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The Dell Inspiron R's color-swapping strategy

We go hands-on with the new Dell Inspiron 15R and look at some of its most stylish swappable lids.

Does color make a difference? Some of the many Dell Inspiron 15R lids.
Does color make a difference? Some of the many Dell Inspiron 15R lids.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Color matters in consumer electronics, or so we keep hearing. White iPod, black iPod. Black iPhone, white iPhone. Some people buy pink or purple laptops that have been discontinued, just because they're not available hues in this year's lineup. For some, color might even be more important than brand.

If you subscribe to this theory, then Dell's new swappable-lid Inspiron R laptops are a work of genius. All 2011 Dell Inspiron 14R and 15R laptops--which come with updated second-gen Core i-series CPUs--come with a staid back lid, but much like Nokia phones of the late '90s, a simple button press pops the lid out, and a new color or design can be swapped in its place. They're the focus of Dell's latest ad campaigns, so as our review version of the Dell Inspiron 15R arrived in our office along with a six-pack of custom lid designs, we were curious to see whether color-changing made a difference to us.

The lids are actually a bit hard to figure out, even with instructions. It took me four attempts to pop the lid off, and I wasn't alone: most people around the office were stumped. Once I pressed the back button and slid the lid back, however, removal was easy. Popping on a new lid felt like sliding on an old Xbox 360 faceplate. Once locked into place, the lid stays on and feels solid, like a sealed part of the laptop. Getting that proper lock took some effort with some of the covers, though: after our fifth cover swap, we were getting a bit fed up.

However, we'll admit that putting a new color on the back does freshen up the laptop, much like swapping covers on an iPad. It's hardly necessary, but maybe color-swapping will save some shoppers the anguish of hunting for a white model that's suddenly out of stock.

See the above slideshow for a peek at six of the 20-plus color-change options, ranging from the quirky to the flamboyantly tacky. At $35-$60 depending on the detail and design, they're not cheap, but we have a feeling that, like Apple's iPad 2 Smart Covers, most 2011 Inspiron R owners are going to spring for at least one.