On the design front the new Inspiron can best be described as pleasant. The colourful exterior is a nice touch, while the Microsatin finish has a classy feel and has the added benefit of being surprisingly durable and scratch resistance. This is certainly of real benefit, especially since the majority of notebooks with colourful finishes are far too prone to scratches and generally not very durable. Do bear in mind though that you have to pay £10.99 extra for a Microsatin finish, should that be what you want.
However, this aside there’s nothing about the new Inspiron chassis that screams out at you, and certainly nothing that justifies the ‘Fashionista’ tag. It doesn't help matters that it's a pretty bulky machine, measuring 358mm wide, 269mm deep and 37mm tall while weighing in at 3.2kg with its extended 9-cell battery. On the inside things are kept simple with an all silver finish and a general lack of too much paraphernalia; just a Power button, a shortcut to Dell’s Media Center rip-off and some media control keys that are discreetly embedded into the front edge.
A similar story can be told of the connectivity options, which are fairly thorough but lacking in a few fundamental ways. On the left edge there’s a Wi-Fi On/Off switch, 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks and a 54mm Express Card slot. On the front edge there isn’t a great deal to see, just an infrared sensor, media keys and the two speakers which point downward. These are fairly decent speakers, achieving some surprisingly high volumes and sporting sufficient clarity for film dialogue.
Moving to the right edge there are two USB ports, which are mounted horizontally above and below each other, a 10/100 Ethernet port, D-Sub, a 4-pin FireWire port and an 8-in-1 card reader, with the rest of the space taken up by the optical drive. Finally, on the back, there’s a 7-pin S-Video, two further USB ports, the DC-in and a modem port.
There are two notable absentees from this list; these namely being an S/PDIF jack, be it a combined or standalone port, or an HDMI output. These are two things that in this day and age are nigh on essentials, especially for a notebook of this size that claims to be about multimedia and entertainment.
When you also consider that a competing notebook such as Acer's Aspire 5920 has both S/PDIF and an HDMI output as well as D-Sub, a 7-pin S-Video out and Dolby Home Theatre support, then the multimedia credentials of the Inspiron 1520 look dubious. Intriguingly, Dell does provide an option for a Blu-ray drive, and presumably Dell does add an HDMI port if this is selected.