Most helpful positive review
89 of 90 people found the following review helpful
Recommended; but not for FPS games
on June 16, 2011
[Note: I've edited my review on 10/17/2011. The problem is that this laptop is no longer offered directly by Amazon. The price varies and shipping isn't always free. Therefore, it's up to you to make sure you're getting a good deal.]
This listing is for the 2011 model Inspiron 17R, while most of the other listings are for last year's product. I purchased a Dell Inspiron 17R similar to this one for my sister during May 2011. It's quite impressive as compared to my Asus laptop from less than three years ago. I would definitely recommend one these to a friend.
CASE: The 17R is surprisingly thin considering that it isn't advertised as a thin laptop. The Diamond Black finish is very attractive. [Note: the listings that mention the Mars Black finish are for last year's model.] The hinge operates smoothly and appears to be durable.
LCD: The quality of a laptop's screen is particularly important to me. This one is better than most. It's somewhat glossy but, fortunately, not nearly as glossy as was common a couple of years ago. Text is a lot easier to read than it was on the ultra-glossy screens. There appears to be some anti-reflective treatment but it is not overdone. Viewing angles are quite good horizontally, and are adequate vertically. You won't need to clamp your head in a vise to use this laptop. Vertical resolution is 900 pixels, which is as good as it gets without spending twice as much. Movies and photographs look very good on this widescreen display.
SPEAKERS: Typical mediocre laptop speakers. They are perfectly intelligible, but you'll want to use headphones for movies or music.
WIRELESS: There is some good news and some bad news. The good news is that Bluetooth is included, so you won't need any wireless dongles to use a wireless mouse or keyboard. Also, this current model Inspiron 17R supports the new version of Intel Wireless Display technology [WiDi], allowing you to display your desktop wirelessly to your television at full 1920x1080 resolution. Of course, you have to buy a second-generation (1080p) WiDi adapter for your television before you can use WiDi. Suitable second-generation WiDi adapters are available from Belkin and Netgear. [Note: last year's Inspiron 17R with the Mars Black finish is permanently limited to the first-generation, 720P version of WiDi. There are some credible reports that even second-generation, 1080i WiDi technology is not quite ready for prime time due to problems with playing DRM protected content. You need to investigate this for yourself.]
The bad news in the wireless category is that there is no support whatsoever for the 5GHz wireless band! Look up the Wireless-N 1030 adapter on Intel's web site. Bummer if you live in a crowded neighborhood!
PORTS: This current 17R includes a combo eSATA + USB 2.0 port, plus two USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI 1.4 port. That's a good reason not to buy the last year's 17R without at least a one-third discount. The last year's 17r is limited to HDMI 1.3 (translation: will never play a 3-D blu-ray disk in 3-D over HDMI) and doesn't have any of the new, ultra-fast USB 3.0 ports.
BATTERY LIFE: Too soon to tell, but there appears to be at least 3.5 hours available for basic web surfing and watching movies over Netflix. Battery life could be better than that, but I don't know the limits yet. In any event, battery life will be significantly better than it was on last year's 17R due to the second-generation i5 CPU. More on the CPU later in this review.
RAM: Six gigabytes of RAM are included, a nice upgrade from the usual four GB. It's unlikely that you'll need to bother to upgrade the memory during the laptop's lifetime.
VALUE: There's always a deal at Dell, but the deal changes faster than you can follow. Dell is throwing in a free Blu-ray combo disk with this particular version of the Inspiron 17R. My sister's 17R did not include Blu-ray, but it did come with a full copy of Microsoft Office for free, while this 17R only includes the crummy starter edition. Deals at Dell are a lot like the weather here in New England: if you don't like it, wait a minute.
Conversely, I would suggest you jump on this model if the Blu-ray upgrade is what works for you. It's easy to buy and install a full copy of Microsoft Office at a later date, whereas upgrading the optical drive in a laptop is too expensive and too difficult for the average consumer.
CPU: In case you haven't heard, Intel made a major overhaul of its processor architecture for this Spring. The new CPUs are code named Sandy Bridge. For the i3, i5 and i7 lines, Sandy Bridge CPUs are identified by having four digit model numbers versus three digits for discontinued CPUs.
This Inspiron 17R uses an Intel i5-2410m processor, identifying it as a new Sandy Bridge CPU. There are lots of other 17 inch Inspirons available here on Amazon that use last year's models, such as the i5-580m. Personally, I would not recommend buying a laptop with a discontinued Intel CPU unless there is a discount of at least one-third. The Sandy Bridge CPUs are significantly more powerful (for an equal GHz rating) while consuming significantly less battery power than their predecessors.
In case you were wondering why I said that last year's 17R with the Mars Black finish was limited to the original 720p version of WiDi, now you have your answer: second-generation WiDi only works on computers with Sandy Bridge processors. Remember, any i3, i5 or i7 processor with a three digit model number is NOT a Sandy Bridge CPU.
The i5-2410m is sold only to manufacturers, so a little less information is available than for Intel's retail CPUs. Retail i5 processors have four physical cores without hyperthreading, but the i5-2410m has only two physical cores with hyperthreading, making it more like an i3. Calling this CPU an i5 is a bit deceiving. However, unlike the comparable i3 CPU, turboboost technology is included, allowing the i5-2410m to throttle up to 2.9 GHz when operating on only one physical core. VT-x virtualization support is included but VT-d is not. If none of this means anything to you, the bottom line is that the i5-2410m is as good as you need it to be.
CONCLUSION: I probably should have taken one star off for the lack of support for the 5GHz wireless band. That was a very odd choice by Dell, in my opinion. Otherwise, this is a very nice laptop that I would recommend to anyone who isn't preoccupied with first person shooter ["FPS"] games. Game players should read my own comment to this review, regarding AMD's next-generation processor ["Llano"] that will be reaching the marketplace soon.