With its $999 price tag, the Dell Inspiron 1525 is one of the most "expensive" budget notebooks we've reviewed. Even so, its sleek design, strong dual-core performance, long battery life, and top-notch multimedia components set it apart from the pack.
The Inspiron's glossy black lid sports a silver Dell logo badge in the middle and a silver racing stripe pattern off to the left, giving it an elegant, yet sporty look called "Street." (Two other designs are available as well, including "Chill," a cool blue-and-white swirl pattern, and "Blossom," a fuchsia floral design).
Inspiron 1525 Display and Webcam
Under the lid you'll find a beautiful 15.4-inch widescreen framed by a silver bezel. The 1440 x 900-pixel glossy panel delivered vibrant colors and a sharp picture with very little reflection, and viewing angles are good from all directions. Our review unit came with a 2-megapixel webcam and two microphones embedded in the screen's upper bezel.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The upper portion of the silver keyboard deck contains a set of low-powered speakers that lacked bass response, plus a power switch and a nice soft-touch media control bar for adjusting volume and controlling CD/DVD playback. It also has a hotkey that launches Dell's MediaDirect application, where you can access movies, music, and video clips, as well as view pictures from a central launching point. This same hotkey gives you access to your calendar and contact database via the Instant Office applet.
The keyboard is comfortable and well spaced, but the wide-aspect touchpad was a tad sensitive and jumpy at first. A quick tweak of the speed and sensitivity settings took care of that.
Plethora of Ports on the Inspiron 1525
We love the placement of two headphone jacks on the notebook's front edge, which lets you share music or movie soundtracks with a friend. A microphone input and an 8-in-1 card reader are also mounted on the front edge.
We like that all connectivity ports are located on either side of the chassis instead of in the back. On the left are two USB ports, a VGA connector, a FireWire port, and modem and Ethernet jacks. There's also an HDMI port for connecting to external audio and video components with a single cable. On the right side is an 8X dual-layer DVD burner, an ExpressCard slot, two additional USB ports, and an S-Video jack.
Strong Performance and Battery Life
A 2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250 processor, 2GB of memory, and a 120GB hard drive spinning at 5,400 rpm combined to deliver an impressive PCMark05 score of 4,197, the highest in the roundup. It managed a score of 124 on MobileMark 2007, which is head-and-shoulders above the rest in the group.
The battery, which lasted 4 hours and 23 minutes on our rundown test, also took top honors. A 3DMark03 score of 1,704 means you'll have to play your 3D games in low-res mode with all the bells and whistles turned off for best results, but you can enable Vista's Aero effects without worry.
As with the HP Pavilion dv6500t, the Inspiron 1525 is equipped with a 802.11n Wi-Fi network card, which managed a respectable throughput of 19.9 Mbps when placed 15 feet from our access point. However, wireless performance at the 50-foot range was inconsistent, a flaw we chalk up to Dell's use of preproduction drivers on our review system.
Inspiron 1525: More for Your Money
What's most interesting about the Inspiron 1525, however, is all you can get for such little money. You can also opt for Dell's new PC to PC transfer service ($29), which makes transferring all your data and preferences from your old PC to your new one quick and easy.
With its strong performance, high-res screen, and long battery life, it's easy to see why the Dell Inspiron 1525 is our favorite mainstream budget notebook. The addition of a webcam and an HDMI port are just icing on the cake.