Dell Inspiron 15 5547 laptop
It's a mixed bag, but it offers a strong core configuration that some might find appealing
- Full HD, IPS screen
- Core i7 CPU
- Discrete graphics
- Could use some refinement
- 10/100 Ethernet
- 1x1 802.11ac
The Dell Inspiron 15 5547 is a mainstream, 15.6in laptop with a strong central configuration. It's good enough for students, families, and anyone who wants a reasonably fast, yet affordable, laptop with a Full HD screen.
Price$ 1,399.00 (AUD)
It may not be as flashy as other laptops we've seen recently (such as the MSI GS60 Ghost), but Dell's Inspiron 15 5547 (also known as the 5000 Series) represents a slightly new direction for the manufacturer's mainstream 15.6in products. It has a cleaner look, and it doesn't feel overly bulky. On the inside, it still has a typically strong configuration, but there are areas in which it could be better.
Configuration and performance
Dell laptops used to be among the most customisable in the industry, allowing you to choose the storage, RAM, and CPU of your choice during the purchasing process. These days (and for a while now), the company's Australian site doesn't offer quite as much freedom to pick and choose the hardware configuration you want for each model, so you have to be careful to select the model that you want from the get-go (you might find that a 7000 Series or 3000 Series is better for you).
In the case of the Inspiron 15 5000 Series, the only options you can change prior to purchase are the software and services, and there are two different models you can choose from, with the only difference in the hardware being that one has 8GB of RAM, and the other has 16GB of RAM. The configuration is helmed by an Intel fourth-generation Core i7-4510U CPU, an AMD Radeon R7 M265 graphics adapter, and a 1TB Toshiba solid state hybrid drive (SSHD). We tested the 8GB version of the 5000 Series, which is the cheaper of the two models that are available at the time of writing, with the 16GB version having a 'RAM tax' attached to it, costing $300 more than the 8GB version.
The good thing is that the Inspiron 15 5000 is user-serviceable. Its bottom panel (made out of plastic) is held together by two Phillips-head screws and can be easily removed. Once it's off, it gives you access to the system's two memory slots, the 2.5in hard drive bay, the Wi-Fi module, the battery, and the cooling fan for the CPU and graphics. If your needs change, you can swap the storage (maybe install a solid state drive instead to get better overall performance), as well as the RAM capacity. Bear in mind that Dell has installed the 8GB across both slots using two 4GB modules. If you want to upgrade to 16GB, you'll have to replace them with two 8GB modules, which at the time of writing cost about $230.
In terms of performance, the Inspiron 15 5000 put up an expected showing in our tests, recording 42sec in Blender 3D, and 20min in HandBrake, showing that it can be used easily not only for typical office and Web tasks, but also for tougher tasks such as encoding media files, editing photos, and working on video files (for basic home videos). The Radeon graphics adapter supplies good enough grunt to allow for some entry-level gaming to be undertaken on this laptop, and this was shown in 3DMark, where the Radeon recorded 926 in the Fire Strike test and 3915 in the Cloud Gate test.
Storage is a bit of a let-down in some ways. Dell has gone for a best-of-both-worlds solution in Toshiba's MQ01ABD100H SSHD, which offers a large 1TB capacity that's boosted by an 8GB built-in solid state drive (SSD). The typical performance of this drive in CrystalDiskMark was shown to be very good (for a hard drive, that is), recording 177.1 megabytes per second (MBps) when reading, and 99.33MBps when writing. We can't help but feel that a regular SSD should be on offer instead, in order to provide more speed, and also to cut down on the heat that's produced.
The 8GB SSD is designed to help boost specific aspects of the system's performance, mainly the boot-up process, and the loading of regularly used applications. You can't tell the drive which parts of the system to speed up, it just figures it all out on its own. After the laptop has been used a few times and settled into a pattern, a cold system boot will take about 11sec.
Battery life is respectable considering the configuration and the bright, Full HD screen. In our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness, and loop a video file, the 43 Watt-hour battery lasted 3hr 57min. There is a longer-lasting 58 Watt-hour battery available, too.
Design and user comfort
As a 15.6in model, the Inspiron 15 5000 Series isn't the easiest of units to carry around on a daily basis, mainly because of its width — you'll need a good sized bag to fit it in. Its weight of 2.4 (sans power supply) is manageable, though a little too heavy for a laptop that doesn't have an optical drive, but at the same time, we didn't find the unit to be overly bulky (due to the uniform, 24mm thickness with the lid closed).
Without any extra buttons or lights above the keyboard area, the laptop gives off a minimalist look. Basically, you can only see the keyboard, touchpad, and power button when you lift the lid. Even the status lights are inconspicuous, residing at the front of the laptop in a tiny slit and comprised of white LEDs instead of eye-burning blue ones. We like this aspect of the design a lot as it gives the laptop a hint of elegance.
The keyboard is also meant to be backlit (it's shown on Dell's Web site as being backlit), but our test unit came with a keyboard that didn't have a backlight. We can only guess that the laptop looks better with the backlit keyboard — ours looked rather boring without it, and we missed having it for our nighttime typing sessions.
The keyboard on our test model felt comfortable to type on overall, with the keys being soft to hit and providing adequate travel and responsiveness. However, because the keyboard tray is so large (it has a number pad) and removable, it's a little bouncy along the top edges. This is noticeable when tapping on the Function keys or the Delete key.
We didn't have any issues with the touchpad during our tests. It performed accurately and its gestures worked just as they were supposed to (three-finger flicks, two-finger scrolling, double-finger taps, plus Windows 8 swipe-in gestures). However, the pad sometimes (not always) felt loose when we tapped on it, owing to the pad sitting atop the left- and right-click buttons.
Some heat can be felt through the right side of the palm rest, which can cause discomfort during long typing sessions. It's heat from the hard drive, which resides just underneath the area with the number pad and arrow keys.
As for the screen, we think it's a good one. It's an IPS panel that has a Full HD resolution and is quite vibrant, which makes it enjoyable to view photos. The only thing we hate about it is the glossiness, which causes plenty of reflections in bright environments. It's also a touchscreen, though we can say that we never had the urge to use the touch functionality on this model at all during our day-to-day computing. An option to go without a touchscreen would be welcomed.
The overall build quality isn't refined. There is some creaking in the base due to the removable bottom panel, and then there is the bouncy keyboard that we mentioned earlier. As far as durability is concerned, we can't say for sure how tough this unit is, but Dell makes claims on its Web site about the rigorous testing its laptops go through for key presses, hinge movements, and button presses.
Along the sides, you'll find that the ports are clustered towards the rear of the chassis, with the forward half of each side being bare. There two USB 3.0 ports on the right side, along with an HDMI port, a 10/100 Ethernet port, and a combination headphone and microphone port. The left side has a USB 2.0 port, the power port, and the SD card slot. You also get 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a webcam.
Speakers are located at the wedge that angles up at the front of the laptop, and they can be very easily muffled. We don't rate the speakers on this laptop highly. They sound limited in their range and should only be listened to if you don't have Bluetooth speakers or headphones.
Here's how Dell can improve the Inspiron 15 5000 Series and make it a more attractive proposition: the Ethernet adapter should really be Gigabit rather than 10/100Mbps, the third USB port should be USB 3.0 rather than USB 2.0, the SD card slot should allow cards to sit all the way inside rather than having them stick out halfway, and the 802.11ac module (a 1x1 Intel Wireless-AC 3160 module that's limited to 433Mbps) should be a faster 2x2 module with 867Mbps capability.
These aspects of the Inspiron 15 5000 Series hold it back from being anything more than average in the overall picture, but they also ensure that it's kept at a sub-$1400 price point considering the unit's main configuration. The positives are the Full HD screen, the Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and the discrete AMD Radeon graphics. Give it a go if these core specs are of interest and you don't care for things such as faster networking and a more refined feature-set and build quality.
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