Dell Introduces Back-to-School Friendly Inspiron 14R, 15R and 17R

Today Dell launched a new line of Inspiron notebooks geared toward mainstream consumers and the Back to School crowd. The Inspiron R series -- 14R, 15R and 17R -- come wrapped in attractive, metal chassis, pack Intel Core i CPUs, and support Intel's Wireless Display. Starting at just $449, there's an R for every budget.

The Inspiron R Series notebooks all have the same striking design, elements of which we've seen in other recent Dell systems. The magnesium alloy chassis is sturdy and strong, so users can feel comfortable carrying or passing the notebooks with just one hand (if you've got the wrist strength). The metallic sheen on the lids collects fingerprints easily, but is still attractive. Each of the notebooks is available in four creatively-named colors: Mars Black, Peacock Blue, Tomato Red and Lotus Pink.

Under the hood, a glossy bezel and screen are just as fingerprint-prone, but the deck has a smudge-resistant coating over the brushed metal surface. All sizes boast an full-size keyboard and terraced keys, and the 15 and 17-inch notebooks have enough room for full numeric keypads as well. We're also really pleased to see large touchpads and generous mouse buttons on all models.

As with several other Dell systems, including the most recent Inspiron Mini 10, the Inspiron R series incorporates the hinge forward design. This leaves some room for the battery -- which is the same size for all R Series systems -- and there's enough room to the left and right of that for extra ports. Each will come with a 6-cell battery with the option for an extended 9-cell battery.

On the inside the Inspiron R Series is just as attractive. Consumers have their choice of Intel Core i3 or Core i5 CPUs, 1GB discrete ATI graphics, up to 640GB of hard drive space, up to 6GB of RAM (max 8GB), and optional HD resolution displays. Also available: Intel Wireless Display technology. We're big fans of this feature -- see our demo here -- which allows users to project the laptop's display to an HDTV. The inclusion of SRS Premium Sound further ensures that the R Series will satisfy multimedia lovers as well as productivity hounds.

We're currently putting the Dell Inspiron 14R through its paces in our lab -- look for a full review early this week -- and so far we're impressed with what we see. It's a bit heavier than we'd like at a sliver under 5 pounds, though the system doesn't look or feel bulky. The keyboard offers good tactile response, the touchpad's mulltitouch functions don't often get in our way or do unexpected things, and the screen is bright with rich colors.

The 14R's Core i3 CPU helped the notebook outperform the Core 2 Duo-powered MacBook in PCMark Vantage (which measures overall performance), but the ATI Radeon GPU didn't deliver the same graphics power as the MacBook's Nvidia GeForce chip. Still, students looking to get in some light gaming in-between study sessions shouldn't be disappointed. Stay tuned for the review to see full benchmark scores and comparisons. In the meantime, whet your appetite with this video hands-on:


Consumers will be able to order the Inspiron 14R, 15R and 17R at with starting prices ranging from $449 to $699. Pre-configured FastTrack versions can arrive at your door in 48 hours, or you can tweak the insides to your liking online. Units will also be available at all 35 Fry's Electronics locations starting June 25th.