Back to school is right around the corner and how sad it might be for a lot of children. 😉 A great way to help get the kids energized for the new school year is by equipping them with the right gear. Most parents might be shopping for the traditional supplies such as notebooks and pencils. For a lot of students though, what might be at the top of their list is a new computer, specifically a laptop. Its amazing how trendy traditional notebook PC’s continue to be after the introduction of affordable Small Notebook PCs called Netbooks a few years ago. Key factors that contribute to Notebook PC’s remaining popular include: affordability (more value for money), powerful processors, lots of memory and a big screen. One of the popular brands among consumers is Dell, I owned one a few years back, but I have since retired it and I have since changed brands. I still admire the Company and its products though, both my brothers are owners of Dell Notebook PC’s. What I like about Dell notebook PC’s is the value you get for your money and that’s what I will be taking a look at today on a brand new DELL Inspiron 15R – M501R. A friend came over to show it to me. A family friend of his was in the States for the summer holidays and purchased this laptop for him (he is absolutely ecstatic about it since its his PC. I am really impressed by the specs and the sleekness of this computer.
First, lets start off with the system specifications according to Windows 7 system properties:
- AMD Athlon II P320 Dual-Core Processor 2.1 GHz
- 230 GB hard disk
- 3 GBs of RAM (2.75 GBs usable)
- ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250
- 15.6 inch Wide Screen HD display (max resolution 1366 x 768)
- SD/MMC slot
- eSATA port
- Ethernet Port
- HDMI port
- 3 USB ports (2 on the back and 1 on left side)
- Microphone and Headphone jacks.
- Windows Experience Index (WEI) score – 4.2
- Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
- Base price – $529 more details here
The Dell Inspiron 15R comes with quite a bit of software installed which users will find usable, its good to see Dell going easy on the bundled ware and add stuff most consumers will find essential to their daily needs:
- Adobe Photoshop Elements 8.0
- Adobe Reader 9.1
- Microsoft Works 9.0
- Windows Live Essentials Wave 3
- Skype 4.2
- Roxio Burn
- Wild Tangent Games
- Live! Cam Avatar Creator
- McAfee SecurityCenter 30 day trial. I have recommended to my friend to just let it run its course then download the free Microsoft Security Essentials Antivirus.
The Dell Inspiron 15R is a sleek laptop, Dell really has been investing a lot in the aesthetics of their laptops over the past few years. I started noticing this when my brother picked up an Inspiron back in March of 2008. To be honest, the Inspiron is a bit of a reminder of the HP DV notebooks one of which my sister in law owns. The back of the laptop lid features a dark blue finish, while the bezel is a deep black while the chassis seems like an illusion with its surrounding black trim. The interior of the chassis surrounding the keyboard features an aluminum design that makes it look sleek and attractive. The power button is quite fancy too with its capsule like design. 🙂
The keyboard is quite impressive with large keys and an additional numerical keypad which makes it great for number crunchers who might be working on spreadsheets or do lots of data entry. You will also notice a roomy touch pad which makes navigating the web or desktop convenient. As for using the keyboard, the tactile feedback is quite good too, good response when keys are pressed, not too much pressure required and not too much sensitivity either. The laptop features a web cam too and its one of the things that makes the value of this laptop well worth it. The more I play with it I have to say from a positive standpoint how laptops have become so commoditized over the past couple of years.
I could never get a system like this back in 2007 or early 2008 without shelling out some serious money. Now its readily available with a strong set of specs and features that any budget conscious consumer (student or even small business user) can afford.
Speedy, its brand new, so I wouldn’t expect any different. From BIOS to desktop, it took about 30 seconds to boot and load the OS, which is not bad for a laptop with these specs. Windows 7 makes using your laptop faster and you can feel it throughout the system. Immediately as I reached the desktop, I could click the Start menu, launch programs. Microsoft Word 2003 for instance took approximately 3 seconds to load. Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 took about the same. I was a bit limited in my testing since this is not my hardware and I am not going to doing any experiments with it. 😉 The screen is bright and crisp, although at times, it would seem as if colours can come across a bit washed out, I tried lowering the brightness, but it didn’t make a difference. Yellows were too bright and not rich enough with little contrast. Battery life was an estimated 3 hr and 21 mins. This should be carefully accepted as battery life will vary depending on task that you do such as watching DVD, surfing the Net and other activities that can become processor intensive. Because of my limited time with the laptop, I was not going to be able to get an accurate idea of battery life.
The speakers sounded clear and pumping with respectable quality, I didn’t get a puny type experience I have noticed on other laptops, its one thing I probably would say I admire on Dell Laptops, the speakers have always been respectable.
Preloaded on the Inspiron 15R is Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit. I am not sure about the decision considering the laptop only has 3 GBs of RAM installed with only 2.7 GBs usable. 64 bit Windows is more advantageous when you have 4 GBs or more RAM installed. 32 bit Home Premium would have been suitable in my honest opinion with possible greater performance benefits. I am quite practical about the use of 64 bit computing, although this is a path the industry is going, 32 bit computing still remains relevant for certain solutions. This is one of them I believe since the laptop is focused on value based target market, the owner who is a high school will likely be preparing school reports, playing games and using the Internet a lot. 64 bit Windows does have its unique benefits though, some of which I discussed in this previous article here Apart from this technical tangent I went off on, the performance is very good. A lot of features you will find in this edition of Windows 7 are consumer oriented. Media Center is included for those who want to record TV and enjoy their media in an engaging experience. There are some unique productivity benefits users will appreciate, Aero effects such as Live Thumbnail Previews with interactivity are all there, so are Aero Peek and Aero Snaps. Going back on performance a bit, the fluidity of using these effects on the Inspiron was effortless.
Is it a great buy? Most definitely, even I would settle for a system like this. The value for money is evidently seen through the specs, features like built in Web Cam, gorgeous screen, expansive keyboard with numerical keypad, assortment of ports to plug in just about anything you want. I must note, the Inspiron 15R is more desktop replacement than a mobile solution. Not that there is anything preventing you from moving about with it, but it makes a great solution as a second or third PC and its great for student or small business user. For my friend Tevin, its an amazing value especially for the price compared to purchasing a laptop with similar specifications locally. The other day I walked into a local Cellular carrier office, I noticed that the Netbooks (a Dell Mini 10) that are bundled with 3G Cellular plans cost Jamaican $49,999 (don’t be alarmed), when calculated in US currency that works out to about US $581. (Local exchange rates US $1 = Jamaican $86). Although Netbooks are nice for portability, like I noted earlier, Notebooks still have the edge in performance and the Dell Inspiron 15R certainly offers that!