Dell’s Inspiron range has always been the go-to notebook whenever you’re looking for something cheap, but reliable. The series has always managed to offer a great balance of features and performance without costing a bomb which is why it's so popular. The Inspiron line up gets its annual dose of upgrades and every year we see a refreshed design with new internals depending on what Intel has to offer. At the start of 2011, we reviewed Dell’s new Inspiron 15R notebook, which featured a funkier design (huge upgrade from the old drab one) and new innards at an attractive price.
Dell recently launched a slightly tweaked version of the 15R and for reasons unknown calls it - New! Inspiron 15R. Silly as it sounds, the ‘new’ series brings with it quite a significant change compared to its predecessor. Let’s see if this offers a better bang for buck.
Design and Build
The design hasn’t changed all that much and from far you won't be able to tell the two apart. The new addition is a removable faceplate which can be swapped for a variety of colors and designs. There’s a little button added below the lid that lets you unlock the faceplate. Installing a new one is pretty simple, simply allign the hinges and it snaps into place.
USB 3.0 ports offer good future proofing
The ports have also been shufled around a bit. The right side now has the DVD burner, headphone and microphone jack and a USB 3.0 port, a first in the Inspiron series. The rear has another USB 3.0 port along with LAN jack, charging port and a VGA port. On the left, we have a multi-card reader, a USB 2.0 port and an ESATA/USB port, which can also charge any USB device when the notebook is off. There’s nothing on the front other than the status lights.The build quality very good. Although, it’s primarily plastic, I didn’t find any creaking parts, or too much screen flex.
The screen has a glossy finish to it which makes the picture pop a little, but also introduces reflections. The area around the keyboard has a matte finish and there’s plenty of space around the palm rest for the largest of hands. Dell has included a chiclet keyboard which makes typing very comfortable even for long durations. The keys are sized well and have sufficient spacing around them. They also have a better response than the older Inspiron 15R and the flex issue is slightly reduced. The trackpad is very large giving you ample room to work with.
The changes to the Inspiron 15R are not merely cosmetic. It packs the latest Sandy Bridge Core i3 2310M running at 2.1GHz. Along with that, we have 4GB of memory, a spacious 320GB hard drive and an Nvidia GT 525M with 1GB dedicated memory. Coupled with Windows 7 Home Premium, it seems like a very potent notebook for multi-media.
Large screen is perfect for movies
The 15.6-inch screen gives you plenty of real estate to work with, although we wish the resolution would have been a little higher than 1366x768. It also features Intel’s WiDi (Wireless Display) technology which allows you to mirror your screen on a compatible HDTV. Along with this you get the regular software suite from Dell like PC Restore, DellSafe, Dell Webcam Central, McAfee Antivirus (trial), etc pre-installed.
3DMark Vantage - P3840
3DMark 11 - P888
SiSOFT SANDRA 2010
Dhrystone (ALU) - 34.5
Whetstone (iSSE3) - 24.5
Integer (x8 iSSE3) - 62
Float (x4 iSSE2) - 85.8
Int (iSSE3) - 9.45
Float (iSSE2) - 9.46
Dirt 2 (1366x768, all High, DX11-On) - 35FPS
General and Multimedia usage
The N5110 may be built well, but it's also quite heavy to lug around. At roughly 2.65kg, it’s not really light and you’ll certainly feel the weight in your backpack. It’s ideal use would be at home, perhaps as a desktop replacement. The glossy screen makes quite a difference when viewing web pages, photos or videos, everything seems richer and more vibrant. I quite enjoyed using the keypad and while the feedback from the keys feels a little spongy, it's not a deal breaker in anyway.
Keys have a good feedback
The trackpad was very problematic, though and refused to work properly. There is quite a bit of lag when you use it and many times it would just behave erratically. We tried re-installing the drivers, but didn’t have much luck. Another odd thing we noticed, was that both the display adapters (Intel and Nvidia ) are active which is something we usually see in Optimus enabled notebooks. After a little digging around, I found that the GT 525M does indeed support Optimus, but it’s up to the manufacture to implement it. Dell doesn’t seem to have bothered with this and it’s a real shame, since the resulting product could have been so much better.
HD movies look really good and the sound is not bad, either. The speakers are placed in the front towards you and are SRS certified which makes them really good for music and movies. The sound does tend to distort a bit at high volumes and the bass is virtually non-existent. The vertical viewing angles aren’t the best, but the horizontal angles are good enough for watching a movie with a couple of friends.
Finally, I wanted to try Intel’s WiDi technology, but sadly you need a WiDi compatible box to be connected to the the TV first to pair both of them.
The N5110 is fitted with a 6-cell 48Whr battery, which managed to give us a battery life of just 1hr 30min in Battery Eater Pro. This is with the notebook set to ‘Balanced mode’, Wi-Fi off and the screen brightness set to full. If Dell had used Nvidia’s Optimus technology, we could have seen a much better battery life.
The configuration we received works out to Rs.40,150 from Dell’s website and is inclusive of shipping and delivery costs, which is a very aggressive price. With this kind of feature set and components, you’re set for the next two years, at least. Dell has taken an already popular series of notebooks and just made it even better by offering a better processor, USB 3.0 and a discrete DX11 graphics card – all for a lower price as compared to its predecessor.
My main problem with this is the annoying trackpad, average battery life and lack of Nvidia’s Optimus implementation, which is what’s stopping the new N5110 from being a real steal.
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