Dell Inspiron 17R Computer- Intel Core i5-2450M processor 2.50 GHz with Turbo Boost up to 3.1... (fnawy78) PC Notebook
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Nice but heavy laptop buy after 6-2012 cheap upgrade to win 8!
Written: Jul 19, 2012 (Updated Mar 28, 2013)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
- User Rating: Excellent
Ease of Use:
Quality of Tech Support:
Pros:Recovery disks, sharp led 17" screen, external hdmi port, win 8 update
Cons:Weight, lack of easy access to components for upgrades etc., only two sodimm slots.
The Bottom Line: Heavy but good enough for many graphic intensive games, wifi good enough for games, very clear screen. Interchangeable lids are cool. Not easy to upgrade.
I use mostly my desktop pc but occasionally it's nice to go hang out at the library or other place with free wifi just to get out of the house. I have a dell mini 9 netbook which is ok for checking email and a bit of web surfing but it doesn't have the horsepower or enough storage for online games. I like the netbook for the outrageously long battery life but I just wanted something better that could handle my favorite online game no sweat. I own an old dell b160 which for its time was a fantastic machine, but it's too old for new games and it has already been upgraded as much as possible.
I would have loved an alienware laptop but at close to 2 grand for the midrange machine it was just out of my budget range. I had looked at the Inspiron line earlier, but thought those were a bit overpriced as well. The nice thing about Dell is they often put last year's models on special pricing so I was able to get the machine I'd looked at last year that was going to be twelve hundred dollars for around seven hundred. I jumped at it thinking it would be a lot more years before I could get the one I really wanted. I've always had good luck with dell, but lately I've heard they are in some financial troubles...even if they do die, I have confidence that parts would be available for a good long time to come.
This unit is somewhat customizeable as with all their machines. I mostly stuck to the basic unit but there was a choice of wifi card, bluetooth, extra memory, hard drive, machine lid design, software extras like roxio and which version of windows 7 comes with it. I have 7 ultimate on my desktop but it would have added something like a hundred dollars to the price to get it here so I stayed with the home version since I don't plan to do as much with it as my desktop. I really like windows 7 so far. As usual with all of MS OS, the earlier effort after xp (vista) was junk but 7 finally got all the issues cured. This unit has a 64 bit multi-core cpu and the version of 7 that comes with it is designed to take advantage of the 64 bit as opposed to 32 bit pcu. A 64 bit os can also handle more ram than a 32 bit os. You can think of a 64 bit cpu something like an 8 lane highway compared to the 4 lane highway of a 32 bit cpu. Like most current cpus, the i5 is multicore which you can think of as little individual computers that can all work on their own problems at the same time so things get done faster.
What's in the box:
Power adapter and plug in grounded cord (so if you want to you can put a much longer power cord to the adapter). The plug itself coming off the adapter has a respectably long wire but you can give more reach by changing the cord to the wall with a longer one.
Unless you ordered a special lid the laptop comes with the stock black one.
SYSTEM DISKS! sad to say many systems these days do not come with a set of recovery disks in case the worst happens; you make your own. The Dell restore disk comes with a factory restore onboard but once you have the machine up there are options to save your own restore info to a special place on the hard disk where it will always survive unless the hard drive is upgraded or dies.
Almost no setup, Dell has it all installed so when you turn it on it will ask about your time zone, the password you want to use and a few other little things. The battery even came charged but as many will tell you, it's a very good idea to leave your battery charging for a day or two before you use it to break it in a little. New tech batteries are pretty memory resistant but they also work better for longer if properly broken in. After the initial charge, completely drain the battery and recharge it a few times to break it in even better. There is a little bit of plastic film in a couple of areas and a plastic protector on the keyboard, I don't pull these off till I'm sure it's working right.
Aside from the battery conditioning I always suggest you let the machine run for at least twenty four hours. I have done this with every new machine or build. The "burn in" procedure lets you find heat issues, memory issues, bad or misbehaving drivers, bad hard drives etc. because that much continuous running will reveal problems under stress/load. There are utilities, some free, that will excercise all your components continuously and keep track of any errors...this is even better for a burn in. My burn in excercise was easy, there were about a hundred important updates that windows wanted to download and install right away so I just left it to run all night and that was done by morning and also gave the machine something to work on that required a little horsepower. There were over a hundred updates on first try and a couple more after the machine rebooted. Win 7 allows you to set automatic updates so unless you're away from a connection for a long while that should be the last time you have so very many updates.
This unit came with the intel i5 cpu, other models are available with the i3, also the i7 if I'm not mistaken. This cpu is a quad core 64bit cpu apparently. While it's apparently possible to update the cpu, you have to completely disassemble everything down to the bottom of the case, probably not a procedure for the feint of heart.
6 gig ram is standard but you can install up to 8. This machine uses two SODIMM memory cards of the proper speed (printed in the instructions and specs from Dell or just look at the chips themselves). Max memory is 8 gigs (two four gig SODIMM).
500 gig 5400 rpm hard drive. 750 meg 7200 rpm with hybrid technology is also available for over a hundred more (hybrid drives have static ram memory where often used data is cached so they are in effect much faster due to an onboard smart hard drive cache). I just stuck to the stock drive, I found I can buy that same drive for much less money and change it myself later.
Decent stereo speakers, with a subwoofer of all things.
The usual sound chip found on many if not most systems these days if it's built into the motherboard. It's no creative soundblaster but good enough. If you just have to have quality sound I believe soundblaster makes a USB unit that you plug external speakers into.
Intel 3000 graphics chip (supposed to handle many games acceptably)
Onboard b/g/n wifi. Optional MIMO wifi card that is a bit faster and better for games etc. I stuck with stock. This looks to be a fairly easy upgrade, the slot is on top of the motherboard beneath the keyboard and the bezel around it.
Bluetooth is optional not stock. I chose the bluetooth for some of the other gadgets I use. It's nice if you skype and want a bluetooth headset or a bluetooth mouse or external keyboard or even file transfers to your bluetooth equipped smart phone.
48 wh battery, about three hours use maybe more depending on how you set the power usage settings. A 90 wh battery is available for about a hundred fifty more giving something like 7 hours of use from reports. I generaly don't buy extra batteries right away often there are better prices on ebay (OEM not necessarily genuine dell which might cause warranty problems). I stuck with stock battery
The screen on this unit is LED, I thought they all were but apparently not from what I've heard from friends. The 17" screen is bright and there is no apparent blur even with very fast moving objects on movies etc.
Black lid preinstalled. There are fancy graphic and color lid options the lid pops off with a couple of tabs. The lids are available on ebay but dell has a special twenty dollar off price right now. I bought an extra lid but haven't installed it yet. You can also get skins on ebay, high quality stickers to personalize your machine.
DVD/Rom burner/reader. An optional blue ray drive is available for over a hundred dollars more. I'll upgrade that later if I want it. Stuck with stock. The dvd device is a very easy upgrade, one screw and change the bezel to the new drive and you're done.
Three handy buttons under the screen for settings and to shut off the screen without waiting for power saver settings to kick in. I haven't seen this feature on other laptops but it's WONDERFUL in case you want to step away and not have everyone's nose inserted in your screen.
You get a one year subscription to online or cloud storage, something like two gigabyte for free. Anything you put there is accessable to you from anyplace else you get online without carrying a zip drive etc.
You can order roxio if you want it when you order the machine
It came with a introductory subscription to mcafee antivirus..after past problems with macafee I unloaded it I feel it's junk. You can get better free for person use antivirus like avast or upgrade to the paid versions.
There are also web cam utilities, dells support desktop, etc. All of these don't come on the install disks, they are automatically available for download once you have it going.
Of course win 7 comes only with internet explorer onboard and you're still tied to IE for updates on their website.
RJ 45 ethernet cord
VGA monitor connector (could be used for projectors etc. not just monitors)
Mini HDMI for connection to your big flat panel tv or some larger monitors and dvd recorders etc.
USB ports, I believe there are four (3 on right, 1 on left), 2 of which are usb 3 (right side) but the faster usb 3 ports are backward compatible with usb 2 devices
Card reader-SD card, memory stick only (just get a usb reader for any other type).
At eight pounds with the stock battery and more with the extended battery this thing is a brick and probably not something you'll enjoy carrying around on your shoulder all day long. Get a backpack. It will be fine for around the house or anyplace you have a table to set it on. The screen is sharp and clear, the lid tilts to acceptable angles and very importantly it does not get horribly hot on the bottom. The air vent for internal heat is on the left side so it should not get blocked like some units that have it on the bottom. I wanted this to play my favorite game, city of heroes/villains, it does very well with that game but that game is not as graphics intensive as many of the other popular newer online games. I found a computer game site that will take the specs of your laptop and tell you if it can handle a particular game or not and how well.
I really like the little buttons on the right bottom of the screen. One activates settings, middle is for the dell support screen, and the third turns the screen on or off without waiting for the power saver settings to kick in. As you probably know it's mostly the screen that uses all the power on a laptop so that is a very handy little button.
My biggest gripe about this unit is the lack of user accessible parts that you might want to upgrade or remove for trouble shooting. My old b160 had a panel for the cpu, the memory and the hard drive, this unit only has a panel for the memory. With this unit, to change out the hard drive you have to take off the keyboard and a bit more to access the hard drive; pictorial directions available online and a video on youtube. Nothing I can't handle, but my big concern is if I get one of those scareware virus things the only foolproof way I've ever been able to kill one of those was to pull the drive out of the infected machine and clean it on another machine via an external drive case...win 7 is supposedly more secure against those but we shall see I suppose; the little creeps get more clever every day.
I guess the lack of easily accessible parts for upgrades is planned obsolescence; no one really keeps laptops for more than a year or two anymore, they become obsolete so quickly. From the pictures I've seen of the innards of this laptop, it doesn't look like much besides the hard drive, dvd rom and memory sticks can be easily upgraded. I found a tutorial on youtube showing the machine being completely disassembled. The wifi card is located beneath the top bezel and is accessable when the keyboard and bezel is removed. The video didn't show the location of the bluetooth so that is either built into the motherboard or there is a socket and card for it but the guy with the video didn't have it and so didn't mention it. The CMOS battery is located in a holder on the bottom of the motherboard..only accessible with a complete disassembly of the computer. Having the battery there is stupid. If the cmos battery dies you may end up with a dead machine, or at least one that can't keep time which can cause issues all itself; that goes along with the planned obsolescense I suppose. (CMOS batteries last three years on average and they don't want you to keep it longer than that.) The CPU is apparently socketed but it's also on the underside of the motherboard requiring total disassembly. After you get to the cpu, you then have to carefully remove the giant copper heat pipe (heat sink) it hides beneath to access the cpu socket; beyond that it's simply pop the new cpu in, lock the lever and put it all back together (of course you must be sure the bios onboard your laptop can support the cpu you want to put in it or your machine will not run). I suppose you might be able to cobble a way to bench test before you reassemble it but I really haven't thought about it much.
Other than the apparent lack of simple upgrades and the fact that the hard drive is not easy to access for replacement, I like this machine. The keyboard is not terrific but is adequate and offers a number keypad which has been deleted on many laptop keyboards, it also has the usual volume, screen brightness and other keys activated by the FN key. I still use the old b160 but this one is great for my game and the extended battery will give it enough life to relax outside at the pool with no power cord nearby and play the game and do chat, youtube etc. The screen is very sharp and a lot better than a 15" screen. The only problem I had was finding a regular case for it since most only fit fifteen inch laptops. I lucked out in the local big lots for a basic 17" case under twenty bucks. My motorcycle backpack looks like the pocket is big enough to accommodate this monster. For seven hundred dollars I think this is worth that, shop a bit, if you have cash I've seen it a little cheaper in a few places but beware that they might make up the price difference with crazy shipping costs. Right now Dell has free shipping. I ordered this unit on a Tuesday and it was on my doorstep by that Friday so it was really fast delivery. I like it, I think it's worth it. You won't find many computers these days that give you recovery disks as this one does. I did have to reload the factory setup once when something ate the registry but it was a very fast and easy process, no big deal. Registry messes have been the bane of every version of windows ever made and 7 is apparently no exception.
Update 8-2012: Had this a couple of months now. Apparently some people are having issues with noise/static coming over the speakers..I haven't seen this yet thank goodness. In the old days there were sometimes issues with "buss noise" usually created by hard drive accesses or other heavy buss uses and it had to be corrected by a bios update or a driver fix. I supect that is what's going on although some report that disconnecting the subwoofer helped the issue. If or when I run into this....well you know, hope I don't. As someone noted on one of the reviews here the battery life indicator has this penchant to jump all over the place. Didn't see that much with the stock battery but now that I'm using the extended battery, I seem to see it a bunch. It could be differences in cpu usage etc. that is causing the wildly fluctuating battery life meter but just in case I have completely drained and then charged the extended battery and that seems to have helped the issue. I looked in the bios settings to see if there were any battery conditioning settings, one of my old laptops had that, but this one doesn't. Just drain and recharge your battery in the laptop a few times and that should help. The extended battery adds at least a pound or more to the laptop, now you really don't want to sit this on your lap or carry it around all day long. I used the cd burner to create a set of backups for that unthinkable situation, anytime you install major software you probably want to make another set. I haven't upgraded the hard drive yet, probably do that next year when the warranty is out. Finally got my home network set back up and this works great with my belkin n1 vision router/access point.
update 10-2012: I don't know what I was looking at but I stumbled upon an article saying that microsoft was offering an upgrade to windows 8 professional to anyone buying a pc with win 7 on it purchased after june of 2012. You get 8 professional no matter what version of 7 you have, so even if you have HOME you're getting 8 PRO. As of this moment the price for the download version is supposed to be $14.99, wow, I went to the web page and entered my information and will be eligible for the upgrade (glad I didn't spend more for the win 7!!). Reportadly the upgrade is supposed to be available the end of October 2012 and will be available until early 2013 (jan, feb). For an additional fee you can order the upgrade on disk (no one is saying how much extra of course) instead of download and reportedly the upgrade can be used on any win 7 OS machine not just the qualifying machine (i.e. you get rid of the laptop and put the uprade on another win 7 machine if you so choose, like always one install on one machine per set of disks; they still do the hardware footprint thing).
Pretty amazing, MS must be worried about their bottom line or worried about Google os that has recently been released on a netbook or two. WWW.WINDOWSUPGRADEOFFER.COM.
Win 8 update: The price with the backup dvd was under thirty bucks with shipping etc. The upgrade went flawlessly there was a driver or two and a piece of software that weren't functional with win 8 but the installer saw that and disabled the problem kids. I hadn't really read much about 8, can't say that I like the interface at all. There is no more start button with control panel access etc. If you've used windows mobile 7 the layout looks a lot like that, panes with different functions that you can mouse select to get what you want. It took me at least twenty minutes to figure out how to shut the dang machine down! You have to hover the cursor on the right bottom side of the screen until the control buttons decide to pop out..no choice for an old style interface either. Then you log out of your log in and then finally you get a power button icon on the bottom right, which also has the restart option. I have to admit it really does start up very fast, but why's it so hard to get the machine to turn itself off? Why not just put a freaking shut down icon on the screen instead of making you hover on the right side for several minutes till the buttons pop out, log off your login, then hit the power restart/shut down button icon where it asks you to log in with your credentials. I assume 8 might be made for environments where the machines are rarely shut all the way down but that isn't true of a laptop. Eight worked fine with City of Heros which NCsoft has since murdered and also works great with my new MMO RIFT (trion worlds). Like seven it's got all the permission to run junk intended to keep viruses off your computer. I have a home network but so far can't get the communication going both directions as far as files on both hard drives...that will be a future project. I'm sure it will also be fun to get my old XP 32 machines talking nicely on the network with the 7 and 8 machines. Just to say I've used it the upgrade was worth it but I might reload 7 at some point, a lot of public records access utilities are not working properly with 8. I work in the state courts and currently anyone using windows 8 cannot view civil court case dockets if they are using 8, I talk to a lot of really ticked off attorneys all the time about that one and of course the state is taking it's own sweet time about addressing the issue. I don't think I'd put all my eggs in the win 8 basket for at least another year or two.
3-2013: Win 8 takes some getting used to, as a somewhat advanced user I find the fact that a lot of the more techie stuff is so well hidden really, really annoying. I know they don't want novices playing with anything that might disable the machine or the OS but we are not all novices, how about an option to make certain things more accessable to the more advanced crowd. At work, employees have a chance to use the newest version of office at home under the state license and I just bought that so we shall see if that's as wonderful as everybody claims; it only runs on win 7 or 8 apparently. MS is quickly forcing upgrades apparently, it's so nice to have a monopoly isn't it? The biggest itch for me is still the difficult upgrades but then I suppose most people don't care about that. I do think Dell should be more forth coming about case design and upgrade paths, they have some good documentation in their support section giving instructions for at least some upgrades, next time I'll know to look at such things before making a decision. I thought it was going to be difficult but I did actually manage to strap this monster onto the sissy bar on my motorcycle and get it home in one piece.
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Amount Paid (US$): 700.00
Operating System: Windows
Processor speed: over 1000
Screen Size: Greater than 15 inches
RAM: More than 256
Internal Storage: DVD
Hard Drive (GB): Over 50
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