Dell has recently launched a range of Special Edition notebook designed for entertainment and multimedia use. These notebooks are refreshed with the latest Ivy Bridge CPUs and put a lot of emphasis on audio with the help of MAXX Audio and Skullcandy. But are these features enough to justify the higher price tag as compared to the standard 15R? Let’s find out.
Design and Build
The Special Edition 15R now uses anodized aluminum for the chassis, giving it added strength and durability. The twin texture on the lid is also replicated on the insides, keeping finger prints at bay as well as giving you a good grip for your hands while typing. The build quality feels solid and it looks like it can easily take a beating. However, you won’t be carrying it around too much since it weighs like a tank. Dell don’t mention it it’s easily around 2.5kg or maybe a little more. Clearly this is designed to be used in one place. Another new feature for the Inspirion is the new rubber ring around the edge of the lid which gives the insides a good seal from dust.
Built like a tank
Dell has you covered on the connectivity front as you get a total of four USB 3.0 ports, a LAN jack, HDMI, VGA, multi-card reader, DVD burner, HDMI and microphone and headphone jack. There is plenty of space around the palm rest area and the trackpad is placed well so it doesn’t get in the way while typing. Speaking of which, the trackpad is quiet generous and the two mouse buttons have a soft feel to them, which is good. The keyboard isn’t backlit, however that is an optional extra that you can opt for. The chiclet keyboard is very comfortable even for extended typing sessions.
HDMI and USB 3.0 onboard
The speakers are borrowed from Skullcandy and are placed underneath the notebook so the sound bounce off the surface, thereby amplifying the sound further. Overall, we quite liked the design and choice of materials used on the Inspiron 15R Special Edition, however, the one thing we don’t like is the fact that it’s insanely heavy.
All of Dell’s notebooks that feature Ivy Bridge have the ‘New!’ moniker before the model number. The one we’re reviewing today is the basic starter model of the Special Edition which is powered by an Intel Core i5-3210M running at stock speed of 2.5GHz and Turbo frequency of 3.1GHz. This is a dual-core CPU with HyperThreading so it should be more than adequate for daily as well has heavy duty tasks like Photoshop. Rest of the specifications include 4GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive and a AMD Radeon HD 7730M with 2GB of dedicated graphics. The GPU is based on the new GCN architecture like the HD 7900 series o performance and power consumption should be better as compared to the previous HD 7600M series.
Like all Dell notebooks, the New! Inspiron 15R comes with a ton of bloatware, motof which you can do without. Dell Stage is an application that runs soon as you boot into Windows which gives you a series of tiles to access videos, games, etc. It’s just an annoyance more than anything else. A trial version of MacAfee I also provided. Other software’s include DataSafe Local Backup, Office 2010 Starter Edition, Stage Remote, Dell Webcam and XPS Viewer.
The performance is pretty solid across the board in CPU intensive tasks as well as the graphics department. Due to the large nature of the laptop and the wide exhaust vents, the notebook doesn’t get hot too much, if anything, it just gets warm. The graphics card supports ‘Switchable Graphics’ which means the discrete card only kicks in when an application needs it.
Good performance all round
The heavy weight of the notebook is not the most comfortable on your lap for extended periods of time. The keyboard is comfortable even for long typing sessions which is good. Coming to the key feature of this Special Edition notebook, the audio quality is actually pretty good or at least better than most notebooks in the market. The audio levels are loud and sound manages to retain a good level of highs and the mid-range.
In Battery Eater Pro, we managed to squeeze out 1-hour 30-minutes which is pretty much average actually. In real world usage, we should be able to get round 4hrs. This isn’t much and we wished Dell had fitted a higher capacity battery given how bulky it is.
Verdict and Price in India
The Dell New! Inspiron 15R Special Edition starts at a price tag of Rs.50,490, which is the cost of the model we reviewed. It feels a little bit expensive and perhaps a higher resolution screen would have balanced it out a bit. If you don’t care about the Skullcandy branded speakers then the standard version of the 15R is also a very good choice as you get a similar configuration (Core i5-3210M, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, AMD HD 7670M) for just Rs.42,500. A more powerful 15-incher would be the Asus K55VM for a few grand more. If you’re looking for something more portable without sacrificing performance then we recommend you look at the Sony VAIO SVE series. The 15R Special Edition is well built notebook but the heavy weight and average battery life is a bit of a put off.