- Review Date: 06/05/2013
- Bottom line: Tipping the scales at the thick and heavy end of the ultrabook specifications, the Dell Inspiron 15z (I15Z-4801SLV) gives you extra features to justify its bulk. It's a good pick for the traditional laptop user who wants a new, fast laptop.
- Pros: Intel Core i7 power. Touch screen. Backlit keyboard. Four USB 3.0 ports. HDMI out.
- Cons: A bit heavy. A few pieces of bloatware.
The Dell Inspiron 15z (I15Z-4801SLV) ($829.99) is a more traditional interpretation of the ultrabook, with some of the new technology that is becoming almost mandatory for new PCs in 2013. It's got a high end Core i7 ultrabook processor, touch screen, and caching SSD for speed, but it's also somewhat thicker than cutting-edge ultrabooks. This is due to its extra I/O ports, optical drive, and large, 15-inch screen. It's a good mix of the traditional and the new, and should be considered by those who are willing to carry a bit more around with them in return for a little more performance and more features.
Design and Features
In outward appearange, the Inspiron 15z (I15Z-4801SLV) looks very much like the Dell Inspiron 15z-5523 ($1093). The I15Z-4801SLV is a pretty-standard looking clamshell ultrabook, measuring 0.9 by 15 by 10 inches (HWD) and weighing 5.23 pounds. It has a monotone brushed dark silver metallic lid and keyboard deck. It's a little thick compared with other ultrabooks, on account of its optical drive and 15.6-inch touch screen. The system's screen has a 1,366-by-768 resolution, good enough for 720p HD videos and for day-to-day computing. More expensive laptops will have a 1080p (1,920 by 1080 resolution) screen, but at this price point 720p is a decent tradeoff. Besides, if your eyesight is weaker than 20/20, the larger text and graphics will be welcome.
The I15Z-4801SLV comes with a backlit keyboard that is comfortable to use. The multi-touch trackpad supports all the usual Windows 8 gestures and two-finger swipes, but the star of the show is the 10-point touch screen. Since Windows 8 is designed to leverage touch, the screen makes total sense for midrange and enthusiast users. You can open programs, navigate the Web, and even draw and create art on the touch screen easily. Since the system is a clamshell notebook, the touch screen is meant to be used only part of the time. It'll be more comfortable to use a slate Windows 8 tablet PC like the Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro ($999) as a full-time touch screen, but the I15Z-4801SLV is quite livable as a part-time touch PC.
The I15Z-4801SLV comes with a 500GB hard drive with 32GB caching solid-state drive, 8GB of memory, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and other features that qualify it for ultrabook status. One thing that's somewhat rare for ultrabooks is the tray-loading DVD burner. Most ultrabooks eschew an optical drive to save thickness and weight. This is good news for people who still need to install older software or like the listen to music and watch videos on older media. Nope, the optical drive isn't quite dead yet.
Like most ultrabooks, the I15Z-4801SLV comes with a non-removable battery, which can be inconvenient if you're used to keeping a spare battery charged for use on flights or other situations where you're away from power for extended periods of time. The I15Z-4801SLV has just about five hours of battery life, so this may or may not be an issue for you.
The I15Z-4801SLV has full-size Ethernet and HDMI ports, a luxury afforded by the thickness of the chassis. There are four USB 3.0 ports, which is a lot better than thinner ultrabooks that may only have one or two. The USB 3.0 ports are colored black instead of the more traditional blue, but this is okay on the I15Z-4801SLV, since it only has USB 3.0 ports. If a competing system like the Toshiba Satellite U845t-S4165
The I15Z-4801SLV comes with a few pre-loaded applications and utilities. Some are useful out of the gate, like the Dell Support utilities and the one called "Getting Started with Windows 8" that can teach you the nuances of the new operating system. Other programs like Kindle and Skype are useful if you already use the services. Other tiles take you to shopping sites like Amazon and eBay, but on the whole they are essentially ads for these services. The I15Z-4801SLV comes with a one-year warranty.
The I15Z-4801SLV is more powerful than some rivals due to its Intel Core i7-3537U processor. The i7-3537U is a dual-core processor with HyperThreading, which lets the CPU process four streams of data at once. The processor also can overclock itself from 2.0 up to 3.1GHz when needed, which also helps performance. The I15Z-4801SLV made quick work of the PCMark7 benchmark test, which measures day-to-day performance. The system was quicker than the Sony VAIO T15 Touch (SVT15112CXS) ($949.99) and our current touch-screen ultrabook Editors' Choice, the Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51 ($699) on the day-to-day tests. However, the Toshiba U845t-S4165 was fastest overall, thanks to its SSD-only configuration. The I15Z-4801SLV has more storage space, but the SSD-only configuration is speedy.
The I15Z-4801SLV showed that it was faster than the Core i5-powered Toshiba U845t-S4165 and Asus S400CA-UH51 on the multimedia benchmark tests like Handbrake and Photoshop. Basically, if you have a need for more multimedia processing power to edit videos and photos, a Core i7-powered system like the I15Z-4801SLV is a better bet.
The I15Z-4801SLV had a passable 4 hours 49 minutes on our battery rundown test. This means that you should be able to get most of a day's work out of the system before you have to recharge. You could theoretically make it through an afternoon of college classes with this system before you need a recharge. The I15Z-4801SLV splits the difference between short-lived battery life on systems like the Acer Aspire V5-571PG-9814 ($999.99) (3:37) and the long lasting Toshiba U845t-S4165 (6:17). Just over six hours seems to be the current upper limit for midrange ultrabooks and ultraportable laptops.
The Dell Inspiron 15z (I15Z-4801SLV) will appeal to mainstream users who need Core i7 multimedia prowess in their day-to-day lives. This might mean the world to a budding Spielberg or Ansel Adams, who will want to work on their latest masterpiece, and then share it via DVD or by displaying it on a HDTV via HDMI. For most mainstream users, however, the Editors' Choice remains the Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51 as it's a better option for mainstream PC users at a better price point.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.