Review: Dell Inspiron 15z
A good and stylish desktop replacement but quite expensive.
Good performance; Ergonomic keyboard; Elegant design.
Not-so-good display; Average battery life; Expensive.
Dell Inspiron 15z
MRP: Rs 75,000
Almost all manufacturers are bringing out Ultrabooks with full touchscreens to take advantage of Windows 8 features. The latest one to reach our labs is the Dell Inspiron 15z, which is more of a desktop replacement than an Ultrabook with a 15.6" HD touchscreen and powered by an Intel Core i7 CPU with 8 GB of RAM. Read on to know more.
Build And Features
The first thing you notice about the Dell Inspiron 15z is its corners that are considerably more rounded than most laptops you would come across. The bluish-grey (Moon Silver) body has a brushed aluminium finish with aluminium edges for the lid and the body. The finish makes it quite resistant to scratches and smudges. The screen is attached to the body by two large hinges that seem to be stiff enough to hold it at an angle. The overall body construction is quite sturdy.
Being a desktop replacement laptop, the dimensions are somewhat large at 15" (W) x 9.75" (D) x 0.9" (H) and the weight is also 2.2 kg, which doesn't exactly make it very portable.
The 15.6" LED-backlit screen with 10-point capacitive multi-touch input has pixel dimensions of 1366x768. The Gorilla Glass protection makes it extremely resistant to scratches. The bezels are just the right thickness for handling the edge controls of Windows 8. A HD webcam is present at the centre of the top bezel with an ambient light sensor besides it and two pores with array microphones for stereo audio recording on either side. Since this is a laptop and not a tablet, there is no Windows button at the bottom of the screen. The entire edge of the screen has a rubberised gasket of sorts that prevents the screen from coming into contact with the keyboard part and also protects it in case the laptop is slammed closed.
The full-size keyboard is backlit, thus allowing it to be used even in the dark. A separate numeric pad is not included. Three shortcut keys to launch bundled utilities are present near the top right: Windows Mobility Center, Waves MaxxAudio4, and Dell Instant Launch. The centrally located touchpad is considerably spacious. There are two physical mouse buttons just below it. The surrounding palm rest also features the same scratch-resistant brushed metal finish as the lid. There are five activity LED indicators at the front.
A heat vent is present on the right to throw out hot air from within the casing. Also included on this side are Gigabit Ethernet port, Kensington lock, HDMI-out, earphone/microphone 3.5 mm combo socket, and two USB 3.0 ports, of which one supports charging even when the laptop is powered down (PowerShare).
A memory card reader supporting SD/MMC, MS, and MS Pro along with two more USB 3.0 ports is present on the left. Dell has also thrown in a tray-loading DVD writer into this Ultrabook's slim body.
Ventilation grills are present on the underside to facilitate intake of cool air to keep the laptop running cool. A pair of Skullcandy speakers is present near the front. Four rubber feet near the four corners keep the device grounded firmly on a flat surface. It is possible to service the laptop to an extent and upgrade the RAM and hard drive, but you cannot do the same with the battery as it is not directly accessible.
The 15z is powered by an Intel Core i7-3537U dual-core Hyperthreaded CPU clocked at 2 GHz. It has a generous 8 GB of RAM, which should be sufficient for just about any task. The 500 GB hard drive is complemented by an 8 GB SSD to help speed things up. Graphics is taken care of by a combination of Intel HD Graphics 4000 and NVDIA GeForce GT630M 2 GB, aided by Optimus Technology automatic switching.
The laptop runs Windows 8 Pro 64-bit. A trial version of MS Office 2013 is also provided, although you will eventually have to pay for the full version or opt for a free office suite. McAfee Antivirus takes care of the security.
The laptop boots in 13 seconds flat, which can be attributed to the SSD+HDD combination and ample RAM. The performance is very good even with the McAfee antivirus running in the background and this doesn't slow down while multitasking.
The keyboard has a good feedback. Being well-spaced, it is comfortable to type for long hours. The touchpad's matte finish makes it more comfortable as against one with a glossy finish.
The screen has bad viewing angles and is highly reflective, which combined with its below average brightness, makes it difficult to view in a brightly lit room. The pixel dimensions of 1366x768 are just not good enough for a screen as large as 15.6" and the individual pixels are easily visible.
The speakers are quite loud and you may not need to use an external pair for basic needs. The stereo separation is pronounced and easily discernible. However, they lack in bass which is not unusual in laptop speakers as there's no subwoofer.
The NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M is a moderately powerful graphics processor and the results show while gaming. This laptop could easily play Battlefield 3 with details set to Medium and the gameplay appears smooth at its default 1366x768 display resolution. The 3DMark 11 result puts it behind the Acer M3 Touch with a more powerful GT640M graphics card.
The laptop becomes slightly hot on its right underside when stressed for long durations, although the temperature doesn't become uncomfortable.
We conducted a few synthetic benchmarks to find out how the Dell Inspiron 15z performs.
Windows Experience Index
PCMark 7 score
3DMark 11 score
We have also included the latest 3DMark this time and will be using it in addition to the other older version from now on.
The benchmark results indicate a good performance from the Inspiron 15z. It is easy to deduce that the device is perfectly capable of handling office tasks as well as multimedia, and casual gaming. Its benchmark performance was found to be better than the Acer M3 Touch and the ASUS S550CM, possibly a result of the superior CPU and graphics. However, the real world performance is more or less similar.
We measured the battery life by Battery Eater Pro and by actually using the laptop with the Performance power scheme of Windows 8. Please note that the battery backup times logged in this way are the least that are possible in the two tests due to the maximised power consumption. You can always expect better backup times in real world usage.
A battery backup time of 2 hours 50 was registered in the Reader's test, while the Classic test result yielded 2 hours. In normal usage that involves using office applications, surfing the internet, occasional music and video, and watching some YouTube clips, the battery lasted for around 4 hours. This isn't exactly what you would expect from an Ultrabook, but you can blame it on the powerful CPU and the discrete graphics card that may be consuming more power.
The Dell Inspiron 15z is a very good performer in office applications and even gaming. It looks good and has a decent build quality. The large 15.6" screen and the comfortable full-sized keyboard along with the responsive touchpad make it an ideal desktop replacement. Moderate gaming is also possible, thanks to the NVIDIA GeForce GT630M. However, it is a little too heavy to be considered portable. Also, it doesn't really give you the battery backup to stay away from a charging point for a long duration. The Inspiron 15z is rather expensive at Rs 75,000. In day to day applications, you can also opt for the ASUS S550CM, which is also a good performer, and although it has a slower Core i5, or the Acer Aspire M3 Touch.
Value For Money: 2.5/5
Overall Rating: 3/5