GHz Intel Core i7-3920XM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M + 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; HDD #1: 1TB SAMSUNG 5,400rpm + HDD #2/3: 240GB Corsair Force SSD (x2) RAID 0

Maingear EX-L 15
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-3820QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M + 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Samsung NP700G7C-S01US
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M; 750GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

What you'll pay

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    Where to Buy

    Dell Inspiron 17R Special Edition Laptop Computer- 3rd Generation Intel Core i7-3610QM processor (6M Cache, up to 3.3 GHz)

    Part Number: FEDNN34BS
    Pricing is currently unavailable.

    Quick Specifications See All

    • Installed Size 8 GB
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