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Dell Inspiron 15 5000 Series review: One of the most attractive budget laptops on the market

Hayden Dingman | Aug. 18, 2015
I have to hand it to Dell: In the category of "$500 laptops," the veteran manufacturer came pretty close to nailing a well-rounded machine with few major compromises.

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I have to hand it to Dell: In the category of "$500 laptops," the veteran manufacturer came pretty close to nailing a well-rounded machine with few major compromises.

That's more impressive than it sounds. If there's anything I've learned in reviewing low-end laptops, it's that compromise is key. Thus, there are laptops in this review round-up that are more portable than the 15.6-inch Dell. There are laptops with touchscreens. There are laptops with faster drives and faster processors.

But the problem with this (if you'll allow me to borrow a gaming term) min-max approach to laptop specs is that inevitably you're going to want to use your laptop for a pretty broad range of activities. Thus a laptop with a faster drive might be great--unless you need lots of storage. Or an ultra-portable laptop is great--until you need to watch Netflix on its tiny screen.

What Dell has in the Inspiron 15 5000 Series is an across-the-board contender, with above-average specs packed into a sleek case.

The design

The Dell Inspiron 15 5000 Series doesn't look like a $500 laptop. It's that simple.

The model Dell sent us has a brilliant blue diamondback lid that looks like it belongs on a much higher-end machine. And you know what? In the $500 range, you can't undersell attractiveness. There are a lot of laptops on the market that look and feel as cheap as their sticker price would indicate. Not so with the Inspiron 15 5000. This is one of the most attractive machines we looked at for this set of reviews, tied with the HP 15t Touch.

It's not all upsides, though. The screen is a cheap 1366x768 TN panel, the same as pretty much every single low-end laptop--and at 15.6 inches, that resolution starts looking a bit chintzy. The viewing angles aren't great either, so even sitting straight-on you'll start to see some color washout at the top and bottom of the screen. On the other hand, Dell boasts about its TrueColor calibration, a.k.a. "Hey, we know the display is pretty lackluster, but it's maybe slightly less lackluster than our competitors. Maybe." My one major worry is that the screen flexes and distorts if you push it on too hard from the back, especially at the bottom of the screen. So...don't do that.

The keyboard is a bit more cramped than other 15-inch laptops, and for no real reason. It seems like the likely culprit is a millimeter or two of extra space between each key pairing--over the course of the entire board, those extra millimeters add up to quite a lot of wasted space, with smaller keys the ultimate result. I found myself missing occasional keystrokes, though the switches themselves are satisfyingly clicky--satisfying enough for a $500 keyboard, at the very least.

 

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