Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the Inspiron 15R is a cross between a Chilet and standard keyboard. The tops of each key are flat with sharp edges, but instead of an inner-bezel they broaden out to meet the sides of other keys. This design is comfortable to type on, although it lacks some of the cupping that is nice to have to center your fingers over each key as you type. The layout is full-size with a condensed numberpad, which doesn’t feel in any way cramped with the large width of this laptop. The only complaint I have with this keyboard are the directional keys, which are micro-sized for a keyboard of this size. They are roughly equal in size to the function keys on the top row. I am guessing it was done this way to maximize the size of the palmrest and get users to use the numberpad for direction keys.
The touchpad is a spacious Synaptics model, which thankfully doesn’t incorporate buttons below the touch-sensitive surface. The response times of the touchpad were excellent, exhibiting no lag whatsoever in our testing. The surface texture was a light matte finish that was easy to glide over with a dry or slightly damp fingertip. The touchpad supported multitouch gestures which worked well and with the external buttons, didn’t interfere with normal operation of the cursor. The touchpad buttons offered shallow feedback, but they did have slightly more travel than other short-throw buttons. When pressed they emitted a very soft click that didn’t make your presence known in a medium to large-sized room.
Screen and Speakers
The 15R as the name implies offers a 15.6-inch display. The panel comes in 1366×768 resolution only, with a glossy or glare-type surface. We didn’t find the reflections or glare to be as bad as all-glass style panels, but it was still greater than matte finishes. For a budget system the screen rates slightly above average with a strong backlight, measuring a peak of 218nit with our Gossen Mavo-Monitor light meter. The brightness was a bit low for outdoor viewing, but worked quite well under bright office lighting. Screen contrast was also measured as being 136:1 with an average darkness of 1.45nit and minimal backlight bleed around the edges. Color quality was good, although maybe not as vivid as more recent multimedia-oriented systems. Vertical viewing angles were good to about 15-20 degrees before colors started to sharply invert. Horizontal viewing angles were better, staying true to about 60 degrees off-center before reflections started to overpower the panel.
The speakers on the Inspiron 15R are located along the leading edge of the palmrest facing downward. In their optimal position with the notebook placed on a flat desk the speakers filled a small room with music. Audio quality was about average for a consumer notebook of this size. Because the speakers were located on the bottom part of the notebook, if you had the notebook in your lap, it was pretty easy to accidentally block one or both of the grills with your pants and partially block the sound coming out.