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Dell Inspiron 1525 review: Dell Inspiron 1525

Dell Inspiron 1525

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Dan Ackerman
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Dan Ackerman

Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times

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5 min read

Editors' note: August 8, 2008. We incorrectly identified the CPU as a Core 2 Duo T2390 for this laptop. It uses the older Pentium Dual-Core Mobile Processor T2390, which features 1MB of L2 cache and operates on a 533MHz frontside bus. Most Core 2 Duo mobile processors operate on a faster bus and all offer 2MB or more of L2 cache. Both the Pentium Dual-Core and Core 2 Duo chips are manufactured using the same 65-nanometer process.

6.7

Dell Inspiron 1525

The Good

Slimmer than Dell's 14-inch Inspiron; includes HDMI and touch-sensitive media control buttons; a bit cheaper than other 1525 configurations and has better battery life.

The Bad

Slightly slower than other versions of the 1525 we've looked at; smaller hard drive.

The Bottom Line

The Dell Inspiron 1525-121B is the textbook example of a midsize, mainstream laptop. Switching to slower CPU knocks a little off the performance, but also takes $80 off the price and adds battery life, compared with Dell's more mainstream configurations.

This review is part of our Back-to-School 2008 roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.

As middle-of-the-road as a laptop gets, Dell's Inspiron 1525 is an excellent go-to choice for basic computing, especially if you take the time to configure a system to your needs via Dell's online configurator. This $649 fixed-configuration version, called the Inspiron 1525-121B, has a low-end 1.86GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core T2390 CPU, and is cheaper than the $729 T5750 version we reviewed, but it also knocks the RAM down to 2GB from 3GB, and the hard drive down to 160GB from 250GB.

The system trades some performance for the price cut, and may strain under a heavy collegiate workload of writing papers and encoding MP3s, but its battery life is actually better--on par with the 14-inch Dell Inspiron 1420. When you add the 1525's touch-sensitive media control buttons and an HDMI output, you get a not wholly unreasonable package at the lower end of the price scale.

If your planned course of study will not include running demanding graphics or scientific applications, the Inspiron 1525-121B should get you from initiation to graduation. If you can spend a bit more, the Gateway P-6836 offers better performance for only $150 more.

Price as reviewed $649
Processor 1.86GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core T2390
Memory 2GB, 533MHz DDR2
Hard drive 160GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Intel GMA X3100
Graphics Mobile Intel Express 965GM (integrated)
Operating System Windows Vista Premium
Dimensions (WDH) 14x10.1x1.45 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 15.4 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 6.0/6.8 pounds
Category Mainstream

Dell has managed to shave a little bulk off its previous 15-inch Inspiron model, and this version is even thinner than 14-inch Inspiron 1420, although its bigger footprint is not as well suited for lugging around campus all day.

The keyboard is the same full-size model found on Dell's other Inspiron laptops, and it feels solid and responsive. Above the keyboard sits a row of media control buttons, which you won't find on the Sony VAIO NR430, a brand more commonly associated with multimedia endeavors than a jack-of-all-trades Inspiron. The media controls are of the touch-sensitive variety we're partial to, and the Inspiron 1525 has helped make these the industry default, even for budget-minded laptops. This version lacks the 2.0-megapixel Webcam found on the $729 configuration of the 1525.

The 15.4-inch wide-screen LCD offers a 1280x800-pixel native resolution, which is standard for budget-minded mainstream systems, but on a screen this big, text and icons can look a bit big and unwieldy--we generally prefer 1,440x900-pixel resolutions on screens of this size--that's an option on the configurable version available on the Dell Web site.

  Dell Inspiron 1525-121B Average for category [mainstream]
Video HDMI, S-Video VGA-out, S-Video
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 4 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, multiformat memory card reader 4 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Expansion ExpressCard/54 ExpressCard/54
Networking Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN
Optical drive DVD burner DVD burner

There are plenty of USB jacks for all your accessories and even FireWire, which we're seeing less frequently, but no Bluetooth. Adding an HDMI jack is a nice high-end touch, even if you never use it.

Unlike the Inspiron 1525-122B, this 1525 doesn't use a Core 2 Duo chip but an older Intel Pentium Dual-Core CPU. The system is no speed demon, we ran into occasional sluggishness while multitasking--Web surfing, working on office documents, and playing media files--but it's still adequate for basic academic work. The system finished first or second on CNET Labs' benchmarks among the five entry-level back-to-school laptops we tested this summer. For an extra $80, however, you can trade up to a faster T5750 CPU, 3GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive (plus a Webcam)--which seems like a reasonable set of upgrades for the price, although we saw minimal benefit in this price range from adding that third GB of RAM on our tests.

The Inspiron 1525 ran for 3 hours and 10 minutes on our video playback battery drain test using the included six-cell battery, which is a nice improvement over the more expensive 1525, which lasted only 2 hours and 15 minutes on the same test--perhaps because of its more powerful CPU. There's a pretty obvious trade off to consider--slower performance and longer battery life versus faster performance and shorter battery life.

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.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio VGN-NR430 E/L
1,204 
Dell Inspiron 1525-121B
1,239 
Toshiba Satellite L305-S5875
1,287 
Compaq CQ50-115NR
1,355 
Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7815
1,561 

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Inspiron 1525-121B
238 
Sony Vaio VGN-NR430 E/L
266 
Toshiba Satellite L305-S5875
275 
Compaq CQ50-115NR
302 
Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7815
316 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Toshiba Satellite L305-S5875
229 
Dell Inspiron 1525-121B
231 
Sony Vaio VGN-NR430 E/L
236 
Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7815
242 
Compaq CQ50-115NR
243 

Video Playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio VGN-NR430 E/L
194 
Dell Inspiron 1525-121B
190 
Toshiba Satellite L305-S5875
148 
Compaq CQ50-115NR
111 
Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7815
104 

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Compaq CQ50-115NR
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.0GHz AMD Turion X2 Mobile RM-70; 3,072MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 8200M G; 200GB Seagate 5,400rpm.

Toshiba Satellite L305-S5875
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T2390; 3,072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 200GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm.

Dell Inspiron 1525-121B
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 1.86GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core T2390; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 160GB Western Digital 5,400rpm.

Sony Vaio VGN-NR430 E/L
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 1.86GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core T2390; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 160GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm.

Toshiba Satellite L355D-S7815
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 1.86GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core T2390; 3,072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 200GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm.

6.7

Dell Inspiron 1525

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 7Battery 8Support 6
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