June 22, 2011
- Stylish design
- Above average port selection
- Solid performance for most
- Good battery life
- Soft-feeling keyboard
- No Blu-ray optical drive
- Only average gaming performance
The Dell Inspiron 17R is a large 17-inch desktop replacement laptop that has a sturdy design that as some updated internals and ports, including USB 3.0 and Intel's Wireless Display interface. However it has only average graphics performance and doesn't have a Blu-ray optical drive.
The Dell Inspiron 17R is quite large since it is a desktop replacement laptop, so it's not meant to be carried around more than perhaps around the house. It measures 16.5 x 11.4 x 1.5-inches (wdh) and weighs 7.3-pounds. The new and refreshed design comes in several different colors. The lid is quite glossy, so expect it to show a lot of fingerprints. The palm rest area has a brushed-metal design that makes it really look quite slick.
Dell includes a full-sized keyboard that also has a dedicated numeric pad. The chiclet-style keyboard does feel a little soft, but it doesn't have any gripes like undersized keys. The touchpad is adequately sized and provided an almost frictionless experience.
The 17.3-inch LED-backlit display has a native resolution of 1600 x 900-pixels, which is above 720p high-definition quality. The screen's LED backlights provided a good amount of brightness and as a result, showed very vivid colors. Viewing angles were also pretty decent with this laptop, which can sometimes be an issues with laptop screens.
In terms of connectivity, you'll find a little more than your average notebook. You get two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, a USB 2.0/eSATA combo port, HDMI-out, VGA-out, WiDi support, gigabit Ethernet and a 4-in-1 memory card slot. The WiDi is Intel's Wireless Display interface which allows you to wirelessly push your video signal to a TV or external display with a separate adapter. There's also 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity.
We really appreciate the inclusion of two USB 3.0 ports because the usual is only one, if any. The eSATA combo port is also really nice in addition to both Bluetooth and WiDi support.
The internal specifications of the Dell Inspiron 17R include a dual-core "Sandy Bridge" Intel Core i5-2410M CPU (2.4GHz), 6GB of RAM, a 500GB 5400RPM hard drive and Nvidia GeForce GT 525M discrete video card with 1GB of dedicated memory. The optical disc drive is only a dual-layer DVD+/-RW drive and not a Blu-ray drive, which would be a really nice addition. Dell does offer configurations with less specs, mainly with a Core i3 and less memory, for a cheaper starting price if you aren't interesting in having a lot of power for things like gaming.
Despite having a discrete graphics chip, it doesn't give you the best 3D gaming performance by any means. In actuality, it's only average with most other similar laptops with a few performing better. Watching HD streaming video off the Internet, however, was most enjoyable without any performance issues. With most computing tasks, you'll find the Dell Inspiron 17R a strong-performer all-around. This is mainly due to the Intel CPU and large amount of memory.
Dell installs Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium as the operating system. They also pre-install lots of software, including Microsoft Office 2010 Starter, McAfee Security Center, Roxio Creator and some Dell utilities.
Battery life is actually pretty decent with this powerhouse of a laptop. Expect to get almost 4 hours of life with the included 9-cell battery (a 6-cell is available too) if you do intend on making this large laptop portable.