Design & Usability
The Dell Inspiron 15 has undergone some significant facelifts, as a result it looks much better than the older Inspiron 15. Gone is the drab, lacklustre design of the past - the new Inspiron 15 sports a more polished, refined look. You have five glossy screen lid colours to choose from on Dell's website - black's notorious for attracting the most fingerprints; we recommend lighter colours.
Like the Dell Studio 15 Artist Edition, the Inspiron 15 sports a dropped central hinge design, and a refreshingly cleaner palmrest. The new Dell Inspiron 15-1564 is better built than the previous one, and definitely better looking than some other laptops in its price range. The Inspiron 15's one of the lighter 15-inch laptops, weighing just 2.4kg.
The Dell Inspiron 15's 15.6-inch LED backlit display has a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is nice for watching high-def content. The screen is glossy in nature, has good horizontal viewing angles, and it does a pretty good job of displaying both text and movie content.
A 1.3MP webcam is recessed on the Dell Inspiron 15's top screen bezel and it's good enough for online video chats. The Inspiron 15's desktop sports a convenient dock at its top which is useful for launching your favorite IM client, browsing through photos, launching the webcam, working with productivity suites, etc, and the dock is fully customisable.
We like the new keyboard on the Dell Inspiron 15 - i t's much better than the previous model. The keys are well-defined, nicely laid out, and tightly packed - very similar to what we saw on the Dell Vostro V13. Due to the Inspiron 15's 15-inch form factor, it has a full-sized keyboard with a dedicated number pad on the right - similar to the Acer Aspire 5740.
The keyboard's top strip sports multifunction keys, some of which are for multimedia usage and they all work flawlessly. Typing on the Inspiron 15's keyboard is nice and comfortable, no complaints at all. It's touchpad is smaller than the ideal size, but it is finely textured and very responsive - provides good tactile feedback.
Dell has also bundled in a dedicated key (next to F12) to turn off the touchpad while typing at length - a nifty addition. But the touchpad doesn't support multiple gestures like on the Aspire 5740 laptop.
This version of the Dell Inspiron 15 sports Intel's latest Core processor - the Core i3-330M 2.13-GHz. Complementing the able Intel processor is 3GB of DDR3 RAM, 250GB hard drive, and onboard Intel GMA HD video adaptor. Not a potent hardware configuration, though a very good one nonetheless, for its target audience.
The Inspiron 15 also bundles in a 8x DVD writer, three USB ports, multicard reader, VGA-out, audio jack and an ethernet port along its chassis. Sadly, there's no Gigabit Ethernet (just 100Mbit LAN) or Wi-Fi 802.11n (only 802.11 b/g), but the Inspiron 15 incorporates Bluetooth 2.1 connectivity. The Dell Inspiron 15 also has an HDMI port to connect itself to an LCD TV or projector to play high-def content from the laptop.
Like AsusWebStorage seen on some Eee PCs, Dell gives extended 2GB of online storage for one year with the Dell Inspiron 15. Additionally, the Dell Inspiron 15 comes with a six-cell battery pack, and 64-bit Windows 7 Home Basic operating system. It doesn't promise to give everything, but overall a nice combination of hardware components and features on the Dell Inspiron 15.
The Dell Inspiron 15's performance was very similar to the recently reviewed Acer Aspire 5740. A WorldBench 6 score of 87, PC Mark 05 score of 5119, and 3D Mark 06 score of 1325 is pretty good for an entry-level all-purpose laptop. The fast combination of processor and system memory ensures you don't hit any bottlenecks while multitasking with regular, every-day programs and apps.
This isn't a gaming machine, but watching DVD movies and high-definition content (both 720p and 1080p) was smooth on the Dell Inspiron 15. Its screen's good for reading text for extended times, and the onboard speakers (situated under its front lip) are okay, not very great.
The six-cell battery on the Dell Inspiron 15 lasted 1 hour 15 minutes in our synthetic benchmarks at full screen brightness and high performance mode - slightly better than the Acer Aspire 5740's performance. In real-world usage, we clocked a time of 2 hours 59 minutes while surfing the web over Wi-Fi and listening to music, which is good but not great.
The new Dell Inspiron 15 sports significant improvements over the older model, both in terms of look and feel and overall performance. It may not have every feature in the bag, but for a price tag of £398, we think it has a pretty good blend of style and performance at an attractive price point. Recommended for anyone who's shopping for an all-purpose home laptop on a tight budget.