Dell Inspiron 15R Special Edition review

Price when reviewed

When you’re spending almost £900 on a laptop, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect a little luxury. Yet despite the Special Edition tag, this Inspiron doesn’t look luxurious. It’s clad in thick, dowdy plastic, and finished in a rather naff honeycomb texture that would be more at home on a sub-£500 machine.

Its looks aren’t the only disappointment. Part of the appeal of the SE is supposedly its interchangeable lid panels (blue, pink, red and white are also available), but the black unit backing our review laptop had an unsightly 0.5mm gap running along its top edge – perfect for catching dust and crumbs.

Dell Inspiron 15R Special Edition

To be fair to this 15in laptop, however, there isn’t an awful lot wrong with the rest of it. The specification list leaves no stone unturned: 1TB of storage, four USB 3 sockets, HDMI and D-SUB outputs, Gigabit Ethernet and a Blu-ray player. The warranty, as with the 17R, offers a year of on-site cover, which is better than most.

We like the layout of the keyboard: it lacks a number pad, but there are no compromises on any other front, with a large Enter key, sizeable cursor keys, and a sensibly organised navigation cluster. The action is on the woolly side and the keys rattle, but there’s no flex in the base, and the multitouch touchpad with its separate buttons is flawless.

Above the keyboard sits an excellent display. It’s Full HD, bright (321cd/m2) and has good contrast (655:1) – although it can’t match the Asus N56VM’s display for sheer punch. It’s an ideal display for anything from movie watching to photo editing, with a semi-matte finish that successfully keeps distracting reflections at bay.

Dell Inspiron 15R Special Edition

Although it looks and feels cheap, the plastics are tough, affording plenty of protection for the display and the components hidden away in the base. And when it comes to those core elements, again, there’s little room for criticism. The Inspiron 15R is equipped with a quad-core 2.1GHz Intel Core i7-3612QM, which scored 0.91 in the PC Pro application benchmarks – not the fastest we’ve seen, but not far behind the 0.95 of the Asus.

This is a laptop that will shrug off the most challenging multitasking, and it’s a competent gamer, too. Where many of its rivals have opted for Nvidia’s GeForce graphics chipsets, Dell has equipped the Inspiron 15R with AMD’s Radeon HD 7730M. It’s a potent chip, and delivered 22fps in our 1,920 x 1,080 High quality test – four frames quicker than the Asus and its Nvidia GeForce GT 630M chip.

Aside from the looks, the battery life is the only area of concern, and even then 5hrs 27mins in our light-use test isn’t a complete disaster. This adds up to a laptop that, while not pretty, will certainly get the job done. However, for a little more elegance, better all-round build quality and a little less cash, you can buy the Asus N56VM – and that’s why it’s still our favourite.


Warranty1yr on-site

Physical specifications

Dimensions378 x 252 x 35mm (WDH)
Travelling weight3.4kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Core i7-3612QM
Motherboard chipsetIntel HM77
RAM capacity8.00GB
Memory typeDDR3
SODIMM sockets free0
SODIMM sockets total2

Screen and video

Screen size15.6in
Resolution screen horizontal1,920
Resolution screen vertical1,080
Resolution1920 x 1080
Graphics chipsetAMD Radeon HD 7730M
Graphics card RAM2.00GB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
HDMI outputs1
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0


Hard disk usable capacity931GB
Spindle speed5,400RPM
Optical disc technologyBlu-ray reader/DVD writer combo
Battery capacity4,200mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0


Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a supportyes
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapterno

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchno
Wireless key-combination switchyes
ExpressCard34 slots0
ExpressCard54 slots0
PC Card slots0
FireWire ports0
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
Hardware volume control?no
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Camera megapixel rating1.3mp
Fingerprint readerno
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseno

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use5hr 27min
3D performance (crysis) low settings22fps
3D performance settingHigh
Overall Real World Benchmark score0.91

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS familyWindows 7
Recovery methodRecovery partition

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