It’s hard to find fault with this recently updated version of Dell’s Inspiron 15R laptop. It’s competitively priced, smart and well built, and provides good all-round performance and battery life. See also: Group test: what's the best budget laptop?
Available in several different colours, including pink, red, silver and a rather fetching metallic blue, the Inspiron 15R certainly doesn’t look like a budget laptop. It doesn’t feel like one either – the case is plastic, but solidly built with a large trackpad and a firm, comfortable keyboard. It’ll be a good choice if you need to type up a long report or do a bit of number-crunching in Excel.
The 15.6 inch screen is bright and clear, and has the standard 1366x768 resolution. We can’t really complain about a lack of a Full HD display at this price.
The speakers sound a bit thin, with very little bass, but that’s a minor criticism in an otherwise well-constructed laptop. It’s a little hefty at 2.3Kg, but just about portable enough to carry around in a backpack or briefcase.
There are cheaper versions of the 15R, with prices starting at £399 for a model with an i3 processor. The model reviewed here has the same chassis, screen and keyboard but is fitted with a dual-core i5 running at 1.7GHz (2.6GHz with Turboboost), a healthy 8GB of memory and a 1TB hard drive.
This combination managed a score of 2834 in the PCMark 7 suite. The 15R-5521 will take web browsing and office work in its stride, and the extra memory and storage space makes it a decent choice for more demanding tasks such as video-editing too.
It can even handle a spot of casual gaming – as long as you’re not too fussy about having all the latest graphical eye-candy. Running Stalker at 1366x768 with high graphics settings produced a speed of 23fps, and dropping that to 1280x720 and low graphics allowed it to run at 35fps.
Battery life proved a pleasant surprise. The 65Wh battery pack managed an impressive six hours of streaming video from BBC iPlayer via Wi-Fi. You should get a close to a full day out of it if you're simply running Microsoft Office (which isn't included).
Dell picks up some extra kudos for its warranty which includes ‘in-home’ repair.