Saturday, 26 April 2008

Dell Inspiron 1525 - A Review

It’s been 2 weeks since I got a new Dell Inspiron 1525 laptop, and here are my thoughts and opinions about it.

First of all, the specifications:

  • Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo Processor T8100 1
  • 2.1GHz, 3MB Cache, 800 MHz FSB
  • Genuine Windows Vista(TM) Home Premium - with AERO experience
  • 15.4" Widescreen WXGA+ (1440x900) TFT Display with TrueLife(TM)
  • Design: Street with Custom High-Gloss
  • Integrated 2.0 mega pixel web cam
  • 3GB (1x2GB+1x1GB) 667MHz SDRAM
  • 250GB SATA Hard Drive
  • Internal 8X DVD+/-RW Combination Drive with dual layer write capabilities
  • Intel(R) Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
  • Intel(R) PRO/Wireless 3945 Dual Band 802.11a/g 54Mbps Wireless Mini Card
  • 1 ExpressCard Slot, (Does Not Support PCMCIA Cards)
  • Integrated Sound Blaster Audigy Advanced HD Audio Software
  • Dell(TM) Wireless 355 Bluetooth Module 1
  • 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery
  • Dell Bluetooth Wireless Headset
  • Microsoft(R) Works 9.0 (Does Not Include Microsoft(R) Office 2003/2007 Software)
  • McAfee(R) Security Center(TM) – 30 days trial
  • 8-in-1 media card reader
  • Dell(TM) Keyboard with Touchpad (English)
  • Integrated 10/100 Fast Ethernet
  • Internal 56K Modem
  • RJ-11 Modem cable (AP)
  • Dell(TM) Travel Remote Control
  • Noise Isolation Ear Buds
  • Dell(TM) Media Direct
  • Dell(TM) MediaDirect DVD Kit
  • 1 Year Complete Cover Accidental Damage Protection
  • 1 Year Telephone Technical Support
  • Regional Support Within Asia Pacific Countries For Laptops
  • 1-Year Limited Warranty (Next Business Day Service - parts & labour)

Before I write any further, I must also tell you my background of laptop usage. Prior to the Dell 1525, I had used just one other laptop - an Acer Aspire 5102 (with 512 MB RAM, 1.6GHz, 60GB HDD, AMD Turion processor, Windows XP Home Edition OS, 15.4” Widescreen 1280x800 etc etc..) which my parents bought for me a year and a half ago (Oct 2006, to be precise). The laptop was never without problems, and performance wasn’t good either. Well, to put in few words, it wasn’t a laptop I enjoyed working with.

The Dell Inspiron 1525, however, is a laptop I thoroughly enjoy using. From the time we placed the order (through the Dell website), through the processing of the order, and the delivery, it had been a pleasant experience. Yes, the system was delivered late by a day, but they compensated for it by increasing the warranty period by a year. Dell was very prompt at every stage of the order processing; and listened to and clarified our doubts and apprehensions patiently. I, honestly, was very impressed with their customer service.

It arrived in this big box, neatly packed, all safe within the thermocol casing. As you open the box, you first see the laptop bag. This bag has so many pockets you could use to hide stuff and never find it; very spacious you could stuff a lot of things in there. The quality of the bag is as good as it can get, and the soft pad on the handles gives you a feeling of the laptop losing a few pounds when inside the bag. That’s a good thing because the laptop is, kind of, heavy. Removing the bag, you see another box. This box contains all the CDs, manuals (the owner‘s manual is rather thick and has about 200 pages), cables, and other stuff that a laptop comes with. I was surprised to find a mouse, since I hadn’t expected it. There was the Bluetooth headset as promised, a noise-reduction earphone set (in a small black pouch, at the bottom right corner in the picture) and the remote control. The Bluetooth headphones work fine, though they don’t stay tight on my head and hence can use them only when I wear a pony-tail. The Bluetooth connection stays within the room and gets disconnected when I leave the room (that is, go beyond 12 feet, in accordance with the manual). The noise reduction earphones are really good and the ones I mostly use. The remote control, there’s nothing much to say about it really, except that what’s on the manual, with respect to the control buttons, is a little different from what the actual remote control has on it. I assume that the extra features shown on the manual are for 1526 and not for 1525. Nevertheless, as a remote control, it behaves just like it should be.
Now, coming to the laptop itself, it’s a beautiful piece of technology. The speed and performance is awesome. If there is a problem, then it’s because of the formidable Windows Vista, and not because of the hardware. I’d read in a review (by a professional reviewer) that the laptop that they had received had tiny scratches and the paint on the casing was peeling off. So that was the first thing I had checked before anything else. No scratches, no peeling off anywhere. Like I said, it was safely and neatly packed.

The webcam is good and can take pictures of 3200x2400 resolution and videos(not very impressive) of 1600x1200 resolution. Don’t expect what you expect from your digi-cam though. The webcam software also includes remote monitoring, motion detection and time-lapse video. The webcam console has a lot of features built into it, such as audio effects, video effects, face tracking, pan and zoom, and doodling - all fun to play with.

The display is impressive with no colour-inversion from ‘normal’ viewing angles and is susceptible to finger prints. The speaker, located above the keyboard, is normal for a laptop, nothing to brag about. It doesn’t bother me because I use the headphones/earphones 99% of the time. There are these touch-sensitive buttons for the media player above the keyboard that light up only when pressed. I found the volume control button a bit annoying since it responds to touch only once every second, and hence it becomes difficult to reduce the volume by large amounts. I’m able to use it only when I want to make minor adjustments with the volume/sound.

Now we come to the keyboard; the keyboard is one of the best things of the laptop, and for me, personally, there are many reasons. First of all, it’s the softest keyboard I’ve ever touched. That was the first thing I was really ‘really’ impressed with. Second, the layout of the keyboard was the same as the Acer laptop and so I didn’t have to get used to anything. The touchpad is good, can be over-sensitive at times, but not so much to really bother about. You just need some time to get used to its working. With respect to the touchpad, I will have to agree that my Acer laptop was way better.

I’ve used the Media Direct feature only thrice until now. It truly is Media ‘Direct’, meaning, it switches on almost immediately. But.. Yes, there is a ’but’ here. My computer has about 4GB of music, and it takes a lot of time to show me the list of tracks. I, somehow, am not patient enough for the list to load. The only reason I’m keeping the Media Direct feature alive on the laptop is because it uses the visualizations of Windows Media Player 9, which includes my all-time favourite visualization called Vox, which I cannot let go of. I know, it’s crazy to block 2GB of space because of a small visualization, but.. *shrugs* whatever.

About the graphics card, I don’t really have much to say because I don’t play games. I’ve played Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and that worked fine. I don’t know if it made a difference to you, but that is all I can say at the moment.

The DVD writer is very good. I don’t know if it’s because of the previous laptop, but I was amazed to see that writing a 4.7GB DVD took only 10 minutes as compared to 20 minutes on the Acer laptop.

My laptop gives a battery backup of 3 hours, which I'm really happy with.

The cover of my laptop has a glossy design and is highly susceptible to finger-prints. If that bothers you, then don't go for a glossy finish.

That is all I can write for now. If you want to know more about a feature, or have missed something important, let me know, I’ll include it here.

All in all, I’m in love with my new Dell Inspiron 1525, and would happily recommend it to anybody who wants to buy it, without a second thought.

Update [29 April]: Scratch what I said about the touch-sensitive volume control. It's working perfectly fine and I can make any kind of volume adjustment with it. I still have so much to learn about the laptop.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

The design

Front view