Dell Inspiron 15 Overview

Our review unit came to us with the "ice blue" lid, and it's attractive indeed. While glossy plastics adorn the majority of the Inspiron 15, it's not quite the fingerprint-magnet and general eyesore that many of Toshiba's notebooks have been over the past two years.

Glossy plastics can be fairly attractive if used in moderation, and for the most part they are here, though even photographing the Inspiron 15 required having a microfiber cloth handy to remove smudges from fingerprints. Glossy plastic is used on the lid as well as the bezel for the screen and trim around the touchpad and keyboard. The bluish-silver coloring on the inside is attractive, with a light-brushed aluminum pattern to it. In the center is the touchpad, which is lightly textured and very comfortable to use.

Dell's designers know moderation, though, and we were happy to see a matte plastic keyboard and frame. Many manufacturers have taken to using glossy plastics even on the keyboards, which is frustrating as the texture isn't as pleasant or comfortable. The matte plastic keyboard takes advantage of the added width required to accommodate a 15.6" 16:9-aspect screen to include a numeric keypad. Overall, the keyboard layout is logical and well thought out, with no real sacrifices made to fit the keypad and dedicated keys for Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down. Dell even includes a dedicated touchpad toggle key between the F12 and Insert keys, but eschewed the Scroll Lock key to do so. The keyboard is comfortable and easy to use, and while flex isn't ideal—the keyboard isn't completely firm—it's nowhere near as bad as many other consumer laptop keyboards are.

While the overall build of the Inspiron 15 is very firm and the use of glossy plastics at least tasteful, Dell's designers seem to have missed the boat in stripping down features to produce a more affordable notebook. As we mentioned before, expandability has taken a massive hit with this model and the cuts Dell made have been cruel ones. The lack of eSATA or FireWire—not even an eSATA/USB combo port—is exacerbated by the missing ExpressCard port. The bottom panel on the unit allows the user to replace the hard drive or memory, but there's just no way to improve connectivity beyond what's there. Likewise, the limited customizability on Dell's website ensures you're stuck with the 15.6" LED-backlit screen's mainstream 1366x768 resolution. Even a matte screen would be a welcome change, especially with the default screen's mediocre viewing angles and poor contrast.

We understand that the Inspiron 15 is meant to be more of a bargain, entry-level laptop, but there's little point in upgrading from the base model Inspiron 1564 with i3-330M (2.13GHz with no Turbo Boost) to the beefier i5-520M. Not only does the added performance go to waste in most cases, but it's also a $270 jump for the CPU upgrade. We suspect Dell shipped us the higher-end model to improve benchmark scores, but frankly it's not worth the cost and we recommend the less expensive Inspiron 15 offerings for general use. If you want a faster CPU, look to the Dell Studio 15 line, which adds the missing eSATA, Firewire, and ExpressCard/34 along with a 1080p LCD and the ability to customize many other areas—or look at HP, Acer, ASUS, Toshiba and others who offer notebooks in the same price range with far more expandability than the Inspiron. Ultimately, the trade-off is going to be how much you want to sacrifice to get a mainstream processor in a fairly slim, lightweight chassis.

Index Dell Inspiron 15 Application Performance
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  • autoboy - Friday, March 5, 2010 - link

    I received my 1464 the day you reviewed the 1564. It's the same laptop but with a 14" screen.

    Mine has the Core i5 430.

    I use an external monitor 95% of the time so the poor quality screen isn't a problem. It's actually better then my old HP. I don't mind the lack of expresscard since I've never used it. I use a usb hub for my peripherals so only 3 ports is fine. I actually didn't notice the 100mbit ethernet, but oh well. I'll eventually upgrade to N wireless but my router is G so the G doesn't bother me for now. I'm happy with the quality and features. All I wanted was a cheap 14" laptop with HDMI and the Core i5 without a graphics card. That's what I got.

    BUT, the fan on my laptop is constantly turning on and off. It is SO annoying in a quiet room and it is driving me nuts. I'm sitting here in my office not working, and thinking of a way to build a stand for the laptop with a quiet 80mm fan that blows directly into the air inlet so the fan will never ramp up. I've studied the CPU and the fan turns on at 27C (why can't it go to 50 before turning on?) and turns off at 20C a minute later. Then it climbs to 27, the fan turns on, and then it turns off at 20C.

    I can't find a fan control program that is able to control the fans. I can't find a program that is able to undervolt the processor. I just spent $30 on a laptop cooler with movable fans. If that doesn't work I'm building my own with some wood, a 5V wall wort, and some foam. Dell, it is UNACCEPTABLE to build a computer that changes the way it sounds just sitting there doing nothing. Learn how to program a fan control system. This is my last Dell. Every notebook from now on, I'll have to touch and wait around for the fan to stabilize before I buy it.
  • mikecel79 - Friday, March 5, 2010 - link

    I'm looking at the new Studio 14 with the Core i3/i5 CPUs but haven't found a good review of it yet. It's got the same CPUs but can be had with a Radeon 4530 and 7200 RPM drives.
  • Pirks - Friday, March 5, 2010 - link

    "Dell's designers seem to understand the importance of user experience extending beyond simple metrics like system performance"

    So Dell's designers are much MUCH smarter than most of the DT readers :P
  • jabber - Thursday, March 4, 2010 - link

    I've been using the similar equiped (ports wise) Inspiron 13Z for the past 5 months and to be honest I've havent missed having a PCMCIA/Express port or a fourth USB port at all.

    I think Dell have done some research on what parts most users need/use and found that (especially Express port) they just arent needed.

    This range of Inspirons are really great.
  • Iketh - Thursday, March 4, 2010 - link

    this article was hard to read... far too wordy... detailed, but not enjoyable
  • ezinner - Thursday, March 4, 2010 - link

    No 7,200 RPM HD
    No Gigabit Ethernet
    4 Hour Battery
    Sub $1,000 cost
    If the ending price was $579, it would be a good deal.
  • Wadzii22 - Thursday, March 4, 2010 - link

    I have had 2 of the older 1545's, one with the 768 screen and one with the 1600x900 screen... spring for the better screen, its well worth the price, and these things can be had for much cheaper through the outlet.
  • T2k - Thursday, March 4, 2010 - link

    ...did Dell actually ask you to "review" this unit? Because if they did, they are not happy, I think. :D

    Joking aside please, take a look at this gem:">

    Good brand, killer i5-based (2.26GHz) config including latest DX11 Mobility Radeon 5650 1GB, for $750 (faster 2.4GHz adds $100 more) - I'm pretty sure anyone interested in a decent laptop would love to see the results...
  • Crucial - Thursday, March 4, 2010 - link

    Did Acer ask you to pimp this system? It's the second time you've linked to it in this post.
  • T2k - Thursday, March 4, 2010 - link

    Or perhaps simply because I THINK IT IS A GREAT DEAL and I want people to know about it?

    Stupid moron.

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