Like most other large laptop manufacturers, Dell has several families of laptop to suit your budget. The XPS range dominates the high-end, with top-end models like the XPS 13 costing near £1,000, while those with a little less to spend may wish to look at the Inspiron range, from which we most recently looked at the Inspiron 15R. However, usually moving down to an Inspiron also meant you had to take a step down in specs – but what if you want the power without paying extra for a super-premium chassis? If that’s you, Dell has the answer with its Inspiron Special Editions, and here we’re checking out the Inspiron 17R Special Edition.
Specs & Design
What makes it so special? How about a Full HD/1080p screen paired with gaming-worthy Nvidia GeForce 650M graphics, along with up to 8GB of RAM supporting the Ivy Bridge Core i7 on the machine we got to play with. And then there are other details like an anodised aluminium frame with semi-soft textured black plastic panels and no fewer than four USB 3.0 ports…
While it’s not a patch on the quite frankly gorgeous new XPS laptops, the Inspiron 17R Special Edition still manages to convey a little class with its mixture of aluminium and black plastics. Most of the plastic panels feature a soft, textured coating with a visible honeycomb pattern that’s quite attractive, offset by glossy sections in areas where fingerprints won’t be an issue. In fact, if it weren’t for the gaps between some of these panels on closer inspection, we’d peg this Inspiron as quite premium in its own right. Build quality is also decent, though again it pales compared to the XPS range.
Connectivity & Usability
The Inspiron 17R Special Edition offers good connectivity by any measure, but especially for a mid-range machine. On the left you’ll find VGA and HDMI for video, twin USB 3.0 ports, plus headphone and microphone jacks. The right houses another two USB 3.0 ports to either side of the tray-loading optical drive (which can be upgraded to a Blu-ray reader) and a Gigabit Ethernet jack.
The chiclet keyboard eschews the backlighting of more premium laptop models but features well-spaced keys with plenty of travel and good feedback. Our only complaint is that there’s noticeable flex, though here your mileage may vary.
The touchpad is reasonably large and offers a pleasant matt surface. It sports physical buttons which, like the keyboard keys, have a crisp click.
It might not be an IPS panel, but the 17in 1,920 x 1,080 TN Dell has used is quite impressive. Unlike the glossy-screened Inspiron 15R Special Edition, the 17R uses a matt screen finish which prevents annoying reflections. Viewing angles are decent, especially horizontally. Colours are bright and dark detailing is good, with only one shade indistinguishable. Overall, it makes for a great entertainment and work experience.
While we’ll have to reserve final judgement until we can submit it to our tests and benchmarks, Dell’s Inspiron 17R Special Edition certainly seems to provide all the ingredients for a power user or gamer who might not be able to afford an XPS or Alienware chassis. Keep an eye out for our definitive review soon.