Dell offers several laptops featuring the most popular screen size of 15.6 inches. At one end of the scale there’s the entry-level Dell Inspiron 15, and at the opposite end of the consumer laptop range there’s the Inspiron 15z Ultrabook. See: Laptop reviews

The lab guys at Hardware.Info have been testing both with a barrage of benchmarks.

Dell Inspiron 15 review

The Inspiron 15 is clearly the entry-level model and comes in a plain, black chassis.

The Inspiron 15z has a more deluxe colour scheme, with a combination of light and dark grey. It also carries the Ultrabook sticker, something the 15 does not.

The Inspiron 15 looks like a dime-a-dozen laptop and could be from pretty much any brand. The plastic features a pattern design you can feel, and the plastic is a bit thin in places. It again reiterates the fact that this is not the most high-end product from Dell. 

The hardware consists of an Intel Core i3 processor, and if you want to spend less you can instead get the Intel Celeron or Pentium. The Core i3 in our test sample is the 3227U.

It's a chip that's actually designed for Ultrabooks, which means it's more energy-efficient. That should be good for the battery life, in theory at least.

The processor has integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 which provide the graphics for this laptop.

There's 4GB of RAM, which can easily be upgraded.

Dell Inspiron 15 laptop

On the bottom of the laptop there's a cover fastened with two screws. This grants access to the hard disk (in this case a Toshiba 500 GB, 5400 rpm disk) and the two memory slots, of which one is in use. There's also a DVD burner in the Inspiron 15. The upgradability of the RAM is important if you're considering the entry-level model with Intel Celeron, because it only comes with 2GB of RAM.

The connectors consist of four USB ports (2x USB 3.0), HDMI and Ethernet. There's no VGA. The card reader is located centrally in the front. The network cards are a bit disappointing. Ethernet is only 100 Mbit/s and the single-band wireless card is only 150 Mbit/s.

The Inspiron 15 provides a decent work environment, but the keyboard certainly isn't the best we've seen.

It gives way pretty easily, and the keystroke isn't that great. The touchpad is nice and large and has physical buttons.

The most stand-out feature of the Inspiron 15 is probably its touchscreen with 10 touch points. It's a standard TN display with 1366x768 pixels and a glossy finish. It's a little unfortunate that you tend to run into the edge of the screen when you perform certain Windows 8 operations.

It's a relatively heavy laptop, weighing in at 2.65 kg.

Dell Inspiron 15z review

The Inspiron 15z is an Ultrabook, which is clear not only from the sticker but also the design. It has a much more deluxe feel than the Inspiron 15.

We tested a pretty high-end version containing an Intel Core i7-3517U and the Nvidia GeForce GT630M, but it's also available without the graphics card. 

Dell Inspiron 15z ultrabook laptop

That Nvidia card is a difficult point. For gaming you really need one that's a bit more powerful, such as the GT640M. Nevertheless, it's significantly more powerful than the integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 from the Intel Core i7.

Our test sample came with 8GB of RAM and a 500GB, 5400rpm hard disk that's combined with a 32GB mSATA caching SSD. And unlike most Ultrabooks, it does have a DVD burner.

All of that hardware makes the Inspiron 15z pretty heavy, especially for an Ultrabook. 2.49 kg is as much as many normal laptops weigh, so it feels a little weird seeing that Ultrabook label on it.

The screen is also a touchscreen with the same resolution as the Inspiron 15 – 1,366-x-768 pixels.

Dell isn't entirely consistent in its use of colour coding. When you look at the 15z, it looks as if it has no USB 3.0 on board.

That’s because, like HP at times, Dell did not make the USB 3.0 ports blue here. All four USB ports are of the faster variety, however.

The 15z has a gigabit ethernet port and a single-band 300 Mbit Intel Centrino 2230 wireless card. The keyboard is backlit and feels nice to type with, but it's certainly not the best laptop keyboard we've seen.

Ironically, the more interesting of the two laptops is the entry-level Inspiron 15. To find out why, read the full review on Hardware.Info.