A heavyweight, large-screen laptop coated in cheap plastic
Dell has made a real beast of a laptop. Weighing in at over 3kg and with a 17.3in display the Inspiron 17R is designed as a desktop-replacement model that won't leave the house often, if ever.
This laptop has a chunky plastic design. The lid is coated in shiny plastic that has been finished with a brushed metal effect. If this look doesn't suit you then the plastic cover can be easily detached and swapped for a range of coloured covers like an old-fashioned mobile phone. These alternative covers are a little pricey though at £30 each.
The Inspiron 17R is available in a variety of configurations. Our test unit came equipped with a powerful Intel Core i5 3210M processor running at 2.5GHz and a fast Nvidia Geforce GT 630M graphics chip. There's plentiful memory too – the 6GB should be more than enough to deal with demanding tasks. A generously large 1TB hard disk should provide ample storage space.
The 17.3in screen has a high resolution of 1,600x900 pixels which is enough to show 720p HD video. It looks sharp and bright. It's a shame there's no option for an even higher resolution though as some other laptops have 1080p-capable screens.
As expected. battery life wasn't great. We managed to eke out three hours and 45 minutes when browsing web pages and text documents, but this will drop significantly when playing video or doing more demanding work. Given the heavy 3kg weight the relatively short battery life isn't a critical flaw as it would be in a lighter, more portable laptop.
One advantage of the laptop's mighty size is the amount of space available for the keyboard and touchpad – regular spreadsheet users will appreciate the large number pad. The large keys required little pressure when typing, so working on long documents was comfortable and fast. Sadly the touchpad was made out of cheap plastic and the buttons felt wobbly and spongy. The touchpad felt unresponsive when attempting to use the tablet-style multitouch gestures.
We weren't fond of the bundled Dell Stage program. Similar to the Windows taskbar, Stage is a launcher for games, music and movie programs but we found that many of these programs were just demos or were buggy and crashed frequently.
There are plenty of ports and slots. Four USB3 ports are joined by a HDMI connector, a VGA socket and a DVD writer. There is also a Kensington lock for securing the laptop to a desk and a memory card reader. Oddly, there's no option for a Blu-Ray drive.
The touchpad and the bundled software are disappointing and the chunky design won't suit everyone, but if you want a powerful laptop for use around the home then the Dell Inspiron 17R is a good value choice.
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This large hunk of plastic won't win any prizes for style, but it is a good desktop-replacement laptop.
Large, high-resolution screen; Comfortable keyboard; Powerful
Chunky design; Poor touchpad
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