When it comes to performance there is plenty on tap, with Dell’s flexible spec choices meaning the Inspiron 15R caters to a wide range of users and budgets. Our £579 configuration (going by the swanky model number of 5110-1274) has a dual-core Intel Core i5-2410M at the helm. This is the slowest and cheapest Core i5 processor going, but it’s still plenty fast enough for nearly every task, with a standard clock speed of 2.3GHz and Turbo frequency of up to 2.9GHz. It also supports up to four ‘virtual’ cores. And if that’s not enough CPU for you, you can get up to a Core i7-2630QM.
Returning to our machine, it sports 4GB of RAM. The cheapest £419 15R starts off with 3GB, but we definitely recommend spending the extra to get 4GB. Storage on our 5110-1274 model comes in the form of a 5,400rpm 500GB hard drive, and though we might have hoped for a speedier drive, it should provide adequate space for the average user.
On the graphics front, meanwhile, you get a dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 525M. While we would hesitate to class it as a ‘proper’ gaming card (leaving that title to the GTX 460M and upwards, as found in the award-winning Medion Erazer X6813), it certainly lets you play less demanding titles in all their glory at the screen’s native resolution - as demonstrated by a smooth 35.7fps average in Stalker: Call of Pripyat with details turned up to maximum.
It’s certainly worth keeping in mind that Dell’s high-end 15.6in XPS 15 comes in at only £599 for the exact-same configuration, and for the £10 difference you might want the extra flexibility and options it provides. However, you will be ‘stuck’ with its (rather nice) default brushed aluminium lid.
With a starting weight of 2.65kg, the Inspiron 15R is about average for a 15.6in laptop. Battery life is actually slightly better than the norm, however. Thanks to its 48Wh replaceable unit, the 15R beats similarly-sized machines like the Asus N53SV and Acer Aspire Ethos 5951G – though it in turn gets trounced by Dell’s own Dell XPS 15z.
When it comes to value, however, the entire Inspiron 15R/N5110 range hits a bit of a snag. While certainly not too overpriced, the fact remains that, unless you have a particular need for USB 3.0, there are cheaper systems readily available with better specifications for most of the range’s configurations.
Of course, they might not hold up as well in certain areas, and you do lose out on the unique ability to effortlessly switch lids. However, comparing to our review spec, the Asus N53SV currently gives you more RAM, a larger hard drive, a Blu-ray drive and far superior graphics for just £20 more. In the face of all that, its inferior screen and battery life are probably negligible.
With the 15R, Dell has put together a versatile 15.6in budget to midrange laptop that doesn’t compromise on connectivity. Relatively minor weaknesses with its keyboard aside, it holds up well overall, with the interchangeable lids being a great way to change the design according to your mood or to match the colour of your shoes (if you’re that way inclined). Unfortunately, at the moment its pricing doesn’t make it the most competitive option out there, and without other areas where it truly excels, it’s worth checking out alternatives.