Most of us like to be able to express a bit of individuality, and some would see their portable electronics as no less of a fashion statement than the clothes they wear. Dell has always catered to a variety of tastes with many of its mid-range laptop and desktop systems, and continues to do so with the replaceable lids of its Inspiron 15R (also known as the N5110). That aside, you also get a pretty decent mid-range all-rounder with solid construction, specs and good connectivity, so let’s find out how this versatile 15.6in laptop holds up.
The Inspiron 15R is a classic mid-range laptop, coming in just above the cheaper £279 Inspiron 15, at £419. That £140 difference nets you slightly better connectivity, more choice of specs, and this range's signature interchangeable lids. The range tops out at a still reasonable £699 while our review sample will set you back £579.
The 15R's styling is quite attractive, if fairly basic. You get a chunky but suitably all-matching glossy black base, with your lid of choice sitting on top. There are over 34 lids to choose from in a variety of colours, textures, patterns and designs. They’re not all the same price though, and some will set you back as much as £40. Thankfully, a “diamond black” lid is included in the default price. Switching lids is as simple as can be: merely push an unobtrusive button above the hinge to release the lid and slide it off.
The glossy black plastic used for the rest of the chassis is quite attractive, enhanced by a subtle faux brushed-metal pattern. This also makes it less of a fingerprint magnet than many shiny finishes, but prints and grease marks are still visible, depending on the angle you’re looking from.
The matt-keyed chiclet keyboard, meanwhile, is nicely offset from its surround by a narrow chromed strip, while the chrome power button is backlit in white. Rounded edges and a few curves make for a nice contrast to the sharp lines we so frequently observe on other laptops.
Build quality is decent enough, with a little flex here and there on the chassis and quite a lot under the keyboard, but there are no obvious areas for concern. The hinge seems quite sturdy and ensures the screen stays in the exact position you put it in.
Where the 15R really begins to shine is in its connectivity. Along the left you’ll find two USB 2.0 ports, one of which doubles as eSATA. There’s also an HDMI 1.4 port and SDXC card reader. To the right we have our first USB 3.0 port joining headphone and microphone jacks and a tray-loading DVD writer.
Meanwhile the back houses a second USB 3.0 port, VGA for those with older monitors, and a Gigabit Ethernet port. If you want to hook up without wires, you’re covered by both Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth. To be honest, we can’t think of a single important omission on that list. Throw in the HD webcam, and it becomes obvious Dell hasn’t skimped on features here.