Review About Dell Inspiron 1520

Published on by delllaptopparts

The Dell Inspiron 1520 under review here is the latest 15.4” in an ever-growing succession of what can be categorized as “consumer mainstream” notebooks offered by Dell’s Home & Home Office division. Since the release of the 1520, Dell has also made available a very similar machine, the Vostro 1500, which can be purchased from the Small Business site. Unlike the Inspiron 1520, which can be configured with any one of eight different colors, the Vostro 1500 is solid black. The Vostro also provides a Windows XP option, which is unavailable in the Inspiron 1520.

It should also be noted, for the benefit of anyone who is somewhat new to this website, that there is plenty of additional information on the 1520, including an excellent full-featured review by someone who actually purchased the 1520, as well as a side-by-side comparison of the 1520 and the HP dv6500t; this comparison includes a video that is definitely worth watching for anyone considering the Inspiron 1520, the HP dv6500t or any other 15.4” consumer notebook.

 

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Initial Impressions
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This Inspiron 1520 weighs about six and a half pounds and is considered a mainstream consumer notebook. Though Dell allows customization of the lid in up to eight different colors, our model has a conservative looking black lid. Because of that our machine lacks some of the consumer flair a “Flamingo Pink” lid would have offered. Nonetheless, my first impressions had to do with a couple of things that distinguish the 1520 from its predecessors:

The overall look is very different, in a good way.
The hardware, particularly in the form of graphics processing, will allow the 1520 to perform about as well as any notebook on the market, with the exception of outlandishly expensive gaming machines that lack any concessions with respect to size, battery life and cost.

These two characteristics are what make the 1520 such an impressive achievement. I actually briefly owned the previous Inspiron generation's e1705 model, and reviewed the prior-generation e1405 thin-and-light notebook. I must say, the look of the current lineup is immeasurably more appealing. The old silver-and-white style always got me thinking of things like shag carpet and popcorn ceilings: sure, one can make a case for these innovations, just as one can make a case for thick white plastic trim around a notebook, but in the end (which usually comes within a matter of weeks if not months), the style grows tired, the initial promise hollow. The new Inspiron series design is cleaner, simpler and more tasteful. A cousin of the 1520, which shares its look, is the AMD-based Inspiron 1521.

Purchasing Considerations

Though this notebook was sent by Dell for review purposes and not purchased, I wanted to touch on the above topic, simply because there is something of an art to purchasing a Dell consumer notebook. There are many decisions to make, and like all decisions, they carry with them the opportunity for regret or satisfaction. I heartily endorse this web site’s forums for a little glimpse into the thought, action and subsequent level of satisfaction of other buyers.

As of this writing, deliberately moving along the Dell purchasing highway results in:

An Inspiron 1520 with a fairly basic configuration, but one more than adequate for general media and office tasks, for just over $900.
A deluxe performance configuration, virtually identical to this review machine, for just over $1500.
These prices reflect no special discounts or coupons, just today’s standard upgrades and reductions, which are plainly available to anyone who orders a 1520 today. In any case, at the high end particularly, these prices strike me as very competitive, and a savvy shopper who finds coupons, buys their own memory and times the Dell marketing promotions can do better on price.

One thing I found interesting while configuring a couple of 1520s on the Dell site was the price of a RAM upgrade from 2GB to 4GB: $850. Had I selected a higher-priced starting point, meaning a more full-figured set of warranty and support options, the cost of these 2 gigabytes of RAM would have moved away from the direction of a cool grand, but not by much. I saw no mention of this upgrade including a complimentary iPhone or round-trip flight to London, but it is there and available. That said, I would definitely opt for the T7300 CPU and the 8600M GT graphics included in this review model, if at all possible. While these enhancements will probably add three or four hundred dollars to the final price, they are well worth the cost and will almost certainly give the 1520 a longer useful life.

 

Design

 

As noted, I like the look of the Inspiron 1520 and see it as a vast improvement over the Inspiron e1505, the 1520’s predecessor. However, one thing I’ll mention is that my own preference is the black lid of this review model because I find, in pictures at least, that the machines with colored lids have too much color for me. Two distinct colors, in this case silver and black, are just about right. I also like the aforementioned Vostro 1500, very similar to this 1520 and available at the Dell Small Business site, because of the all-black look, including a black keyboard, and the possibility of Windows XP. Though many won’t, I see a black keyboard and XP as decided advantages.

Also a welcome change is the placement and position of the keyboard and touchpad. The prior line of Inspirons featured a somewhat odd shaped keyboard that was set very close to the LCD, and a rather large touchpad placed in the middle of a vast sea of silver plastic. While this did allow the palm rests to accommodate even the most monstrous palms, the new Inspiron line, as represented by this review 1520, has a slightly smaller touchpad and a more centered keyboard; this redesign makes for more comfortable typing and touchpad operation, besides being more aesthetically harmonious.

 

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Build

The Inspiron 1520 feels very solid. The only issue, which has been mentioned elsewhere, is the screen latch, which does have some play. Aside from this lack of a nice, snug fit, the latch did not bother me, and I found nothing in the build quality that would make me hesitant to purchase a 1520. Firm but gentle pushing and prodding revealed no flex or weakness.

 

Input and Output Ports

The Inspiron 1520 has the following ports selection:

 

  • (4) USB 2.0 Ports
  • Integrated 10/100 LAN and 56K Modem
  • IEEE 1394a
  • 8-in-1 Card Reader
  • VGA Video Output and S-Video
  • Stereo In, Headphone/Speaker Out and Dual Digital Mics
  • ExpressCard 54mm Slot

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The screen

 

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Color and brightness were both good on the WSXGA glossy LCD. While I like and would myself choose this option, other resolutions are available: 1280x800 WXGA, in both glossy and non-glossy, and 1440x900, glossy only. This represents improved LCD variety and is a major selling point of the 1520; there is something for nearly everyone. Careful scrutiny revealed only one utterly trivial imperfection in the screen: an eighth of an inch or so of uneven backlighting at the bottom of the LCD, which was only visible when I looked very closely while running a screen saver with a dark background. There has been some discussion in this site’s forums about “grainy” LCDs in the 1520, but I detected none of this. However, I am admittedly not a good cohort for those studying LCD perfection; generally (but not always) I’m okay with the screens I use. Everest Home lists the screen as an SEC3350, a Seiko Epson manufactured LCD.

 

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Graphics

The NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT is currently among the cream of the crop in notebook GPUs. Athough RivaTuner indicated that the 8600m in the Inspiron 1520 had DDR3 memory, in reality it is DDR2, which may be dissapointing to some. All the same, it's a powerful card and there were no graphics-related problems during my time with the 8600M. For those interested in gaming considerations, there is plenty of real-world information in this web site’s forums.

Sound

As always, or almost always, when discussing notebook sound: more than adequate for getting the gist, feel and intent of what’s being played, but definitely lacking in bass. Headphones or external speakers will provide a much more lifelike experience.

Multimedia Features

This 1520 came with a remote, snugly ensconced in the ExpressCard slot, as well as an array of physical media buttons on the front of the notebook. Both the built-in buttons and the remote worked as expected, forwarding and pausing and muting in accordance with my wishes.

Processor and Performance

Thanks to the very strong components, performance was always good, regardless of the stress put on system resources such as RAM and CPU. The new Santa Rosa platform coupled with an Intel T7300 CPU, together with a stronger GPU, outperformed my “old” T2400-based Dell Precision M65 by a wide margin on all benchmarks.

For prospective buyers, it may be worth adding that this review 1520’s configuration is worth considering if one is looking for excellent performance while keeping the price reasonably modest. The T7300 is the cheapest available CPU that comes with 4MB of Level 2 cache, the 8600M GT GPU will provide optimal graphics performance, and anything less than 2GB RAM will significantly hinder performance.

 

Dell Inspiron 1520 Keyboard and Touchpad


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Keys are responsive and have good travel. Overall, I’d say Dell has done an excellent job with the 1520’s keyboard, both in terms of the feel and the new placement that doesn’t err northward the way the last-generation Inspirons did, especially the e1505 and e1705. Individual key placement makes sense, being more or less standard, and the half-height function keys are consistent with, and just as comfortable as, their larger brethren. The touchpad, which is smaller than that of the e1505, is eminently usable and did everything I expected of it with no discomfort or untoward behavior.

Dell Inspiron 1520 Battery Life

Under fairly heavy usage, e.g., a lot of hard drive activity, wireless going and the screen set to maximum brightness, I managed to run on the battery for almost three hours. Very light usage and a dim display, but wireless still running, yielded an additional hour or so. I expected a greater disparity, given that my usage for the two tests was at opposite ends of the spectrum, but I did have wireless enabled for the light-usage test, and both times seemed fairly strong for a machine with this power. With a little tweaking, I’m sure others could squeeze more life out of the 9-cell battery.

Heat and Noise

The 1520 was remarkably quiet (virtually silent, in fact) the whole time I had it, and heat was never a problem. The bottom of the unit became a little warm after protracted heavy activity, but not unusually so.

Service and Support

I have used Dell support in the past and have always been satisfied, in the end, with the experience, but I had no reason to contact support regarding this 1520.

Software

Being a creature of habit, I removed most of the “trialware,” along with some other common programs I loathe, as soon as I received the notebook. I was barely paying attention while doing this, but the whole process for this review notebook seemed to go very quickly. There were no apparent software issues, though I do find myself longing for Windows XP whenever I use a Vista machine. The availability of XP is reason #2 for my seriously considering the Vostro 1500 if I were in the market for a high-powered 15.4” notebook at a reasonable price.

Conclusion

Much of what I found while using the Inspiron 1520 is consistent with (to the point of being almost identical to) what has been written elsewhere. There was really only one thing about this notebook that bothered me, my preference for the all black Vostro 1500 notwithstanding: the play in the screen latch mechanism when the notebook is shut. Is this a big deal? I would say no, not at all.

There are so many positives, including the overall build quality, and so much flexibility in terms of configuration, the 1520 would seem to make a lot of sense for a wide range of notebook users, and a little bit of latch looseness should not be a determining factor. There are many fine notebook deals in the Sunday ads, as well as online, but there is often something about these machines, such as the keyboard, the graphics or the resolution, that would make me reluctant to purchase one of them. The 1520, or the Vostro 1500, for that matter, can be configured just right. If I weren’t already happy with my two laptops and in no hurry to get a replacement, I’d definitely consider the Inspiron 1520 or its nearly identical sibling, the Vostro 1500.

Published on Dell Laptop Review

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