Huge battery, long battery life. Nice design. WiDi2. Minimal bloatware. Some 3D graphics performance. Automatic graphics switching technology. Bluetooth.USB 3.0. SWITCH lids.
No 1080p HD resolution. Slow 5,400rpm hard drive.
The Dell Inspiron 17R (N7110) gives you some 3D performance, creative control of both your virtual media and the laptop's physical appearance, and features to make this desktop replacement laptop pop.
The Dell Inspiron 17R (N7110) ($1,039.98 direct) laptop is a 17.3-inch behemoth whose screen alone will delight multitaskers. Its size limits its portability to around the house, and its internal components lend itself to content creators and light gamers. The Intel Wireless Display technology (WiDi) and huge battery that churns out over 7 hours of battery life only adds icing to an already delicious, feature-ridden cake. Also, Dell's Inspiron R-series sports a cool new design that allows you to pop off your old lid and pop on a new one if the old one starts to bore you or gets too dinged up.
The basic Inspiron 17R (N7110) sports a black muted design (this option won't cost you any extra), but with Dell's innovative new SWITCH by Design Studio lids (exclusive to the Dell Inspiron R Series), you can change up your lid design for $34.99 more. There are numerous lid options, including Peacock Blue, Fire Red, or Lotus Pink (my personal favorite). To switch your lids, you just press a button on the backside of the lid that allows it to pop off. The laptop is made of plastic, but the interior and exterior has a brushed look to it, giving it a more dynamic design.
Being that this is a desktop replacement laptop, its 17.3-inch screen is pretty standard. Its 1,600 by 900 resolution will give you 720p HD content, but not the True 1080p HD that videophiles might be craving. However, the included HDMI port and WiDi \2 option allow you to physically or wirelessly connect your laptop to your HDTV or monitor that support the True HD resolution. (Note that in order to utilize the WiDi2 option you will have to get the Netgear Push2TV dongle to receive the wireless signal, a $99 extra). Your HD content, of course, will have to be of the digital nature as the Inspiron 17R (N7110) only comes with a dual-layer DVD+/-R drive. If you're looking for a similar laptop with a Blu-ray drive, check out the Samsung RC512-S02 ($1,199.99 list, 4 stars) and Asus N53JF-XE1 ($1,015 street, 4 stars).
The full-size keyboard is in the ever-popular chiclet style. To the right is a numeric keypad that will delight number crunchers. Along the top of the keyboard, the function keys double as media keys; controlling volume, screen brightness, and play/pause buttons for your music or movies. There's even a button to disable the touchpad for gamers—now if only there was a way to disable the Windows key as well. The touchpad is smooth and supports pinch-zoom, two finger scroll, and a number of other gesture-based functions. The mouse buttons were easy to click.
If you include its huge 90WH battery and extra 48WH battery (both of which was included in our review unit's configuration), the Inspiron 17R (N7110) weighs in at 8.33 pounds. With just the 90Wh battery, the system weighs 7.67 pounds, and with only the 48Wh battery the system weighs 7.26 pounds. Regardless of which battery is attached, this laptop's size and weight is likely going to stay house-bound. Similar 17.3-inch laptops like the HP Pavilion dv7-4283cl ($999.99 list, 4 stars), with an 87WH battery, weighed in at only 7 pounds.
The Inspiron 17R (N7110) has a variety of connection options available, including two USB 3.0 ports (blue), a USB 2.0 (black), eSATA/ USB 2.0 combo, audio, 3-in-1 card reader (SD, MMC, MS), VGA, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi. There's also a 1.0-megapixel HD webcam so you can video chat in high res style. The 500GB hard drive spins at a slower 5,400rpm; at this price point I would have liked to have seen a 7,200rpm hard drive.
Bloatware has been kept to a minimum, thankfully: An eBay shortcut resides on the desktop and the only other annoyances that users might run into are the Bing Bar, Cozi (calendar app), and Skype.
The Inspiron 17R (N7110) comes equipped with a 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M quad-core processor, 6GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GT 525M graphics chip with Optimus (more below). Its second-generation Intel Core i CPU and memory helped its showing on our PCMark Vantage test, scoring 6,036 points. The Samsung RC512-S02, which has a more advanced Intel Core i7 processor, outscored the Inspiron 17R (N7110) by a significant 1,165. Against a similarly configured Core i5 laptop, the Asus N53JF-XE1, Inspiron 17R's score was 315 points lower, but that margin is insignificant in real-world tasks. On CineBench R11.5, the Inspiron 17 scored 2.55, which was similar to the Asus N53JF-XE1 (2.43), but way below that of the Samsung RC512-S02 (4.83), Dell XPS 15 (Sandy Bridge) ($1,785 direct, 4 stars) (4.8) and Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Thunderbolt) ($2,199 direct, 4 stars) (5.07). In terms of multimedia creation, measured in our Handbrake (2 minute 39 seconds) video encoding and Photoshop CS5 (4:21) test, the Inspiron 17R completed each in a reasonable amount of time.
Performance in our 3D gaming tests was good. It scored 52.6 frames per second (fps) on Crysis (DirectX 10) and 36.8fps on Lost Planet 2 (DirectX 9) (both on Medium quality settings). At higher settings the Inspiron 17R (N7110) produced slower frame rates on Crysis (14.7fps) and Lost Planet (16.4fps). Its Nvidia GeForce GT 525M graphics chipset will certainly give you some 3D performance, provided you adjust your in-game settings accordingly.
Battery life lasted a whopping 7 hours 51 minutes on our MobileMark 2007 test, thanks to its 9-cell 90Wh battery. The automatic graphics switching technology from Nvidia , known as Optimus, also helped boost its battery life. The Optimus technology switches between the less power consuming integrated graphics for light productivity tasks and switches to the discrete GPU when needed for taxing graphics-intensive tasks, like gaming. In comparison, the Dell XPS 15 (Sandy Bridge), equipped with a 92Wh battery, lasted 6:58, and the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Thunderbolt) lasted a mere 4:40.
The Dell Inspiron 17R (N7110) is a desktop replacement laptop that provides a competitive CPU and GPU for its price. The addition of the WiDi feature only adds to its value, and while its huge battery may not make entice road warriors, those who like to buzz around the house will appreciate how long they will be able to go unplugged. If you're looking for better performance in gaming and media creation, then it's hard to overlook our Editors' Choice, the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Thunderbolt). If your pockets aren't that deep the Inspiron 17R (N7110) can still provide.