Even if you go for the Inspiron 17R’s relatively low-end Core i3 option, that should be plenty of power for what the average consumer will want from a laptop like this, and the 2.4GHz Core i5-450M will certainly handle almost anything with ease. It’s worth noting that, unlike the model available to buy from Dell, our review sample has a slower 430M running at 2.27GHz, so the Core i5 machine you get will perform slightly better than our results.
Against the competition the 17R does pretty well, beating both the Core i3-toting Toshiba Satellite A660-14C and the Samsung R780, which sports the same CPU and RAM. Ultimately this is a system that fulfils the desktop replacement criteria perfectly, as it will cope with day-to-day multitasking, HD video editing and photo manipulation with few discernable problems.
It would be a stretch to call the 17R’s top graphics option – the AMD/ATI Mobility Radeon 5470 of our review sample – a gaming card, but it will just about handle older and less demanding titles at the laptop’s native screen resolution. However, even at 1,366 x 768, something a little more high-end like STALKER: Call of Pripyat wasn’t playable. Some compromise on settings may get you playable frame rates, but the drop in image quality will be noticeable.
Unfortunately there are no switchable graphics available, so the discrete graphics do have a negative impact on battery life. The most you can expect to get from the 17R’s six-cell (48 Watt-hour, 11.1V) battery is around three hours, but to be fair that’s not bad for a desktop replacement laptop and is likely as much as you would need.
In the intensive DVD playback test this Inspiron managed just under two hours, and considering the screen remains perfectly legible at half of this test’s 100 percent brightness, you should be able to get a bit longer from it. The reason Samsung’s R780 lags behind here is its more powerful discrete graphics which, as you can see in the gaming tests, do have an appreciable impact.
Dell can usually be relied on to offer great value for money, and while the 17R isn’t quite the bargain we’ve come to expect from the third-biggest laptop maker in the world, it does hold up fairly well against the competition. The Toshiba Satellite A660-14C, for example, might offer a Blu-ray drive, but it also sports a slower, cheaper processor, a lower screen resolution, lacks Bluetooth and isn’t as comfortable to use. A bigger, Intel-based cousin to the award-winning HP Pavilion DV6, predictably called the DV7, is also available with identical specifications to the 17R at an identical price, but as we haven’t reviewed the DV7 range recently we can’t recommend one over the other.
If you can live with its glossy finish inside and out, Dell’s attractive new Inspiron 17R is a decently-priced desktop replacement offering a superlative typing experience.