My Review of the Dell Inspiron 17R
Buying the Dell
First off, I would like to say that I have owned one other laptop. It was a Dell Inspiron that I purchased 6-7 years ago. It was my very first laptop and I remember upgrading it until it was about $1200. I loved that clunky 2'' thick thing and used it up until about a year ago. By that point, it was missing buttons (thanks to my newly mobile baby son) and wouldn't power on if the battery was attached. Once I was able to get it to turn on, it usually took anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour to boot up. Sounds horrible, I know...but that laptop gave me a good 5 years or so before it took a dive.
More recently, I wanted another laptop that I could use for my blossoming photography business. I have a desktop (also a Dell, which I upgraded myself...DIY, baby!) that I previously thought had plenty of memory for my purposes. However, after taking a few photo shoots in RAW, I realized that I would need a lot more memory. I also wanted something mobile that I could take to see clients. Add these needs to my sputtering former laptop and it was the perfect storm for a new laptop purchase.
I went with Dell again because my purchase with them was so easy and affordable last time. This time was the same. I got on the Dell website and after looking around for a couple of hours I decided on another 17'' Inspiron. I choose the features that I wanted and was instantly approved for financing/payment plan through Dell Financial Services. I received a 6-months no interest promotion and a horribly high interest rate. Since my laptop totaled to just under $750 I wasn't worried about the interest rate, since I knew that it would be paid off in the 6-month interest free period. I placed the order and received my laptop within a few days. It was packaged really well in layers upon layers of cardboard boxes and cardboard dividers.
For my laptop I chose the following features:
- Windows 7 Home Premium
- Intel Core i5 3210 CPU @ 2.5GHz
- 8 GB of RAM
- 1 TB Hard Drive
- 17'' HD screen
- DVD drive with DVD/CD burner
This laptop came with a webcam, Skype, Photoshop Elements 9 and Adobe Premiere Elements 9, Microsoft Office 2010 Starter, a few basic games all of your standard Dell software (system backup, Dell Datasafe, Dell stage, etc).
As I've mentioned, I ordered the 17'' size laptop. This screen is plenty big and is comfortable to watch movies and Hulu shows on. When it is closed, the laptop is right at 1'' thick. My laptop is trimmed in a silver finish with a smooth gray charcoal finish on the inside (which surrounds a spacious black keyboard). I chose the model that allows you to have switchable lids (I ordered the plain blue lid for a pop of color).
The keyboard is spacious and feels almost like a full size keyboard. I do not feel cramped or uncomfortable when I am typing. All of the function buttons work beautifully. None of the keys are sticking. Each key has space between them too, which makes it extremely easy for me to keep my keyboard clean (even with a crumb covered toddler running around).
Just below the keyboard there is a built in trackpad. This trackpad is my one gripe. It is very slightly off center (just barely closer to the left edge of keyboard than the right side), which is commonly seen in laptops. However this trackpad is extremely sensitive, even after I have adjusted the settings. The trackpad is nice in the fact that it recognizes different forms of touch. For example, if make a pinching motion with two fingers it will zoom out of the screen. Or if I take my closed thumb and forefinger and open them up, it will make what is on the screen bigger. You can also scroll from the trackpad and all the other basic motions. However, sometimes when I am typing, I will unknowingly drag my palm or wrist across the trackpad and mess up whatever I have going on in my screen. After adjusting the sensitivity, this happened less but it still happens enough to be an annoyance. This model does come with a function key to lock the trackpad so it can be turned completely off if needed.
As I mentioned, this model is a lot thinner than previous generations. This nice when you have to pack your laptop and travel with it. The flip side of this is that it feels a bit flimsy. Also, if I pick my open laptop up and put the pressure of my thumb and forefinger on the front left corner of the keyboard area it will immediately turn off. I'm assuming something to do with the laptop's power is located inside there and there is not enough cushion to protect it. The speakers are located at the bottom of the front of the unit. If you are on soft surfaces this can muddle the sound a little.
I have four USB ports, an HDMI port, monitor port, headphone jack, mic jack, memory card slot, an ethernet jack and DVD/CD drive located along the sides and front of my laptop. Everything is easily accessible and seem to be working great still. The status lights for power, battery, wireless signal and processing all are along the front left corner of laptop, so they can be easily viewed. The built in webcam is centered above the monitor and can record, broadcast or take still images.
I am running Windows 7 Home Premium. I don't feel that it is a great improvement on previous versions of Windows. So far, nothing stands out as great or is a "I can't believe I lived without this feature before" quality. My laptop boots up to the password screen within 10 seconds. I can be completely up and running usually in about 20-30 seconds.
I just ordered the starter version of Microsoft Office 2010. It seems to function pretty much like normal but you will have ads shown every time that you use it. Not a big deal for me since I use graphic programs and email a lot more and rarely use my laptop for word processing. Photoshop Elements is great for doing basic graphic work. I have not had any reason to use Premiere yet, but I have looked at it and it looks like a easy UI to work with.
The 1 TB*** Hard Drive
I do think that it is worth mentioning that I ordered a 1 TB hard drive, however I only got 911 GB. I realize that part of it will always unavailable, but if Dell was going to short me almost 100 GB, I would have liked a heads up before ordering. There is no little asterik next to the memory size or any fine print. Looking at the Dell site today, there still isn't. The only thing that I could find is a little link near the bottom of the page that says "Important product and Service Details". This link take you to a pop-up of fine print. On this page there is a small section that says this:
Memory and Graphics
Graphics & System Memory: GB means 1 billion bytes and TB equals 1 trillion bytes; significant system memory may be used to support graphics, depending on system memory size and other factors.
That's all the warning that Dell will give you and it is not even situated on the web page anywhere near where memory or hard drive size is mentioned. They wont give you warning, so I thought that I should. I ordered 1 TB and I got 911 GB. You've been warned! ;)
Overall, this laptop has a lot going for it. It is moderately priced, it has a large hard drive, it boots up quickly, it has an attractive, sleek design. It mostly functions as it should. It has all the software and functions that I need for my photography laptop.
A con is that it doesn't seem as durable as it's predecessors...I really doubt that it will last five years before it starts to break down, much less two or three. Another con is that it mostly functions as it should (I know that I listed that as a pro in the above paragraph). Although the apostrophe key works it often doesn't show up on the screen or in the emails that I am typing. The same goes for the quotation mark. About 1 week ago, instead of typing an opening quotation mark I started getting accent marks above my text (but the closing quotation would work fine). Sometimes the wireless adapter doesn't want to work. Sometimes the trackpad wants to overwork. Little bugs and annoyances, basically.
Overall, if I had a choice about buying this laptop again I would not. Not because it is horrible, but because it is not great. It works, but I am not impressed. The biggest disappointment is not the little glitches, but the quality of construction. I feels flimsy and I always have the fear in the back of my mind that if I pick it up the wrong way one day the entire bezel will break off in my hands. Definitey it is a good laptop, but for the money I believe that I can do better.