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Dell's redesigned Inspiron laptops are near-ultrabook thin

These new midprice laptops have sharp, slim designs and Intel's latest CPUs.

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Dell is rolling Intel's new Ivy Bridge chips out painfully slowly. First to Alienware laptops, then Latitude, and now the mainstream Inspiron line (with XPS still missing for now).

On the bright side, the new Inspiron designs look great, and having had a chance to play around with a few of these systems, they're nearly ultrabook thin in some cases, but very reasonably priced.

The new 13-, 14-, 15-, and 17-inch Inspiron laptops come in three flavors, the regular R, the thinner Z, and the more upscale SE (or special edition).

Not all screen sizes will be available in each category, so you'll end up with a mix of about a half-dozen base models -- which is better than Dell used to be, but a far cry from, say, the two MacBook Air base models (considering the Air is now Apple's "mainstream" laptop). Of those, only the Inspiron 14z is officially labeled as an ultrabook.

The new designs are thin and modern, with two-tone lids -- most in either either gunmetal gray brushed metal or brightly colored plastic contrasted against a lighter border. The Special Edition models are in "stealth black," with 1080p screens and discrete graphics, AMD in the 15-inch, Nvidia in the 17-inch. Blu-ray and SSD are options in those higher-end SE systems.

On the sample systems we saw, the brushed metal look extends onto the system tray, and keyboards were backlit, which is always a plus. The touch pads are large, but still include separate left and right mouse buttons. You'll have to trade up to the more expensive XPS line to get a full button-less clickpad.

Scott Stein/CNET

While not ultrabook thin, the midsize Inspirons are still very slim-looking, with some ports hidden behind plastic flap doors on the sides. I'd go so far as to say, especially when you allow a little leeway for the lower prices, the new Inspiron designs are actually cooler-looking than the more expensive, but frankly pretty conservative, XPS laptops.

The specific new models, and starting prices are:

  • Inspiron 13z ($599)
  • Inspiron 14z ($699)
  • Inspiron 15R ($549)
  • Inspiron 17R ($549)
  • Inspiron 15R Special Edition ($799)
  • Inspiron 17R Special Edition ($1,099; $1,299 with 3D display)

The new Dell Inspiron systems will be available starting June 19.