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Dell Inspiron 14R review: Dell Inspiron 14R

Dell Inspiron 14R

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
7 min read

For mainstream laptop owners, the Dell Inspiron is one of the most common products on the market. Traditionally available in a huge number of configurations with many optional features and flexible pricing, the Inspiron serves as a jack-of-all-trades among laptops, but isn't a master of anything in particular.


Dell Inspiron 14R

The Good

Streamlined look, easy-to-use keyboard and touch pad; reasonable price for its components; includes solid ATI graphics for gaming

The Bad

Awkward port layout, short battery life.

The Bottom Line

Dell's next-generation Inspiron laptops have arrived, and while it doesn't reinvent the wheel, the Inspiron 14R presents a very solid package of Core i3 performance and ATI dedicated graphics for a fair price.

The Inspiron R is a slightly new design iteration to the regular Inspiron series, with slightly sleeker colors and touches that make it look a bit more like a Studio series laptop. While those changes are largely cosmetic, the overall feel of the new Inspiron is a bit better than what came before.

Available in a variety of configurations ranging from 14 inches to 17 inches and at prices from low to somewhat high-end, the landscape of Inspiron R laptops looks ready to cover users across a wide middle scale. Our Inspiron 14R, a 14-inch laptop with an Intel Core i3 processor and dedicated ATI Radeon HD 5470 graphics, is a good all-around machine for a mainstream user, at a relatively reasonable cost about $800. We've seen slightly better values from manufacturers such as Samsung, but at least the Inspiron is not overpriced.

Price as reviewed / starting price $780 / $479
Processor 2.27 GHz Intel Core i3 M350
Memory 4GB DDR3 RAM, 1,333 MHz
Hard drive 500GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Intel HM55
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WD) 13.0 x 9.0 inches
Height 1.2-1.3 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 14.1 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 5.1/5.8 pounds
Category Midsize

Like Dell's previous Inspirons, plastic is the dominate construction materials on the Inspiron R. The outer lid and inner palm-rest area have a distinctly metallic brushed-metal veneer, but it's just that, as they're made of plastic, too. The R comes in a metallic Mars Black, and for $40 extra, you can get it in Peacock Blue, Tomato Red, and Promise Pink. The glossy material doesn't attract fingerprints as much as we expected, but the lid's plastic flexes slightly.

The chassis of the Inspiron R series has a "hinge-forward" design introduced on the recent Mini 10 Netbooks. What this means is the top lid connects to the base about an inch in from the rear. The reason for this design might be the lack of battery bulge or a slight shifting of the screen to be closer to the keyboard, but the R's base is decidedly thick at the back end and the rear shelf is still a kind of a bulge--it just doesn't jut from the base.

Dell's nearly edge-to-edge keyboard is a flat design with a bit of raised texture to the keys. It's comfortable to use, and the top media keys are thankfully function-reversed like on Apple's MacBooks--you can directly raise and lower volume without simultaneously pressing the "FN" button. The touch pad below is larger, more matte-surfaced, and generally more comfortable than recent Dell laptops we've used. The discrete buttons below are nothing special, but are well-sized and work nicely. Overall, the Inspiron R's keyboard-touch pad experience is better than average.

The LED-backlit 14.1-inch glossy screen has a 1,366x768-pixel native resolution that matches most laptop displays around 13 inch and 14 inches. Video and web pages look crisp and text and colors were sharp, but images got a little washed-out looking at extended viewing angles. We were also impressed by the volume and sound quality on the stereo speakers, located under the palm-rests on the bottom base. The "SRS premium sound" label on lower-right corner of the screen initially made us shrug, but at least the audio experience had enough oomph to encourage watching TV shows and movies using the speakers.

One of Dell's custom software touches is a conspicuous dock centered on the top edge of the screen. It acts as a launcher to pictures, Webcam, Web browser, e-mail, and movie and music playback modes, acting a little like Apple's own applications dock, but a lot less flexible and more prone to linking to preinstalled promo trial bloatware.

Above the screen is a 1.3-megapixel Webcam for video conferencing and taking pictures. The camera has a decent frame rate and an OK image quality. Videos demonstrated that the microphone had good long-range sensitivity, but the video and picture resolution had some graininess in our normal office lighting.

  Dell Inspiron 14R Average for category [Midsize]
Video VGA, HDMI-out VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0, 1 USB 2.0/eSATA, SD card reader 4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA
Expansion None ExpressCard/54
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband
Optical drive DVD burner DVD burner

The 14R has a good number of ports and I/O connections, including HDMI, eSATA, and an internal Bluetooth antenna. However, because of its thick-bottomed design, the Inspiron's ports are scattered around the sides and back of the laptop. One USB and the VGA port along with the power plug are located on the backside, which could be convenient for laptops used as desktop replacements, but tends to be awkward for travel and more casual use.

Dell includes 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive in the Inspiron 14R we reviewed, which are above-average specs for a mainstream laptop. With our configuration, the laptop's cost came to $780 on Dell's Web site after instant savings, plus an extra $40 for the red color, bringing it to $820. Inspiron 14R laptops start as low as $479, but you can forget about Core i-series CPUs at that price: the entry-level models have a puny Pentium P6000 processor.

Most Intel Core i3 laptops use the same CPU, so it's not a surprise that most Core i3 laptops we've seen have similar performance. It's a great affordable processor, capable of better-than-the-average-Core 2 Duo multitasking and video streaming performance. The Inspiron 14R configurations top out with a Core i5 option for those who crave increased speed.

Even better, this particular Inspiron 14R configuration has a dedicated graphics in the form of a ATI Radeon HD 5670 GPU. When playing Unreal Tournament III, its video performed at 72.3 frames per second at 1,200x768-pixel resolution, or 55.9fps in its 1,366x768-pixel native resolution, both are very respectable numbers. We also tried the recently-released Transformers: War for Cybertron and found it playable, though somewhat prone to choppiness. This graphics setup is perfect for casual and mainstream users, and is more than capable of playing most mainstream games. Hardcore gamers, of course, should consider another option. Slightly less expensive 14R options are available with only Intel integrated HD graphics for those who prefer to eschew gaming for savings.

Juice box
Dell Inspiron 14R Average watts per hour
Off 0.39
Sleep 1.24
Idle 10.62
Load 41.39
Raw kWh 44.52
Annual power consumption cost $5.05

Annual power consumption costs
HP Pavilion dm4-1003
Dell Inspiron 14R
Sony Vaio VPC-EB1JFX/B

Our Dell Inspiron 14R ran for 2 hours and 58 minutes on our video-playback battery drain test using its included six-cell battery. Battery performance under three hours is usually our cut-off point for acceptability, but we grant a bit of consideration to this laptop's dedicated graphics. Still, it's nowhere near what we'd call an all-day laptop.

Dell includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system, which includes on-site service. Upgrading to a three-year plan will cost an extra $119, with additional fees for extras such as accidental damage protection. Support is accessible through Dell's 24-7 toll-free phone line, and a well-maintained support Web site with an online knowledge base, FAQs, and driver downloads.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion dm4-1003
Dell Inspiron 14R
Sony Vaio VPC-EB1JFX/B

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion dm4-1003
Dell Inspiron 14R
Sony Vaio VPC-EB1JFX/B

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion dm4-1003
Dell Inspiron 14R
Sony Vaio VPC-EB1JFX/B

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion dm4-1003
Sony Vaio VPC-EB1JFX/B
Dell Inspiron 14R

System configurations:
Dell Inspiron 15R
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.27GHz Intel Core i3 M350; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 64MB (Dedicated)/1,696MB (Total) Intel GMA HD; 500GB Toshiba 7,200rpm

Dell Inspiron 14R
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.27GHz Intel Core i3 M350; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Gateway NV59C09u
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.13GHz Intel Core i3 M330; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 128MB (Dedicated) Intel Media Accelerator HD; 320GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

HP Pavilion dm4-1003
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 M520; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated)/1,695MB (Total) Intel MHD; 320GB Toshiba 7,200rpm

Sony Vaio VPC-EB1JFX/B
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.13GHz Intel Core i3 M330; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 128MB (Dedicated) Intel Media Accelerator HD; 500GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Lenovo Ideapad Y460
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 M520; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650; 500GB Seagate 5,400rpm


Dell Inspiron 14R

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8Battery 6Support 7