In these financially troubled times, the budget sector is more important than ever. Considering it's a notebook from the world's third-largest PC manufacturer, Dell's Inspiron 1545 (also known as the Inspiron 15) has a lot to live up to, especially since the last Inspiron we had through our labs, the Inspiron 1525, walked away with our coveted Recommended Award. Let's find out if the 1545 is worthy of similar praise.
As with many new budget notebooks, Dell's latest is available in a few different colours if purchased direct. Matte Black is standard, but for an extra £29.99 you can choose Microsatin Blue, Red or Pacific High-Gloss Blue lids. Not exactly much choice, especially given Dell's usually prolific customisation options, but any choice is better than none. Our particular model, available from PC World for £429.99, came with a blue 'high-gloss' lid. While not quite as bad as piano black at showing fingerprints, it will still require regular attention and there is no cloth provided for this.
Opening the notebook up is even worse, since aside from the notebook's sides, keyboard and touchpad every visible inch is glossy black. While this shiny finish looks attractive, every time you type or use the touchpad your notebook will display streaks and prints. There's not even any kind of pattern à la Toshiba A350-11N or HP HDX 16 to somewhat disguise this effect. After just a day in the office, the 1545 looked like it had been sitting out for a week. Semi-matte palm rests might not have looked quite as flashy, but they would sure require a lot less maintenance.
Aside from this, the design is streamlined and minimalist. Apart from the keyboard and touchpad, the only things breaking the Inspiron's clean lines are a speaker grille and small square chromed power button above the keyboard. In the first sign of the 1545's budget nature, there's not even a webcam to spoil the screen's slick bezel. To be honest, this is a bit of a harsh omission even on a notebook available for around £400 since even the cheapest netbooks come with one. And, though Dell offers a 1.3 Megapixel model for upgrade if buying the 1545 direct, it charges a hefty £30 for the privilege.
Thankfully, build quality doesn't show any signs of such severe cost-cutting. All the plastics used feel very solid and there is no sign of extravagant flex or creak. Connectivity, though, is another area that has been seriously affected. Aside from the usual DVD-Rewriter and memory card reader, we have a 34mm ExpressCard slot rather than the more usual 54mm version. In addition there are headphone and microphone jacks, three USB ports, an Ethernet port and VGA-out. One could argue that this is no more than most people will need, but just to put it into perspective, the latter list is no better than what you'd find on a netbook and even the Inspiron 1525 managed to include an HDMI port.