Editors' note: This review is part of ourThere's something to be said for simplicity. The Dell Inspiron i1545-4374PBU might not look like much and its limited supply of connections may seem, well, limiting, but this laptop has a good balance of components. Its Intel dual-core CPU, 4GB of memory, and a 320GB hard drive provide solid enough performance to make just about anyone shopping for a basic home or office laptop happy. It's not the most exciting notebook, but it works well and looks pretty good doing it. , which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$549.99|
|Processor||2.1GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core T4300|
|Memory||4GB, 800MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GM45|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Dimensions (WD)||14.7x9.6 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.2/6 pounds|
The entire chassis of the i1545-4374PBU (and all Inspiron 15 models) is made from plastic, giving it a fairly cheap feel; this would be more upsetting if the system weren't in fact cheap, but it is. The lid (an attractive dark blue), the black display bezel, and the keyboard surround are all a glossy fingerprint-collecting plastic, while the bottom is matte black plastic. On the upside, all the plastic keeps the system light enough that should you want to take it on the go, it won't be a back-breaking experience. Above the spacious keyboard sits a silver power button. There are no extra media controls, though Dell clearly marks the function keys so that adjusting things like screen brightness and volume can be done quickly. The keys are the more traditional tapered type, with good spacing and response, which makes typing pleasurable. Below the keyboard are a touch pad and two well-sized accompanying buttons.
The Dell Inspiron i1545-4374PBU's 15.6-inch glossy wide-screen LCD has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, 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 LCD gets reasonably bright, but those frequently working out in the sun might struggle to see things onscreen. Also, view angles off to the sides are pretty limited, so you'll have to huddle up if you're viewing the screen with someone else. Overall color and contrast performance is good, though.
Above the Inspiron's screen is a functional Webcam and mic that performed OK in our informal Skype testing. One thing that did surprise us was how loud the speakers are able to get and still sound good--plenty of volume for movies, music, and games.
We rarely mention software or little extras, but with this laptop Dell includes a free annual pass for Napster, which includes 60 MP3 downloads. It's hardly a reason to buy this system, but it's a nice perk nonetheless.
|Dell Inspiron i1545-4374PBU||Average for category [mainstream]|
|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 one area the Dell i1545-4374PBU comes up a bit short, it's in the port, I/O, and networking configuration. There's a lot of open space on the sides and back, but the only connections for adding peripherals are three USB 2.0 ports and a VGA output is the lone option for connecting an external display. The spot for an ExpressCard/34 slot on the laptop's right side is plugged up. And though it's not a big deal, the wireless is 802.11g, whereas similarly priced laptops are available with faster 802.11n adapters.
Given that the i1545-4374PBU is a retail system, it's not configurable at the time of purchase. However, Dell's Web site allows you to configure the Inspiron 15 with what seems like a near-endless combination of hardware and software, including seven other color options. If you like what you've seen so far, but need more performance, storage, or just want another color, it's available through the company's site.
For the money, the i1545-4374PBU proved a very able component combination for basic day-to-day tasks. It did better than expected on jobs like streaming high-resolution video and music while we simultaneously worked in spreadsheets, edited photos, Web surfed, and ran e-mail and IM clients. That's not to say you can't overtax the system, just that it shouldn't have a problem keeping up with most essential home and office use.
|Mainstream (Avg watts/hour)||Dell Inspiron i1545-4374PBU|
|Raw kWh Number||44|
|Annual Energy Cost||$4.99|
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
The i1545-4374PBU ran for 3 hours and 14 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included six-cell battery. Considering how demanding our test is, you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use. Even in our field tests doing some typical multitasking, we were able get close to 4 hours away from an outlet.
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.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)