Customer Review

284 of 294 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Laptop for the tight budget, February 19, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Dell Inspiron 15.6-Inch Laptop (i15RV-954BLK) (Old Version) (Personal Computers)
My First Week Review:

This laptop is The Dell Inspiron 15 3521 (Entry Level Non-Touch Version) with MS Windows 8.1

For what I paid for this laptop, I am very impressed. So far it functions very well. Everything seems to work very well. Even HD videos, and graphics designing apps work smoothly.

Few things they left out in the specs that this laptop, which is Inspiron 15 3521, has is:
* Microsoft Windows 8.1 64bit basic
* Webcam with mic: 0.92 megapixel, 720 HD at 30 fps max
* Two built-in speakers at 2 watts each
* Ethernet LAN on motherboard (LOM) at 10/100 Mbps.
* Wireless Mini-card at Wifi 2.4 Ghz, 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 (on the same card)
* RAM can be expanded to 16 GB (8 Gb RAM each slot) Dual channel DDR3 SoDIMM up to 1600 MHz (1.6GHz) PC3-12800. Two RAM slots.
* Linux distros friendly laptop
* Battery is Dell 40 WHr 4-Cell Lithium-Ion Battery: Manufacturer Part# : V8VNT | Dell Part# : 312-1387
* There is an AC Adapter (Charger) w/ cord with this laptop
* Weight is about 5.10 pounds w/ power adapter
* There is a Dock Station for this laptop. The Dock doesn't come with the purchase of the laptop. You have to purchase the dock separately. The Dock is "Dell Computer SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Docking Station (YWDN0)".
* This laptop doesn't come with Windows 7 pre-installed. You can't purchase this laptop on Amazon with Windows 7 pre-installed. You can't get a free "downgrade" to Windows 7 with the purchase of this laptop. This laptop is sold with Windows 8.x only. No matter what you do you can't change that.
* CD/DVD Burner/Player drive within this laptop. 8X CD/DVD Burner/Player Drive (Dual Layer DVD+/-RW Drive)
* This is Not a serious gaming system nor a professional video production system. A system like that starts around $1250.00 no matter what the OS (Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac or Linux). You have been Forewarned!

* Please read the Questions & Answers * There are lots of answers to common questions in the Question & Answer section.
* Please read the Product Information (Detail) * There are product information there that will answer some of your questions.

The negativity that I see is the plastic parts, especially with the CD/DVD drive drawer can break very easily. I would not want to bump something to the CD/DVD drawer or drop this laptop. So ruggedness doesn't come in my mind when I look at this laptop. They had to cut cost somewhere.

What Applications comes with the laptop?

1. NO Microsoft Office: Microsoft Office: The Microsoft Office is not actually pre-installed in this laptop. There is just an icon link (an installer) to download and install Microsoft Office 2013 as a 30 day trial or as a paid subscription. You can still buy Microsoft Office 2013 that will work on only one computer (one license copy) and install it in your laptop. You can also install and use LibreOffice suite for free. There is Google Drive has word processor (Google Docs) and spreadsheet (Google Sheets) web apps that you can use for free as well. You can install and use AbiWord as a word processor for free. Microsoft has the online version of Microsoft Office 365 with online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote with 7 GB of online storage for free.

I went with the Microsoft Office 365 Home (formerly Office 365 Home Premium) $99.99 per year subscription with all the online office suite, 20 GB of online storage per user, offline Microsoft Office 2013 professional (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, and Access) that I can install on 5 computers and 5 mobile devices, and can save documents on offline (on computer).

If you are a student then you can go for the Microsoft Office 365 University which is much the same as Office 365 Home but with a few differences. The differences are that Office 365 University allows to install Microsoft Office 2013 professional only on two devices (computers/mobile devices), only one user gets 20 GB online storage, the other user only gets 7 GB of online storage and the good news is that you only pay $79.99 for a 4 year subscription.

2. There is a trial version of McAfee Security security suite. I recommend to uninstall this system resource hog. This maybe a reason that some experience freeze ups. Windows 8 already has Windows Defender (anti-virus program) and Firewall built-in.

3. There is also PowerDirector Suite aka Media Suite Essentials (the basic level package, but still good) with Power DVD 12 , Power2Go 8 (for burning CD/DVDs), Power Director 10, Desktop Burning Gadget, CyberLink LabelPrint 2.5, ISO Viewer, and Virtual Drive (for mounting to ISOs). This is a keeper.

My recommendations:

1. I would say that this laptop is NOT for serious gaming, professional video production, creating motion animations, 3D graphics and animations, 3D CAD and CAM work, system resource hungry games, resource hog virtual reality, resource hog simulations, haevy duty VM, or anything else that is a system resource hog. For those kinds of activities you need to spend some seriously more capital. No way around that no matter which angle you try.

2. I would say that this laptop would be GOOD for IT professionals, Office work, Office management, remote managing, business level usage, class room learning, on the job learning, taking online courses, taking online classes, doing your homework both locally on the laptop and online, many (but not all) games for preschool and up (depending on the demand on the system resources), games like Minecraft, social media, hacking, exploiting, Linux lovers, graphics work and editing, surfing the Internet, Emailing, word processing, spreadsheets, Microsoft Office work (purchase separately), 2D CAD, Database management, project management, accounting, network management, remote managing servers and networks, music listening, video watching, editing photos and graphics, printing productions, VPN to work, etc. (need to upgrade to Pro version of Windows), remote managing systems, work at home and on the go, connecting to your corp network to do work with (need to upgrade to Pro Version of Windows), running a couple OSes on VM (this depends on what you are doing on the OS that you are VM into. Your system doesn't have the resources for resource hog applications. More RAM will give you better results), etc. Note: Few things here, like IT work, VPN, Corp domain logging in, etc. would need you to upgrade to Windows 8.1 64bit Professional version at $99.99 one time cost. And some things may run better if you add some RAM too.

3. At this time I would recommend this laptop to someone that is on a tight budget. And despite the shipping issues, I am glad that I got this laptop.

Please read my comments here in this thread. There are some good information there.

Note 1: A few problems users expressed maybe due to spinning drives being what they are. On average 30% of spinning drives will fail within the first 30 days of usage.


Note 2: I have ran into an issue that is most likely what users are running into that is not hardware issue. That issue is unwanted software that is really add/spyware that behaves as Trojans and Worms is being unwilling and unknowingly installed with poplar software.

I ran into this two times within two weeks and had to waste time fixing it. If I was not a professional then my system would be in a huge mess right now.

First Time:
First time is an Open Source software that was downloaded from Forge Source depository. Source Forge is one of the oldest and most respected and trusted Open Source depository in the world for variety of OSes including Microsoft Windows OSes. I always install software in Custom mode so I can say NO to any and all unwanted software. But when I chose Custom mode installation the software didn't give me any options, but instead just installed. That got me worried. So I checked and indeed it installed unwanted software. You can't even update your Windows or Anti-Virus software. I thought "Ohhh Blank!!!!!" as I started to troubleshoot and work on fixing this problem by reformatting and re-installing Windows.

The Second time:
I looked at my WinZip app that I bought ten years ago. You install by Custom mode and no Unwanted Software. But I could use a newer version. So I downloaded the new version of WinZip. I chose Custom Install. But it did't give me any options. Instead it just installed. That worried me very much, since this is commercial software and shouldn't happened like that with commercial software. So I investigated and troubleshooted the issue. Find out that it installed addware/spyware that took control of my browsers and wouldn't allow my Windows or Anti-Virus to update. Major fixing and much hours later I fixed it.

But if it wasn't for my professional experience that triggered my instinct I would not know what happened. If I was the average user then I would just blame the problems that would come up to the laptop instead of the Unwanted Software that was installed without my knowledge.

There are good practices to follow. But even if you do follow them you can still step into a mine without knowing it. So be so very careful. Software like Yahoo Messenger and WinZip are just a couple of many software that will bring Unwanted Add/Spyware that will make sure that you will never find out (by preventing your Anti-Virus and such from updating and finding them). This will cause your computer to slow down, freeze up, and reboot itself or you will need to reboot the computer to get out of freeze up.

I just wanted to add this here since several have ran into slowdowns, freezes up, re-boots, popups, redirects and other malware like behaviors.

How can you stop "popups" and "redirects" from happening?

Adware (form of Malware)
The term adware is frequently used to describe a form of malware (malicious software), usually that which presents unwanted advertisements to the user of a computer. The advertisements produced by adware are sometimes in the form of a pop-up.

When the term is used in this way, the severity of its implication varies. While some sources rate adware only as an "irritant", others classify it as an "online threat" or even rate it as seriously as computer viruses and trojans. The precise definition of the term in this context also varies. Adware that observes the computer user's activities without their consent and reports it to the software's author is called spyware.

Programs have been developed to detect, quarantine, and remove advertisement-displaying malware, including Ad-Aware, Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware, ADWCleaner, Spyware Doctor and Spybot - Search & Destroy.

But these software don't guarantee that they got everything. I don't care what they claim, that still doesn't guarantee that you are now clean of any and all malware. That is because these malware bring other bad software with it without your knowledge and hide them for a point of time from these Anti-Malware and Anti-Virus type programs that are design to find them.

And even if these programs did clean out your system of all malware and such from your computer your system will still not work correctly. The reason is that these malware change your system files and the Anti-Malware and Anti-Virus type programs try to clean up and reverse the damage of the system files, but never seem to completely reverse the damage to the system files. So your system will still act slow, freeze ups, reboots, etc...

The only way to clean that up is to reformat and reinstall Microsoft Windows.
* First thing to do is backup your personal data files into an external drive or USB thumb drive.

After backing up your personal data, you can start reformatting and reinstalling your operating system.
* The way to do that is first make a Dell's "Bootable Backup Rescue Disk" with Dell's "Dell Backup and Recovery" app and with either a 128Gb USB thumb drive or an USB external drive (I used an USB external drive).
* Connect your 128Gb USB thumb drive or an USB external drive to one of the USB 3.0 ports on the left hand side of laptop.
* Within "Dell Backup and Recovery" app chose "Bootable Backup".
* Wait for the program recognize The USB media.
* Then chose "Reinstall Disk" option within "Bootable Backup" page (not from Dell's "Dell Backup and Recovery" home page). "Reinstall Disk" option will give you what you need to restore the laptop the way it came to you.
* Make sure that "System Backup" is unchecked if available to you. (No need to do "System Backup" option until after you restored the system. If you restore your laptop with "System Backup" option right now then you may be bringing the problem with you.)
* Then click on "Create Rescue Disk" and follow instructions.

* After created the "Bootable Backup Rescue Disk" then you can restart the laptop having the USB media with the "Bootable Backup Rescue Disk" still connected to one of the USB 3.0 ports.
* While the laptop starts to boot press the F12 key several times until you get to the "Boot Menu".
* Within "Boot Menu" chose USB or the media with "Bootable Backup Rescue Disk" to boot into and press Enter key.

* After the "Bootable Backup Rescue Disk" starts then follow instructions.
* You already backed up your personal data, so chose not to backup before starting the recovery (restoring) the system.
* Complete the restoring you laptop.

Basically "Bootable Backup Rescue Disk" reformats, re-partition the drive, adds all the stuff on each partition that was there when you first got the laptop, including the UEFI partition, and installs Windows 8 with drivers and all software that was included in the laptop.


How to make Windows 8.1 to be 100% complete desktop experience!

The "Start" (Metro) GUI is not the greatest. But within Windows 8.1 you don't have to live in the "Start" (Metro) environment. You can actually live on the desktop in Windows 8.1. Here is how:

If you are not in Windows 8.1, then please update to Windows 8.1. And please don't fear the upgrading. This upgrade is a good thing.

How to upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1:
Click on the green "Store" icon. You should be asked to upgrade to Windows 8.1. Choose that and follow instructions. If you don't see that, then do a search in the "Store" for Windows 8.1 and choose Windows 8.1 and follow instructions.

Upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 8.1 Update "1" (April 2014 version):
Then go to your "Windows Update" to update Windows. Keep upgrading until you see the Shut Down Icon by your User Name on the Start "Metro" environment or the "Store" icon on your desktop Taskbar. When you see that then you are in Windows 8.1 Update "1" (April 2014 version).

If you are in the Windows 8.1 Update "1" (April 2014 version) with a laptop that is non-touchscreen, like this laptop, then you will be automatically be in the Desktop GUI interface. There are few more things that you can do to completely change Windows 8.1 into desktop experience OS.

Here are some tips and setup to change the Windows 8.1 back to desktop experience:

Change to complete Desktop GUI environment within Windows 8.1:
Click on the Desktop tile to get to Desktop. Right click on bottom Taskbar. Left click on Properties. Click on Navigation tab. Go down to "Start screen". Put a check in the box by "When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start". Put a check in the box by "Show the Apps view automatically when I go to Start. Put a check in the box by "List desktop apps first in the Apps view when it's sorted by category". Put a check in the box by "Show my desktop background on Start. Take check out of the box by "Search everywhere instead of apps when I search from the Apps view". Click on "Apply". And click on "OK".

How to turn off activating Charms on the upper-right corner:
If not already on Desktop then click on the Desktop tile to get to Desktop. Right click on bottom Taskbar. Left click on Properties. Click on Navigation tab. Go to "Corner navigation". Take out the check by "When I click the upper-right corner, show the charms. Click on "Apply". And click on "OK".

To fix touchy Touchpad from activating the Charms:
Go to your Control Panel > Mouse > Dell Touchpad > "Click to change Dell Touchpad Settings" > Gestures > One Finger Gestures > take out check by "Right Edge Swipe". That should stop the Touchpad from activating the Charms. Yes I agree that Dell's Touchpad is touchy, but don't believe it is not functioning properly.

How to shutdown with Windows 8.1 desktop GUI:
To shut down: Right click the Navigation button (The four window icon button at the bottom left hand corner). Move mouse to "Shut down or sign out". Then Click "Shut down".

Once you setup the way I described above, How to get to your Apps and back to desktop:
Left click on the Navigation button (The four window icon button at the bottom left hand corner) to get to your applications. Hover over the bottom left hand corner to get the Navigation button back. Then click Navigation button to get back to Desktop


My long-term ownership review.

I was going to recreate a review. But instead I tried to help people by answering their questions. Please look through the Questions section. There is lots of info I gave there. (My First Week Review is above)

I took this laptop through lots of stuff to see what it can do and what problems I would run into. Here are the paces that I put this laptop through:

1. I triple booted with Windows 8.1 Pro 64bit (upgraded to Pro in order to log into corp domain type networks), Kali Linux 64bit and Kubuntu Linux 64 bit.

2. I ran both Kali Linux 64bit and Kubuntu Linux 64bit at the same time thru VMWare and Oracle VM VirtualBox on top of Windows 8.1 Pro 64bit. And ran large processes on all three OSes at the same time.

3. I used QuarkExpress Passport, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and Autodesk AutoCAD all at the same time while doing my graphics work.

4. I ran HD video as high as 1080p both on the drive and streaming on this 720p system.

5. I ran in cold and hot environments.

The only time I noticed a problem is when I VM both Kali Linux 64 bit and Kubuntu Linux 64 bit at the same time on top of Windows 8.1 Pro 64 bit while running processes on all three operating systems at the same time. Running all three 64bit OSes (two of them on VM) all running processes was too much for 4Gb of RAM. Once I added 8Gb of RAM all OSes running at the same time (two running thru VM) all running processes at the same time ran with ease.

Outside of that this system handle very well. So well that I am questioning about the problems that others are running into. It is not like the programs I ran are light. I wouldn't call Adobe Creative Cloud Suite or the other software light. And it is not like I am not pushing this machine. Heavy duty graphics work, 1080p video watching on the hard drive & streaming on a 720p system, downloading gigabytes of data like HD videos, full Linux images, etc., running two Linux 64 bit versions in VM on top of Windows 8.1 Pro 64 bit , triple booting, and much more. If that is not pushing this laptop then what is? If I can do that then the problems others are running into are fixable. Rather it be bad drive, bad RAM, user needing to learn what to download, what not to download, how to install without unwanted and malicious software being installed as well, user, having unrealistic expectations with this lower end budget laptop, needs to have more realistic expectations, or something else. After all I am doing all of this with this same laptop. They should be able to do the same. That is why I question.

Like I said before: For what I pay for this laptop I am completely amazed of what it can do. Completely amazed. I know that this is not a miracle machine that can do all. In fact I sometimes recommend higher end laptops to people that would serve them better than this laptop.

But sometimes it is more like my dad said to me "It is not what the professional has that makes a professional, but it is what the professional does with what they have at the moment that makes them a professional". Which may explain the whys.

But I still believe that this laptop is a very good value to the budget minded user. Just don't expect this laptop to do what a mid to high end laptop can do. Because that is not being fair to this very low end budget laptop.

And yes, by the nature of lower end technology there may be a problem that you might run into (There are technical reasons for this. If you want to know, then ask me).

So this review is more just a few thoughts of mine rather than a review. If you want more information than check out my comments in the Questions section.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in


Tracked by 6 customers

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-10 of 39 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 25, 2014 12:11:56 AM PST
GC says:
although identical the other model cost more and has a shipping fee because its being price gouged by 3rd party seller.

@ all amazon shoppers
pay close attention at products' listed seller.
pls buy strictly from amazon only and don't be a dummy paying extra to sleazy business practices.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 25, 2014 6:51:01 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 25, 2014 9:28:03 AM PST
JaguarXT says:
For me it would come out to be about the same cost. Going through Amazon directly like I did costed me $396.39 (laptop $359.99 + tax $32.40 + CA Recycling Fee $4.00). But since I use this for business and can be audited, paying tax and CA Recycling fees is the best for me.

My point was that I saw two laptops with one number difference and no reason why. With all research I did nothing can up. So I can only guess that this laptop is the latest revision. So I gave it a go and try this laptop. I know now that my guess was correct that this laptop is a newer revision of the Inspiron 15 3521. For me getting a newest revision is better than going with an older revision. The warranty also showed that the seller bought my laptop this month of this year from Dell directly. That is even more telling story that tells this i15RV-954BLK is the latest revision of Inspiron 15 3521.

I am just amazed how many people fall prey to the older i15RV-953BLK revision all because they advertise the media functions like, webcam, speakers, etc. While so many customers turning down the latest revision i15RV-954BLK because they don't advertise the media functions. Which is the reason that I added the media functions to my review, so that customers know the this laptop has the same media functions as the old revision has.

And another thing is that they don't advertise that both i15RV-953BLK and i15RV-954BLK are in fact the Inspiron 15 3521. Why in the world would they hide that?

So far I am having very good experience with and enjoying this laptop.

I just wish I didn't need to be as sharp as I was just to make sure that I got the latest revision (i15RV-954BLK) of Dell Inspiron 15 3521 and to know that both laptops are in fact Dell Inspiron 15 3521. And to top it off the shipping was horrid to say at least.

Posted on Mar 8, 2014 7:07:00 AM PST
Stephen J says:
Do you know if this laptop is capable of playing games like Minecraft and Terraria well? My son wants a Windows laptop in part so he can play games and I can't figure out if these cheap laptops work well for that.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2014 7:13:08 AM PST
JaguarXT says:
Yes, this laptop will play those games very well.

Posted on Apr 16, 2014 11:59:54 AM PDT
mingus says:
Thanks for taking the time/effort to provide a comprehensive look at the system. I have a question/concern I hope you will reply to; thanks in advance. . . You indicate your setup is 'triple boot" and the machine is "Linux distro friendly". However, if you are using a VM to run Linux, that is not actually a multi-boot setup; you are booting the VM, not the Inspiron itself. Consequently, the Linux kernel running in the VM is using the VM's virtualized hardware; Linux is not accessing the hardware directly. So for example my workstation uses an AMD RD890 chipset; the Oracle VM abstracts that to an Intel ICH9 chipset - the ICH9 is what the OS's running in the VM use (and that OS may or may not support the RD890; it doesn't really matter).

My requirement is to boot Linux natively. Since this machine comes with W8, it must be UEFI/GPT; I can handle that. The info I can't find is whether the native hardware is supported by the Linux kernel. The chipset probably is, but it is usually peripheral devices like the Wifi or webcam that are a problem. So long story short . . . have you ever tried running Linux on this machine natively, either by installing Linux to a partition or by running a Linux "live" CD/DVD (where the OS runs off the optical media instead of the hard disk)? And if so, were all functions working properly in that native mode?

Thanks again for any additional information.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 16, 2014 1:48:22 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 16, 2014 4:18:13 PM PDT
JaguarXT says:
I did as you read it. I both Triple booted and VM. Sorry for the misunderstanding if it looks like the same tests. But they are completely different tests. I know little more than that. Just don't want to overwhelm average users.

With Oracle VM VirtualBox and VMware I used Kali Linux 64bit 1.0.6, and Kubuntu 64bit 13.10. Like I said it work well, until I ran large processing on all three OSes at the same time. After adding RAM running large processing on all three OSes at the same time worked well.

I personally don't like VM that much. I like more booting directly into the OS. One of the reasons is that I rather use the OS drivers. This was a test to see how far I can push this machine.

Booting (not VM) history:
I did triple boot into these OSes:
First Windows 8.1 64bit Pro, Kubuntu 64bit 13.10 and Kali Linux 64bit 1.0.6.
Then on the second test Windows 8.1 64bit Pro, Kubuntu 64bit 14.04 LTS Beta 2, and Mageia 64bit 4.
Tomorrow I will see if I can download the final version of Kubuntu 14.04.
Then I will triple boot Windows 8.1 64bit Pro, Kubuntu 64bit 14.04 LTS Final, and Kali Linux 64bit 1.0.6.

The reason for two different Linux OSes is that Kali is pure root. That means you run into some trouble running apps that demand that you don't run root while using app. Yes there is a way around that, but more trouble than just having another Linux distro. I use Kali for some uses. While I use Kubuntu of all other uses.

I never had a problem with the drivers with this laptop. All of the Linux installers seem to recognized the hardware and installed the correct drivers by default. Even the webcam worked in all Linux OSes. As well as the graphics driver, Bluetooth driver, sound driver, LAN driver, wireless driver, etc. all worked without flaw. Mainly Linux users have to be concerned about the graphics drivers, wireless drivers, and webcam drivers. This laptop passes on all three.

If I had any problems in booting into the Linux Distros, since I have been playing around so much that I can make mess of Grub, I would use a tool like Boot Repair, to clean up the boot manager, like Grub. There was only one time that I had to switch to legacy BIOS just to get Boot Repair to repair the Grub correctly, then switched back to UEFI once rebooted. Weird I know, but it worked. After that Grub worked, and all Linux OSes worked within UEFI. Most of the up to date Linux OSes have no problem with UEFI, especially 64bit Linux OSes. The only problem that you may run into is your Linux boot manager, like Grub. That is where tools like Boot Repair can come in handy.

Make sure that you make a Dell's "Bootable Backup" with Dell's "Dell Backup and Recovery" app and with either a 128Gb USB thumb drive or an USB external drive (I used USB external drive). You can't use "Reinstall Disks" for this because "Reinstall Disks" doesn't reformat the drive. Only "Bootable Backup" will reformat the drive, add all partitions, add Dell's stuff in the partitions, add a clean UEFI partition, and reinstall Windows with Dell's stuff. Basically put you back to new. This is your fallback just in case.

The other instructions depends on if you want Linux is the only OS or are you going to use Windows as well.

I also added two 8Gb PC3-12800 (1600 Mhz) of RAM modules (took out the 4Gb 1600 Mhz) for the total of 16Gb of RAM at 1600 Mhz. Also tried an 8 GB 1600 MHz RAM module and the 4 GB 1600 MHz RAM module as a test and worked well as 12 GB 1600 MHz of RAM.

Best to use 64bit versions of Linux since you have a 64bit system and will take advantage of more RAM and any future very large storage.

The reason I taken out the details of the Linux tests before, is that I got complaints that I am being way over the top for the average user, hence the 7 thumbs down.

Here is a link to instructions that someone installed Ubuntu Linux into a machine just like this one (Dell Inspiron 3521 Laptop) and dual-booted with Windows. Using this and with my own experimenting found a good way of getting several Linux distros into this machine.

Turn off Secure Boot before installing Linux. I forgot to tell you to turn off secure boot. Just that I did that anyway as one of two steps in getting the numbers lock to auto work after booting into Windows. That is why I forgot that. I have not tried, but after installing your Linux flavor you might be able to use Secure Boot again. A few Linux distros do support Secure Boot after being installed.

Some troubleshooting. I have never ran into these, but here is the link if you need:

Tip: You can share Swap partitions with multiple Linux OSes when multi-booting. Basically have one Swap partition for all Linux OSes.

I was worried like you are, but after playing around on this system, I find that this system is indeed Linux friendly.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 16, 2014 3:56:25 PM PDT
mingus says:
Excellent! Superb reply, just the info I was looking for (been using Linux for ~10 yrs). Thanks!

It's unfortunate and unfair that you were dinged previously for including additional details. If the info is over the head of the average user, then that user can move on to other reviews; what's the big deal? For the minority who know something about systems (and clearly from the many questions asked, the "average" user knows pathetically little) and need this data to make an informed decision, your review is very valuable.

Thanks again!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 16, 2014 5:59:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 16, 2014 8:06:52 PM PDT
JaguarXT says:
I didn't have the time to go down to Fry's in South Bay, since I live in North Bay (Talking about SF Bay Area). So I went to Best Buy. I was hoping for Corsair RAM, I love Corsair. But the only Corsair they had in store at that time were 8Gb DDR3 PC3-10600 1333MHz SoDIMM. That is slower than the 4Gb of RAM 1600MHz SoDIMM that came with the laptop.

So I went with Two PNY 8GB 1.6GHz (1600MHz) PC3-12800 DDR3 SoDIMM Model: MN8192SD3-1600 modules.

If you can find Corsair - Vengeance 16GB (2 modules at 8Gb each) 1.6GHz (1600MHz) PC3-12800 DDR3 SoDIMM Model: CMSX16GX3M2A1600C10 at Best Buy then that would be a better buy. Personally I don't like Best Buy, but it is much closer than Fry's and I will be the one installing them into the system. So I guess it didn't matter.

The key to make sure that you get the right module RAMs for this laptop is DDR3 (PC3) SoDIMM modules. For this laptop best to go for two PC3-12800 1.6GHz (1600MHz) 8Gb SoDIMM modules. And best to go for two of the same modules at the same size and speed, because this system does Dual Channel on the RAMs. Dual Channel the RAM is very valuable for 64bit operating systems. If you do the math, then you would see why.

I was just so surprised with all the laptops that they are selling with 1600MHz RAM that most of the SoDIMM modules that they were selling in store are PC3-10600 1333MHz.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2014 4:37:33 PM PDT
Thank you for such a thorough review, I am not that savvy anymore with computers, they just keep getting more complicated. You were quite helpful in my decision. I need a laptop that I don't have to squint to read, and that I can use with WiFi router and wireless printer. This is imperative since I only have one phone connection in my house (don't ask, it was a mess). This may be a very basic question, but just need to be sure I can set up the laptop and printer in a room about 30 feet away from router without any cables. Thanks again, I am bookmarking your review.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2014 5:12:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 25, 2014 5:17:05 AM PDT
JaguarXT says:
This will have to do with your router and what is in between the router & laptop, rather than your laptop. The higher quality the router the better chance in doing what you want to do. But yes, if you have a mid to high end router, a wireless printer that is compatible with Windows 8.x, the router is not on or around anything that can cause interference, and as long as what is in the way doesn't cause loss of signal, then you should be able to do what you want with this laptop.

The problem is that WiFi is a black art and may need you to change something to make WiFi work better. If your DSL modem is separate from your router, then you can use an Ethernet cable to help in replacing your router so that you can get better signal if you need. Modem/Router combos are the worst thing to use. Too much CPU power (yes network equipment do have CPUs) is shared between the modem, part, NAT part, switch part and WiFi part to assure good quality long distance signal. That means if you use modem/router combo then as more bandwidth you use (Like watching Netflix movie) at any given time on the network (including the Internet) the more the WiFi signal weakness its length of coverage. That is why it is best to have a separate modem and a separate router.

Good example is that someone here in this house has a Cable Modem/Router/Phone combo. You get good signal within the same room as the Cable Modem/Router/Phone combo, but once you leave the room the signal is weak and drops. While I have my own separate Cable Modem and my own separate high end Router. I get good signal throughout the house including downstairs and even outside by the front and back doors. Same Cable line, just different equipment setup of modem and router.

The printer will have to be WiFi or Ethernet and compatible with Windows 8.x to be fully functional on a network with this laptop. USB printer network hubs never allow 100% full function of the printer, because of the computer's drivers were not created for that purpose. And as with all new Windows operating systems some printers either won't be fully functional or won't work at all with the newer Windows.

So yes, this laptop can do what you want. You just have to look at your other equipment to see if they are up to the job or not.

You are only as strong as your weakest link.

Good luck and let me know if you need any more info or help that I can provide within long distance.
‹ Previous 1 2 3 4 Next ›

Review Details


4.0 out of 5 stars (229 customer reviews)
5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:
1 star:
$379.99 $361.22
Add to cart Add to wishlist

Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Top Reviewer Ranking: 108,984