Dell Inspiron 1525 Review

by Jerry Jackson Reads (1,359,565)

by Jerry Jackson

The old days of bulky, overweight Dell notebooks may be coming to a close in 2008. Today Dell announced their latest addition to the Inspiron family of notebooks, the 15.4-inch Inspiron 1525. We are happy to have a pre-production unit to review, and this sleek successor to the Inspiron 1520 might just surprise you.

Our pre-production Inspiron 1525 is equipped with the following specs:

  • 15.4-inch WXGA (1280 x 800) CCFL TrueLife (glossy) screen
  • 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7250 processor
  • 2GB DDR2-667 SDRAM (up to 4GB DDR2 SDRAM available)
  • 120GB 5400 RPM SATA HDD
  • 8x Dual-layer DVD±RW drive
  • Video: Intel Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
  • Wireless: Dell Wireless 1390 802.11g Mini Card
  • Mobile Broadband: Dell Wireless integrated mobile broadband mini-cards Sprint and Verizon serice
  • Colors: Multiple colors and finishes available
  • Media Card: 8-in-1 flash memory reader
  • Input and Output Ports: 4 USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, IEEE 1394a, RJ11, RJ45, 2 headphone, 1 microphone, 1 ExpressCard 54mm slot, 3 mini-card slots, consumer IR, S-Video
  • No webcam (optional Integrated 2.0 megapixel webcam available)
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Dimensions: 1.00" – 1.48" (height) x 14.05" (width) x 10.08" (depth)
  • Weight: 5.9lbs with 6-cell battery
  • Base configuration price: $499
  • Price as tested: $1,024 ($874 after instant savings)


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Build and Design

Dell received some much needed attention in 2007 with the introduction of the sleek, high performance XPS M1330 and XPS M1530 notebooks. Although these more expensive notebooks in the Dell lineup were praised for their looks and low weight, the Dell Inspiron 1520 was criticized for being yet another bulky and unattractive laptop. Dell listened closely to this criticism when they designed the new Inspiron 1525. The Inspiron 1525 is in fact 25% smaller, 30% slimmer and almost half a pound lighter than the Inspiron 1520.

In addition to the eight color options available on other Inspiron notebooks, the 1525 offers four new patterns. These designs are inlaid molds so there’s no risk of the design coming off.


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Although I wasn’t a huge fan of the glossy inlaid "Commotion Pattern" design on our pre-production Inspiron 1525, I must say it looks flawless. I was highly critical of the paint application on the Inspiron 1420, 1520, and 1720 because the paint has questionable durability. The new glossy lid designs might be a magnet for fingerprints, but it certainly looks more durable than the old Inspiron paint jobs.

Screen

Display options for the Inspiron 1525 include a matte finish 15.4" Widescreen XGA (1280 x 800), a 15.4" Widescreen XGA (1280 x 800) with TruleLife (glossy finish), or a 15.4" "high resolution" (1440 x 900) glossy widescreen display. On the surface the lack of higher resolutions is a serious flaw in the design of the 1525. In truth, the overwhelming majority of "average" notebook users will think the WXGA resolution looks stunning.

The screen on our pre-production unit looks flawless from straight on and the horizontal viewing angles are great. Upper vertical viewing angles are good, but colors did begin to invert at lower viewing angles when the screen is tilted back.


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Keyboard, Touchpad and Media Controls

The keyboard on the Inspiron 1525 is fairly similar to the 1520. The keyboard is firm with virtually no flex and the keys have excellent travel and cushion.


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The touchpad surface utilizes the new design that is integrated with the palm rest surface. The only separation between the palm rests and the touchpad is the indented area above the touchpad buttons. The touchpad buttons have excellent travel and cushion, though I did feel like they made a bit too much of a "clicking" sound when pressed. The good news with the touchpad is that it’s responsive, has dedicated scroll areas and the textured feel is good.


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A series of touch-sensitive media buttons with blue LED backlights are located above the keyboard similar to the buttons on the XPS notebooks. One nice feature about the media buttons is that the blue LEDs only stay lit for a fraction of a second after being pressed, so they won’t distract you by staying lit all the time. Another "interesting" feature of the media buttons is that the blue LEDs "pulse" back and forth for a few seconds during Windows startup not unlike KITT from the old Knight Rider TV series or a cylon from Battlestar Galactica.


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Ports and Features

The port selection of the 1525 is resonably good for a notebook of this size. Here’s a quick rundown of what you get:


Front profile view: LED status lights, dual headphone out, microphone in, and memory card reader. (view large image)


Left side: Kensington lock slot, DC power jack, two USB ports, Ethernet, modem, HDMI out, and FireWire. (view large image)


Right side: ExpressCard slot, WiFi on/off/WiFi catcher, optical drive, S-Video out, and two USB ports. (view large image)


Back profile view: no ports here.(view large image)

The built-in HDMI is a very nice thing to have for those that want digital video output, S-Video and VGA are also there for the more old-fashioned approach to video output. The fact that the 1525 supports HDMI with integrated graphics is impressive … though we didn’t have the opportunity the test the limits of the HDMI output from the integrated X3100 graphics.

With the addition of FireWire, four USB ports, a media card reader, two headphone jacks, microphone jack, ExpressCard slot and Ethernet port you’re well equipped ports wise.

I was pleasantly surprised to find four USB ports on the 1525. I was a bit let down by the fact the similarly sized XPS M1530 only includes three USB ports. The fact that the 1525 packs four USB ports into a reasonably thin and light 15.4" notebook is worth praise.

Speakers

The speaker quality was "acceptable" for a notebook without a built-in subwoofer. The speakers for the 1525 are located at the top of the keyboard area above the media buttons.

There’s not much to write home about the speakers, they get loud enough with minimal distortion, but the sound is slightly tinny as is the case with nearly all laptop speakers. Just imagine listening to music from small speakers mounted inside a tin can and you’ll have an idea about the built-in sound quality. On the brighter side, both audio out ports delivered crystal clear audio to my earbuds during the test period.

Performance and Benchmarks

One thing to notice is that the dedicated graphics card option available on the Inspiron 1520 is missing from the Inspiron 1525. The reasoning behind this is that Dell is pushing the XPS M1530 as the 15.4" notebook for those demanding higher-end graphics performance. The Inspiron 1525 is meant for a more mainstream buyer looking for good multimedia and productivity features from a notebook, and not cutting edge 3D performance.

Regardless, I would have liked for Dell to offer at least an entry-level nVidia 8400 GS 128MB dedicated graphics card option on the 1525. Sure, it might compete with a base configuration XPS M1530, but consumers like to have choices.

That being said, the Inspiron 1525 performed quite well during testing and this machine will meet or exceed the performance needs of most average (non-gaming) users.

wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, the advantage of this program is that it is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, thereby giving more accurate benchmarking measurements than Super Pi.

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Dell Inspiron 1525 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz) 43.569s
Dell XPS M1530 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)
37.485s
Portable One SXS37 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz) 41.908s
Sony VAIO NR (Core 2 Duo T5250 @ 1.5GHz) 58.233s
Toshiba Tecra A9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 38.343s
Toshiba Tecra M9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.299s
HP Compaq 6910p (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 40.965s
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz) 76.240s
Zepto 6024W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 42.385s
Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.705s
Alienware M5750 (Core 2 Duo T7600 @ 2.33GHz) 38.327s
Hewlett Packard DV6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 38.720s
Samsung Q70 (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 42.218s
Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi (Core Duo T2500 @ 2.0GHz) 42.947s
Samsung X60plus (Core 2 Duo T7200 @ 2.0GHz) 44.922s
Zepto Znote 6224W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 45.788s
Samsung Q35 (Core 2 Duo T5600 @ 1.83GHz) 46.274s
Samsung R20 (Core Duo T2250 @ 1.73GHz) 47.563s

 

3DMark06 comparison results for graphics performance:

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100) 545 3DMarks
Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100) 504 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB) 4,332 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT) 2,905 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,408 3DMarks
Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU) 1,069 3DMarks
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 2,344 3DMarks
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB 2,183 3DMarks
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB) 2,144 3DMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB) 1,831 3DMarks
Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,819 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks

PCMark05 measures overall notebook performance:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100) 4,149 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB) 5,412 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT) 4,616 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,591 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 4,153 PCMarks
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,987 PCMarks
Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB) 4,189 PCMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 4,234 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400) 3,646 PCMarks


HDTune results:


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Heat and Noise

The Inspiron 1525 does a reasonable job keeping heat under control. The system fan and heatsinks in the 1525 do a great job managing heat when the system is under load … as we discovered when we ran multiple benchmarks back to back. Below are images with temperature readings listed in degrees Fahrenheit:


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Unfortunately, noise was something of an issue with the fan on the 1525. The fan moved a significant amount of hot air but the noise was reasonably higher than what we hear on most current notebooks. When the fan is on low it isn’t noticeable over background noise most of the time. However, when the fan was at the highest setting we did record the volume of the noise breaking the 60dB mark from about two inches away from the fan exhaust. Again, this was a pre-production review unit, so your mileage (or decibels) may vary.

Battery Life

The 6-cell 56WHr Li-Ion battery provides excellent battery life for the 1525. With Vista’s power management running in "high performance" mode, screen brightness set to maximum and wireless on, the 6-cell battery delivered 2 hours and 53 minutes of battery life. We’re certain that the 6-cell could deliver three and a half hours of life with the notebook set to "balanced" or "power saver" mode and the screen brightness turned down.

There is also an available 9-cell 85WHr Li-Ion battery for those users needing extended battery life. One thing to mention is that with the 9-cell battery in you get an overall larger dimension for the notebook as the 9-cell battery sticks out of the back of the notebook.

Conclusion

Overall, the Dell Inspiron 1525 is an excellent budget notebook with good looks and solid performance. This isn’t a gaming machine, but the 1525 can handle everyday computing tasks with ease … and looks good while doing them.


In short, the Inspiron 1525 is exactly the notebook that the Inspiron 1520 should have been in the first place. Even though the 1525 is arriving a little late to the party we suspect it’s going to be a very welcomed guest in many homes.

Pros

  • Much thinner and lighter than the Inspiron 1520
  • Reasonable battery life
  • Nice keyboard, touchpad and media buttons
  • Solid performance and features

Cons

  • Glossy LCD lid is a magnet for fingerprints
  • No dedicated graphics option
  • Limited display options


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