Dell’s keyboards have been a bit hit and miss recently, and its Inspiron 15R treads somewhere in the middle of the road. Good points include a logical layout with well-spaced keys, though there are no secondary functions on the cursor keys, as we've come to expect. Individual keys offer a comfortable shape and surface, and adequate travel with a nice click. However, the positive effect is somewhat ruined by cheap-feeling rattle and flex throughout.
Despite this, we would reckon the typing experience is superior to that found on the company’s high-end Dell XPS 15z, and about on par with the XPS 15. We wish Dell would pay more attention to making its keyboard usable rather than messing around with them for aesthetic reasons - usability really is one of the prime factors for any portable device.
We’re loving how the touchpad is seamlessly (literally) integrated into its surround. To differentiate it is slightly recessed and features a change in texture to a smooth matt finish that feels lovely on the finger. It’s large enough for effortless multi-touch gestures, doesn’t interfere with typing, and is very sensitive. Its buttons are likewise huge, easy to press and offer a nice amount of travel, making for excellent pointer navigation.
Similar to the XPS 15z, the Inspiron 15R’s speakers manage impressive levels of detail with plenty of clarity at the high end. However, distortion increases along with volume and bass lacks the punch you’ll find from some rivals. Even so, for a budget laptop this is a reasonably impressive showing.
Unlike their XPS cousins the Inspirons don’t offer a Full HD screen option, so you’re stuck with 1,366 x 758 pixels. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, and it’s the standard resolution for 15.6in laptop screens everywhere. In addition, the TN-based display here is actually quite good.
Contrast is decent with only the two darkest shades on our greyscale remaining indistinguishable, aided by even backlighting with minimal light bleed. Colours are punchy, thanks in part to the screen’s glossy finish (which obviously has the downside of being reflective but this is the norm at this level). Last but certainly not least, viewing angles are unusually good for a cheap TN screen, with only some contrast shift spoiling the party.