Friday, July 1, 2011

Dell Inspiron 15R (N5110)

The latest generation of the Dell Inspiron 15R (the N5110) features Intel's "Sandy Bridge" Core processors and your choice of surprisingly powerful integrated graphics or AMD Radeon discrete graphics for gaming, all wrapped in a stylish notebook with a reasonable price tag. Keep reading to find out why the Inspiron 15R is one of Dell's best-selling laptops.

Our Dell Inspiron 15R (N5110) Specifications:
  • Intel Core i5-2410M processor (2.3GHz, 3MB cache, 2.9GHz Turbo Boost)
  • 15.6-inch 1366x768 display with LED backlighting
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
  • 6GB DDR3 memory (1333MHz)
  • 500GB 5400rpm HDD
  • Intel HD integrated graphics
  • 8X Tray Load CD/DVD Burner
  • 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11n wireless, and Bluetooth
  • 6-cell Li-ion 48WHr battery and 9-cell 90WHr battery
  • Dimensions: 14.7 x 9.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Weight: 5.84lbs
  • MSRP: $889.98

The starting price of the Inspiron 15R N5110 is only $499 at the time of this writing but that includes a slower Intel Core i3-2310M processor, less RAM, a smaller hard drive and only the standard 6-cell battery. The point here is that Dell offers a number of different configurations of the new Inspiron 15R.

Build and Design
The updated Inspiron 15R N5110 features a number of design changes compared to last year's Inspiron 15R. The overall look is essentially unchanged with a clean and sleek exterior, but at its core the 15R remains a budget laptop with a mostly plastic construction. The new 15R uses a hinge-forward LCD lid design that Dell first used in the premium Adamo series. I'm sure Dell designers will say it's a way of reducing the size of the screen bezel with a 16:9 ratio widescreen display. However, as far as most people are concerned, it just means the back of the notebook sticks out more behind the screen.

Build quality is generally pretty strong for a mostly plastic notebook, but you'll notice some minor flexing in the plastics if you firmly squeeze the notebook in your hands or press hard on the keyboard while typing. The main chassis, while reasonably strong, has a "hollow" feeling which makes you think there is some unused space inside this black box. Speaking of black, that's the standard color for the Inspiron 15R. You can select an optional "Fire Red" or "Peacock Blue" for an extra $35 when you order your laptop from Dell, or you can choose a more artistic lid for an extra $60. Honestly, I feel like customers should be able to pick black, red, or blue at no additional cost and the artistic lids should be half their current price ... but that's just my opinion. At least with the new "SWITCHable Lids" you can buy a fancy screen lid at a later time if you want.

One additional (and probably unintentional) benefit of the new "SWITCHable Lids" is that the screen is slightly more protected from exterior pressure. The new screen cover offers moderately more protection for the LCD than the old 15R, which means ripples don't show up as easily on this screen if you press on the back of the lid.

Anyone looking to upgrade the RAM inside the Dell Inspiron 15R will find the process is very simple. There is only one access panel on the bottom of the notebook secured by a single Phillips head screw and some plastic retention tabs. Remove that one panel and you can add or replace to the system memory. Unfortunately, removing the hard drive requires almost a complete disassembly of the notebook chassis.

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