The full specs of the Inspiron 15R SE that we reviewed are below:
- Windows 8 (64-bit)
- 15.6-inch matte Full HD display (1920 x 1080)
- Intel Core i5-3210M 2.5GHz
- 6GB DDR3 RAM
- 750GB 5400RPM HD
- 802.11 b/g/n WLAN
- Internal Bluetooth v. 4.0 + Intel WiDi
- Integrated 1.0MP web camera
- 6 cell 48WHr Li-Ion battery
- Weight: 6.4lbs
- Dimensions: 14.88? x 9.92? x 1.34 inches (width x depth x thickness)
- 1-year limited hardware warranty and support
- MSRP as configured: $849.99
One of the primary reasons many will opt for the Inspiron 15R SE over the standard Inspiron is the standard configuration of performance available. The model under review is just the “base” level system, but even that includes an impressive Intel Core i5-3210M 2.5GHz third generation processor, AMD 7730M dedicated / switchable graphics, 6GB RAM and a generous sized (but slow) 750GB 5400RPM hard drive. Upgrades available at the time of this writing are a faster Intel Core i7 Quad Core processor, a 32GB SSD cache to be used to accelerate storage access and 8GB of RAM. After market you can install your own SSD to replace the slow 5400RPM hard drive and upgrade memory to 16GB, there are no options to further upgrade the graphics card.
With the base configuration we tested you have way more than enough power for the typical user tasks of web browsing, video and photo editing, HD movie viewing with output to a high res monitor, any office related software task and video chat. Multi-tasking with several programs running at once won’t phase this machine. The one major bottle neck is the slow 5400RPM spinning hard drive which results in slow Windows bootup and wake times. The 32GB mSSD option will help overcome that bottle neck, savvy users will spend $200 after market and rip out the slow HD and install a blazing fast 2.5″ variety SSD, with that addition you’ll have a true speed demon of a machine.
As far as the AMD Radeon 7730M graphics card goes, it’s designed to provide on demand switchable graphics so that when extra 3D performance is needed it takes over from the weaker integrated Intel HD 4000 GPU that’s on board. There isn’t an easy way to control which GPU gets used, you just have to trust the system knows what to use when — which doesn’t always work quite right and it’s not transparent as to what graphics card is getting used at any point in time. One way to at least to suggest to the system to use the AMD 7730M more often than not is set your Windows power settings to “High Performance”. That will drain the battery faster, but it will ensure you’re getting all the power that’s available from the components on board. During any 3D game play with more demanding games such as Crysis or the latest BioShock you can be assured the AMD 7730M will be put to use.
Speaking of gaming, if you’re buying the Dell 15R SE 7520 purely for gaming, you may be somewhat disappointed as the AMD 7730M GPU is considered mid range and not high end. For those more familiar with graphics card offerings from Nvidia, it’s comparable to the Nvidia 640M mobile GPU. Still, the Radeon on board is powerful enough to run just about any modern 3D game, but you may have to reduce the resolution or graphics details to get the type of frame rates you want. Again, if you want a more powerful gaming laptop look to the Alienware line or any laptop with at least an Nvidia 650M (or equivalent) GPU.
To get an idea of how this configuration of the Inspiron 15R SE stacks up to similar laptops we ran a few benchmarks to measure overall system performance, processor performance, graphics performance and storage performance.
wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
PCMark 7 is a newer benchmark that measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark 11 (Performance – 720p) measures overall graphics card performance in games using DirectX 11 (higher scores mean better performance):
All of the above scores are very respectable with the exception of the slow hard drive which tends to drag down scores in other areas as well. Add in a previously mentioned SSD (or mSSD) and the PCMark 7 score would have been significantly higher.
Heat and Noise
While idling or running simple office tasks the Inspiron 15R SE is very cool running, nowhere on the surface of the laptop gets hot and you won’t hear a peep out of the fans. Things of course change if you start running games or streaming Full HD video along with multiple other tasks running in the background. For example, while running the demanding 3DMark 11 benchmark application the fan kicked onto high and the vent area on the back left warmed up to just over 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite this warmth at the back of the notebook, the important areas on the surface such as the palm rests still remained much cooler than an average person’s body temperature which means typing is still comfortable.
The bottom of the notebook however does get very warm under stress and it’s not comfortable to use on the lap once the temperature peaks over 100 degrees Fahrenheit on the bottom near the vented area. Although the fans did become audible when running demanding applications, there were no annoying whiney noises nor did it sound like a vacuum was in the room so we have no major complaints with the cooling system, it does its job.
If you’re looking for long lasting battery life you’ve come to the wrong place. The Inspiron 15R SE simply wasn’t intended to be a mobile machine capable of being used on trans-Atlantic flights for non-stop work. We ran FutureMark’s PowerMark benchmark that tests battery run down by placing the screen at medium brightness and then looping through video, opening browser windows, opening office documents and typing — in other words, real world usage. Under this realistic scenario the Inspiron 15R 7520 provided only 2 hours 31 minutes of battery life.
Powermark battery life test results (higher scores mean better battery life):
Do remember this is a demanding battery test. Under more conservative usage (such as web browsing) you could certainly extend the battery life longer, for instance you could dim the screen brightness and user a power saving mode to stretch the battery life to 4 or 5 hours.