The Dell Inspiron 15R Special Edition's bulky plastic exterior may not look like much, but the top-end model covered by most reviewers excels under the hood. Powerful components, interesting features and a stunning 1,080p display make it a strong contender if you aren't looking for Ultrabook-style sleekness.
A wolf in sheep's clothing. The base model's Core i5 processor and 6 GB of RAM should be plenty of power for everyday tasks, but the frequently reviewed top-end configuration blows it away thanks to a quad-core Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM and speedy solid-state cache drive (*Est. $1,050). Still, it can't match the Asus Zenbook UX51VZ (Est. $1,820 and up) in speed tests.
Every Inspiron 15R model comes with discrete AMD Radeon HD 7730M graphics, which open up gaming possibilities if you play at medium settings. A CD/DVD burner is standard, but you can swap that out for a Blu-ray drive in most step-up configurations. Battery life is subpar, lasting 3.5 to 5.5 hours in tests.
Heavy, but comfortable to use. At 6 pounds, the Dell Inspiron 15R SE "is not exactly back-breaking, but compared with today's ultrabook laptops it is monstrous and your shoulder will feel its presence," PCMag.com says. Both the touchpad and the backlit keyboard win praise for their comfort, and the notebook is loaded with ports.
Beauty more than skin deep. Although the thick and plastic exterior of the Inspiron 15R SE is universally panned, all models now sport a gorgeous 1,080p, 15.6-inch screen, and the Skullcandy speakers sound loud and clear.
Strong warranty, but terrible phone support. The Inspiron 15R SE comes with a one-year warranty, including in-home service to fix warranty-covered problems after remote diagnosis. "Premium phone support" with faster answering times and more extensive help is good for 90 days.
However, Dell's phone support proves "dismal" in a test at Laptop Magazine. Reps "repeatedly gave us pushy and unnecessary sales pitches, even going so far as to fake a sweepstakes" to sell a pricey extended warranty, staffers say. Dell finishes dead last among laptop brands in the magazine's critique of tech support.
Although Dell does improve its tech support score in this year's PCMag.com reader survey, it still doesn't win a Readers' Choice award, which also considers reliability.
Good for the price. Even the 15R SE's top-end configuration proves surprisingly affordable for the firepower provided. If you don't mind the heavy plastic case and don't expect much help by phone, the Dell Inspiron 15R SE is a steal.
Review Credibility: Excellent A solid all-around package, sterling 1,080p display and switchable graphics options are enough to earn the Dell Inspiron 15R SE an "Excellent" rating at PCMag.com despite qualms about bulk and bloatware.
Review: Dell Inspiron 15R Special Edition (7520), John R. Delaney, Sept. 21, 2012
2. Notebook Check.net
Review Credibility: Excellent "The Inspiron 15R Special Edition is a multimedia-notebook that manages to leave a very good impression in those areas where it really matters: a great display, well-designed input devices and plenty of performance," Adams says after a long and detailed testing-based review. He finds the laptop comparatively chunky, however.
Review: Review Dell Inspiron 15R Special Edition Notebook, Jonas Adams, July 20, 2012
3. PC World
Review Credibility: Very Good The title of PC World's review sums up Purewal's thoughts to a T. "The Dell Inspiron 15R 7520 might fly under your radar amidst all the superskinny Ultrabooks that are zipping around, but it's worth a look if style and weight aren't major concerns for you," she writes.
Review: Dell Inspiron 15R 7520 Review: Not So Stylish, Awesome Screen, Superb Performance, Sarah Jacobsson Purewal, Oct. 14, 2012
4. PC Pro
Review Credibility: Very Good In this short review, Bray finds the performance and display of the Dell Inspiron 15R Special Edition to be top-notch. However, he's highly disappointed by the cheap-feeling plastic case.
Review: Dell Inspiron 15R Special Edition Review, Jonathan Bray, Aug. 24, 2012
5. Laptop Magazine
Review Credibility: Very Good Dell gets an F for phone support in this test. Reps won't answer Laptop Magazine staffers' simple questions, and one actually fakes a sweepstakes to push an expensive extended warranty. Dell's web-based tech support is OK, but the company places dead last overall among eight laptop brands for tech support.
Review: Tech Support Showdown 2012, Editors of Laptop Magazine, Sept. 17, 2012
Review Credibility: Good Dell's tech-support ranking improves here this year, but PCMag.com readers still rank it below average among 10 laptop brands.
Review: Readers' Choice Awards 2013 Winners: Laptops and Desktops, Ben Gottesman, Feb. 20, 2013