September 4, 2012
- Stylish design
- Beautiful 1080p HD display
- Blu-ray player
- Strong performance
- Heavier than most other 15-inch laptops
- Dual graphics don't switch on-the-fly
- Short battery life
Dell brings together a beautiful 1080p 15-inch display, a Blu-ray player and solid performance with the Inspiron 15R SE. It also features customizable lids to make it personalized to your liking but it does have below average battery life and is heavier than other similar laptops.
While similar to the Dell XPS notebook, the 15R SE (Special Edition) brings additional power and some other additional features without getting too expensive.
The design of the Dell Inspiron 15R SE is very sleek and stylish with a black anodized aluminum body with silver plastic trimming around the edges. For users wanting to make their laptops more customized, Dell offers SWITCH lids in a wide range of colors and textures for $30 each. The standard lid did seem to pickup fingerprints rather easily but we can't speak for these removable lids.
The 15R SE measures 14.9 x 10.0 x 1.3-inches (wdh) and weighs 6.4-pounds, which makes it slightly larger in size than other 15-inch laptops. The weight of this laptop is also much heavier by at least a half-pound. This may be an important factor for some potential buyers as portability may be a crucial factor.
One of Dell's major selling points for this laptop is the full 1080p high-definition 1920 x 1080-pixel display. We found the display to provide a very clear and crisp image with very good color representation. The matte finish also helped to reduce glare from ambient light. The viewing angles were only average, however, which was our only complaint.
Dell provides a spacious island-style keyboard that is extremely comfortable to use. It is also backlit, which is always a plus in our minds. The touchpad is about average in size and has two discrete left and right buttons at the bottom. In our use, we found the touchpad to be very responsive and accurate, even while using multitouch gestures.
The port selection on the Inspiron 15R SE includes four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI-out, VGA-out, Ethernet, headphone/microphone jacks and an 8-in-1 memory card reader. Wireless connectivity included 802.11n Wi-Fi. Our configuration included a Blu-ray reader/DVD+/-RW combo drive that adds to the laptop's multimedia features aside from the beautiful display.
The $1099 configuration that we tested included a third-generation Intel Core i7-3612QM (2.1GHz) CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB 5400RPM hard drive, a 32GB mSATA SSD cache drive and dual graphics that include both integrated Intel 4000 HD and an AMD Radeon HD 7730M with 2GB of RAM.
For a benchmark, we used 3DMark 11 because we were unable to get PCMark 7 to run for whatever reason. This test yielded a result of 1675, which is several hundred points ahead of the 15-inch category average. In real-world use, the cache SSD drive dramatically sped up boot times and we had no glitches while multitasking and surfing the Web. Watching Blu-ray and streaming HD video also was a very pleasing experience.
Dell includes dual graphics on the 15R SE: the standard integrated Intel HD graphics and a discrete AMD CPU for more power. The notebook will automatically switch between graphics systems but you have to specify first which applications that will use the discrete AMD system. This is unlike the Nvidia Optimus technology, which switches between graphics systems on-the-fly based upon the current demand. The discrete AMD graphics the 15R SE has will provide some added power for today's 3D games at graphics settings slightly turned down in the game.
Battery life is where we see a major fault as we were only able to get about 3.5-hours of life, which is about 1.5- to 2-hours short of the category average.
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