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Dell Inspiron 15 reviews reference a variety of configurations and the name has been around for several years, so it's important to note which version you're dealing with. The model we chose is the Dell Inspiron 15 3521 (starting at $350, Amazon). The cheapest configuration has a 1.6 GHz Intel Celeron processor; we recommend stepping up to a version with an Intel Core i3 CPU, only a $50 upgrade. A computer industry veteran writing for About.com checked out the Core i3 system and notes that the particular processor used in this machine is designed for ultrabooks, so it draws less power than a standard CPU, which should help with battery life -- indeed, the computer totaled more than four hours in a video playback test -- but sacrifice some performance. Regardless, the Dell Inspiron 15 has plenty of gas for typical operations such as web surfing, email, playing videos, and using productivity software such as Microsoft Office. It's thinner and lighter than most competing laptops and it includes Bluetooth 4.0 support, a nice extra lacking on many budget systems. A reviewer at PC Mag, which gives the Dell Inspiron 15 an Editors' Choice award, says the machine doesn't look or feel like a budget laptop.
On the consumer front, Dell Inspiron 15 reviews from the manufacturer's website conclude that this is a pretty fast laptop with lots of features at an attractive price. There are some complaints about learning to use Windows 8, but consumers down on Microsoft's latest operating system can still buy a Dell Inspiron 15 with Windows 7. A few users report various technical problems, such as the Wi-fi disconnecting or the laptop running too hot, but for the most part users say the system runs well.
The Dell Inspiron 15 3521 comes standard with 4GB of RAM. The cheapest configuration has a 320GB hard drive, which is a bit on the small side. Upgrade to the Intel Core i3 version of this machine and you'll also get a 500GB hard drive. Like most any laptop, the Dell Inspiron 15 supports 802.11n Wi-Fi connections. It has two USB 3.0 ports (some competitors don't have a single one), two USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, an HDMI connection, a headphone/mic jack, and a memory card reader. The four-cell battery is a little on the small side, but user reviewers are satisfied with the run time, and the smaller battery contributes to the device's fairly light weight: just under 5 pounds. The system has a 15.6-inch display with 1366 x 768 resolution, good enough for 720p high-definition video, and buyers can upgrade to a touchscreen to make the most of the new Windows 8 while still keeping the price at $500. For a bigger screen, look to the Dell Inspiron 17 (starting at $400), which has earned multiple editors' choice awards.
The current incarnation of the Dell Inspiron 15 is a good laptop at a good price, consistent with Dell laptops of the past. No budget machine is perfect, but this one checks all the boxes and even includes a couple of nice extra features such as Bluetooth and two USB 3.0 ports for faster transfers.