Dell Inspiron 17R review

Bulky and short on battery life, but the big screen, top-quality speakers and gaming power make this a laptop not to be overlooked

David Bayon
28 Jun 2012
5
Price when reviewed 
479

If you're after a compact, dainty laptop, then Dell's Inspiron 17R definitely isn't it. Instead of a focus on balance and everyman appeal, this chunky desktop replacement crams a monstrous display, a Core i3 processor and Nvidia graphics into a 38mm thick, 3.3kg chassis.

That may sound like a bad thing, but all that extra bulk makes room for a features list that most budget laptops will struggle to match.

Open up the smooth, subtly patterned lid, and the main attraction quickly becomes apparent. The 17.3in glossy screen raises the resolution to 1,600 x 900 - the closest thing you're going to get to a Full-HD display at this low price. And it performed well when we gave it the once-over with the colorimeter.

Dell Inspiron 17R - front

At maximum brightness we measured it at 249cd/m2, with a contrast ratio of 252:1. The colour temperature is very close to the neutral target of 6500k too. To the naked eye it's bright, sharp and colours are vibrant, and the extra resolution really does make a big difference.

That picture quality is more than matched by the speakers, which are loud, with a well-rounded sound that packs plenty of bass. By laptop standards, and moreover by the often tinny standards of your average budget laptop, the Inspiron 17R's sound quality is really rather accomplished.

For games, there's an Nvidia GeForce GT 525M graphics card, which is just about powerful enough to get you playing Crysis at the native 1,600 x 900 resolution, with Medium quality settings. In our test it averaged 30fps, which is just about playable, and that means less demanding games should be, too, at higher settings. There's also a 640GB hard disk on which to store your media, games and applications, plus a DVD writer.

Compromises have to be made somewhere to fit the budget price and here it's in the specification. Dell sent us the 17R with a 2.2GHz Intel Core i3-2330M and 4GB of RAM, which drove it to a reasonable 0.56 in our benchmarks. Dell has since upped it to a 2.3GHz i3-2350M. And, despite its size, the battery is a small 4,200mAh unit that lasted only 3hrs 29mins in our light-use battery test.

Dell Inspiron 17R - keyboard

The keyboard also feels insubstantial - but that's forgivable since it stretches a good way across the wide base. The touchpad makes amends, too, with its large surface providing responsive and accurate cursor control. Around the sides are two USB 3 ports, one USB 2 and a combination USB/eSATA port to tick all the boxes. There's also a 0.9 megapixel (720p) webcam above the screen.

A 17in laptop certainly won't suit everyone, particularly with such uninspiring battery life, but if portability isn't one of your main priorities, we can thoroughly recommend the Dell Inspiron 17R as a larger option. It's well built, has a good screen, excellent speakers and a fair bit of gaming muscle, which for £479 makes it a bargain.

Warranty

Warranty1yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions418 x 287 x 38mm (WDH)
Weight3.320kg
Travelling weight3.8kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Core i3-2350M
Motherboard chipsetIntel HM67 Express
RAM capacity4.00GB
Memory typeDDR3
SODIMM sockets free0
SODIMM sockets total2

Screen and video

Screen size17.3in
Resolution screen horizontal1,600
Resolution screen vertical900
Resolution1600 x 900
Graphics chipsetIntel HD Graphics 3000/Nvidia GeForce GT 525M
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
HDMI outputs1
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0

Drives

Capacity640GB
Hard disk usable capacity596GB
Spindle speed5,400RPM
Internal disk interfaceSATA/300
Optical disc technologyDVD writer
Battery capacity4,200mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0

Networking

Wired adapter speed100Mbits/sec
802.11a supportno
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapterno
Bluetooth supportyes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchno
Wireless key-combination switchyes
Modemno
ExpressCard34 slots0
ExpressCard54 slots0
PC Card slots0
USB ports (downstream)2
FireWire ports0
eSATA ports1
PS/2 mouse portno
9-pin serial ports0
Parallel ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
3.5mm audio jacks2
SD card readeryes
Memory Stick readeryes
MMC (multimedia card) readeryes
Smart Media readerno
Compact Flash readerno
xD-card readerno
Pointing device typeTouchpad
Audio chipsetRealtek HD Audio
Hardware volume control?no
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Camera megapixel rating0.9mp
TPMno
Fingerprint readerno
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseno

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use3hr 29min
Battery life, heavy use1hr 22min
3D performance (crysis) low settings76fps
3D performance settingLow
Overall Real World Benchmark score0.56
Responsiveness score0.68
Media score0.58
Multitasking score0.43

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS familyWindows 7
Recovery methodRecovery partition, burn own recovery discs

Read more about