Dell Inspiron 14R Special Edition Review

Dell Inspiron 14R Special Edition Review

With the Dell Inspiron 14R Special Edition’s performance and price, it easily makes the leader in our Laptop Top 10 listing. It has an impressive spec sheet, delivers on the potential, is put together with the �premium� finish in mind and a price that is actually less than what we had expected! What more can one ask from a winner?

Build & Design
What immediately catches your eye on the Dell Inspiron 14R SE is the anodized aluminum on the lid, and the same runs across for the most part of the notebook. The lid covers look very similar to the classy carbon fibre finish we saw on the Dell XPS 13 ultrabook (read our review). For all purposes, the finish throughout is matte, but the lid cover does have a bit of shine to it – in a good way and not overtly. This is the same finish around the touchpad and the keyboard as well. Unlike glossy laptops that will catch dust, scratches and fingerprints in a jiffy, this one will not at all be that maintenance hungry.

The Dell Inspiron 14R Special Edition’s power key is very closely integrated, design wise, with the silver laptop hinge. It seems like silver metal just flowed down and the power key found the perfect place to sit!

Quick access keys seem to be going out of fashion with most laptops doing away with them, and we don’t really know why! But the Inspiron 14R SE has three of them – Settings key for quick accessing the Windows Mobility Centre, a Multimedia key that quickly takes you to your media and a configurable quick launch key that can be configured to either open an app or execute a command.

Unfortunately, a crowd favorite feature of changing the lid covers isn’t available on this machine. Even though the Inspiron 14R Special Edition is more than capable of being supported by this feature, Dell has somehow chucked this feature off the list.

Interestingly, when closed and placed on a desk, you can’t really make out where the front and the back of the Inspiron 14R SE are. The display hinge has been very nicely hidden away, and the dimensions (read thickness and design) remain the same throughout, unlike most laptops that tend to become slimmer towards the front. This isn’t the slimmest laptop around, but then again, the Inspiron 14R SE seems to be aimed at the demographic that want a solidly built laptop, and not just a slim one.

There is no shortage of connectivity options on the Dell Inspiron 14R Special Edition, quite expected considering this is a full-fledged laptop. On the right side is the optical drive along with a couple of USB 3.0 ports, and the Ethernet port. On the left is another USB 3.0 port along with one USB 2.0 port as well. You could connect this to an external display if you so wish, thanks to the HDMI out.

The island style keyboard on the Inspiron 14R Special Edition looks well spaced out. What is missing is a dedicated number pad, but that is quite expected considering this is a 14-inch display and there are space limitations. The display resolution is 1366 x 768 pixels, while the bigger siblings – the 15R and the 17R get the 1920 x 1080 pixel displays. This does seem like discrimination! Turn it on, and we played some videos, and the results were impressive. The display is natively bright, and the colour reproduction seems quite impressive. Unfortunately, the display is a tad reflective. Having said that, it is much lesser than some of the laptops that we have tested off late.

Mercifully, the Inspiron 14R SE’s touchpad isn’t following the trend a lot of rivals are setting, and has separate right and left click keys – with no ridiculous integration business within the touchpad area. On the other hand, that does mean that the real estate for the touchpad does become a tad less, but it is still more than enough for deploying multi-touch gestures comfortably. Sure and consistent response for the most part, but only after we did a driver update from Dell’s support website.

Undoubtedly, the Dell Inspiron 14R Special Edition’s build quality feels premium and in tune with the price tag slapped on it. It is very well put together, with the only real drawback being the

Features & Specifications
Let us run you through the power package of the Inspiron 14R Special Edition. We got the top of the line version for the testing and review purpose It is powered by an Intel Core-i7 – 3612QM processor, clocking in at 2.1GHz. When in Turbo Boost mode, this can be clocked up to 3.1GHz. Needless to mention, but this is the third gen Core series processor, lovingly known as Ivy Bridge series. The 14R SE features 6GB of RAM, along with the dual Nvidia GT640M (2GB) and Intel HD 4000 graphics, news that will surely warm the hearts of the gamers out there.

The goodness on the Inspiron 14R Special Edition doesn’t end there, with a 1TB HDD as well. Dell preloads the machine with Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit), along with a bunch of Dell branded apps as well as some third party trials.

It is a bit unfortunate that the Inspiron 14R Special Edition’s display doesn’t have the goodness of the 1080p resolution, but is limited to 1366 x 768 pixels on the 14-inch display. The bigger sibling –the Inspiron 17R Special Edition gets a full HD display, and surprisingly, even the Inspiron 15R Special Edition doesn’t! Nevertheless, we really like the overall display quality. Let us get to the good things first – this display is natively bright, which is a solid base to start on. Surprisingly, the black levels are better than what we expected, and is probably better than what most rivals offer. Good colour vividness and is quite even as well, and is also definitely quite some way better than most of the rivals. Crispness is in adequate amounts, and that really helps with text viewing as well as multimedia viewing. The real kicker is the ability to handle fast moving visuals with ease – something that is critical for movie playback as well as for gaming. Unfortunately, the reflective nature of this display does take away some of the good work done elsewhere. Sitting at home, or in office, there will be continuous reflections off the display, of anything and everything in the ambience. More than anything, this causes eyestrain when working on it for long durations.

Despite the Dell Inspiron 14R Special Edition being limited in terms of real estate because of a 14-inch display, the keyboard layout is quite comfortable to get used to. The spacing between the keys is more than expected, also helped by the fact that the keys are slightly smaller than usual. But let us make it plainly clear – it will not make any difference when you are typing a document. No dips in the keyboard, and will not even the most violent of typing on it will make it rattle. The touchpad also has generous amounts of space, despite separate keys for the right and left click.

The Dell Inspiron 14R Special Edition’s ports are spread out on the right and the left of the display, with no dabbling with the idea of placing them at the back. The memory card shifts to the front near side spine, something we notice is becoming a bit of a trend.

Unfortunately, all this does come with a bit of weight, and bulk! At 2.38kg, this isn’t any heavier than Sony Vaio E-series (read our review) or the Toshiba Satellite L850 (read our review), but the fact that it is thicker than any rival laptop means it does have a more imposing look.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the Ivy Bridge Core i7 performs very well on the benchmark comparison sheet, and not entirely surprisingly so. The 6GB of RAM helps it shuffle along quite quickly. For comparison, we have the 14R SE up against the Toshiba Satellite L850, which is also powered by an Core i7 processor on the Ivy Bridge platform, but has 8GB of RAM to help it along. Also, we have a Sony Vaio E-series laptop in the mix, with an Intel Core i5 on the Sandy Bridge platform – just to give you an idea of the performance difference.

From these scores, you can easily see that the two Ivy Bridge machines are neck and neck. The Toshiba has an advantage in one benchmark, but the Inspiron 14R SE gets its own back in the next one. In a nutshell, the performance is indeed pointing to a very powerful laptop, which will not get bogged down with whatever you may throw at it, in terms of heavy apps or even multitasking on it to the fullest. Critically, once you move beyond the benchmarks, the machine feels rather zippy even in a real life usage scenario. Double click on a software shortcut, and you will see it open and ready before you can finish saying “winning”!

With the dual team of the Intel HD 4000 and the Nvidia GeForce GT640M (1GB), gaming is certainly a comfortable territory for the Inspiron 14R Special Edition. The 3D Mark score of 12635 is by far the highest among all Ivy Bridge laptops that we have tested. Even on the more taxing 3D Mark 11, the scores of 3132 (Entry Mode), 1915 (Performance mode) and 592 (Extreme mode) are still the highest on our score comparison sheet.

Unigene verifies that with an FPS score of 30.1, indicating that you will be able to do quite a bit of gaming on this laptop. In fact, we had mentioned a couple of games when we were talking about the real world performance, and can say it for a certainty.

These machines are pretty capable in terms of handling some games as well. The review unit has a GeForce GT640M (2GB), and handles games without any issues. Am not much of a gamer, but do have a bit of a fascination with racing games. The old favorite, GRID played back without any issues at all, and we didn’t see any drop in frame rates. The critical bit with racing games is the smoothness of the very fast scenes, and they were very smooth. To verify, we also played the slightly newer NFS: Hot Pursuit, and the results were very impressive. For all you gamers out there, this laptop will serve that purpose for the most part. However, do update the graphics drivers in the very beginning itself, because we did see quite a difference in the benchmark scores before and after the new drivers were installed. While you may not really see any difference in real time usage, but updates might bring in some tweaks to make the hardware run better – safer in the longer run, surely!

In our very stressful battery test (Examples of the setup – High Performance mode with display at full brightness all the time), we clocked this laptop doing 110 minutes from full charge to full discharge. That is almost two hours, and in a typical real world usage scenario, this one should be good for a bit more than 3 hours. Quite good, considering the amount of power that is available whenever you want it, and the specs indicate this can be a very competent notebook and a desktop replacement, all at the same time.

Bottom Line
Without a shadow of a doubt, the Dell Inspiron 14R Special Edition is the laptop to buy if you are in the market to buy something powerful, yet not very costly. Considering the fact that the entire range is now updated with the Ivy Bridge processors, it is up to you to take the pick. As far as our recommendation goes, we would suggest you consider this before buying anything else.

Vishal Mathur

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