A large number of students and their parents spend each Summer in search of that one perfect laptop for the back to school season. What makes the “perfect” student laptop? For most back-to-school shoppers, it all comes down to a good mix of performance, portability, screen size, battery life and price. We believe the Dell Insprion 15R offers that mix, giving you the best bang for your bucks this Fall.
The Dell Inspiron 15R with Windows 7 Home Premium and second-generation Intel Core-series processors earned our top pick for returning students first and foremost because of its combination of powerful specifications in an affordable price range. Our review model was equipped with an Intel Core i5-2410M dual-core processor with a clock speed of 2.3 GHz (2.9 GHz with Intel Turbo Boost) and the latest Intel integrated graphics. Although the 15-inch screen is a little too large for easy use on your desk in class, the larger screen offers the ideal mix between portability and desktop convenience and is perfect for your next dorm room. The system weighs in at less than six pounds and its dimensions are 14.7 (L) x 9.6 (W) x 1.2 (H) inches.
Of course, one of the major design features that Dell has been promoting with the Inspiron 15R is the ability to change lids. During (or after) purchase you can buy alternate lid panels with a variety of colors and patterns for the 15R. Dell calls these “SWITCHable Lids” and charges between $29.99 and $59.99 depending on the color and design. Of course, you can also choose the standard black at no extra cost.
The build quality ranks high for a mostly plastic laptop and the chassis does not flex much when pressure is applied. The keyboard is a nice Chiclet-style keyboard with good support and our only complaint about it was the lack of LED backlighting so you can see what you’re typing in the dark.
The system has a 15.6-inch LED-backlit display with a 1366 x 768 screen resolution. We really wish Dell offered a higher -resolution 1600 x 900 panel as an option for multitasking students. On a happier note, Dell does offer the option of upgrading the graphcis to AMD Radeon HD 6470M GPU with 512MB of dedicated GDDR3 RAM. Add those AMD graphics and you can play a few games after you’ve written that English paper.
Dell offers both a standard 6-cell and an extended-life 9-cell Li-ion battery with the Inspiron 15R. We found that the 9-cell battery was able to deliver 7 hours and 14 minutes of life while web browsing. That’s pretty good for a laptop with a starting price of $499. Just be prepared to spend a little more for a really impressive configuration.
Read our review of the Dell Inspiron 15R to find out for yourself if this is the back to school “laptop of choice.”
An Alternative Laptop…
The HP Pavilion dm1z is a well-balanced, ultraportable laptop for students who need to take their computer everywhere … assuming you can live with the 11-inch display. Click here to read the full review for a more in-depth look.
While you’re at it, be sure to take a look at our feature on Student Tech: Video Chat from PCs and Smartphones for a guide on how to stay connected to your friends and family while you’re away at school. Also, if you need an external mouse, but are short on desk space, check out our review of the new Kensington Orbit Wireless Mobile Trackball.
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