The brand new Inspiron i3552-8043BLK from Dell is an impressive budget laptop. As much as cheap notebooks go, a price tag under $400 usually gets you low to mid range performance. This Dell however, is surprisingly well equipped to handle more than the occasional Internet browsing.
Dell Inspiron i3552-8043BLK Review
Okay, you’ll obviously won’t get ultrabook-grade specs either. This entry-level laptop comes with some pretty decent hardware options and most importantly, a functional battery on which you’ll be able to rely, a rarity in the world of budget laptops. This mean machine is like a roller coaster you’ll slowly learn to love for what it is.
So, the Dell Inspiron i3552-8043BLK has a rather unimpressive Intel Pentium N3700 processor. Pentiums have come a long way since we used them to power our early 2000’s computers. This particular model is a quad core CPU with 2 megabytes of cache and a clock speed of 1.6 GHz to 2.4 GHz. Benchmark results tell us that this processor has single thread rating of about 550 points, but an overall rating of almost 1900 points mainly because of the 4 integrated processing units. Compared to an Intel Core i3-5005U, we see that the more expensive i3 has double the single thread rating, but only 50% more overall points.
Choosing this CPU in the detriment of a albeit superior i3 or i5 becomes apparent when you sit down and think what you’ll use the laptop for. Say you want to browse the Internet, write emails and documents, watch a movie and use Photoshop and other Adobe programs. The Pentium is perfectly acceptable and will do a great job at handling those tasks with ease thanks to today’s emergence of multi-core support in most programs.
The installed system memory is adequate for the money you pay for it. The Dell comes with 4 gigabytes of RAM extendable to 8 gigabytes by adding another 4 GB RAM stick. However unnecessary I think an upgrade is, people who want to do so should check with Dell for the manufacturer approved equipment list before upgrading.
Oh lord, a solid state drive has been installed by a manufacturer in an entry-level laptop! The Dell comes with little storage space (128 gigabytes of space – of which only 120 will be usable), but benefits from the awesome access speeds an SSD provides. Although the lack of storage space will be an issue for some, the disadvantages will be mitigated by the fast boot times and great feel of how smooth the laptop will be operating.
It should be pointed out that the Dell Inspiron i3552-8043BLK is more suited for Internet oriented people who like to save things online, like to have music collections served from third party services (like Soundcloud for instance), edit and share their documents through cloud solutions like Google Drive and so on. In today’s work environment, it’s becoming more and more apparent that traditional methods of physically storing everything are slowly becoming almost unnecessary.
No discrete graphics
As tempting as this laptop may sound, it’s not built for gaming at all. It will struggle to play even the most undemanding games, since it has no dedicated video card to handle heavy graphics. The integrated Intel HD Graphics GPU will be able to play high resolution video quite well though. So at least you’ll be able to use this notebook as media device successfully.
The 15.6 inch screen has a pretty standard LED-backlit HD display with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. It’s nothing out of the ordinary: decent viewing angles, some issues when working in bright light conditions and a satisfying picture quality and color reproduction. Just your average laptop display.
Interface and connectivity
The Dell Inspiron i3552-8043BLK has one USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, one HDMI-out port, an audio combo jack, an SD card reader and a DVD reader/writer unit. This DVD unit is the main difference between this model and it’s predecessor, the 8040BLK.
Connections with the outside world are made through an 802.11 b/g/n wireless card. You’ll notice that’s the previous generation of Wi-Fi cards and this the only true disappointment when it comes to this model’s features. Considering how it doesn’t have an Ethernet card, Wi-Fi is your only way of getting on the Internet. I would have expected them to mount a new generation 802.11ac protocol, but alas.
Battery life and portability
At first, the battery ratings impressed me and I initially thought they were made up. However, the Pentium processor is incredibly energy efficient (it has a thermal design power of just 6 Watts) and the solid state has no moving parts, only electronic controllers. This means the power drain is considerably lower compared to models with more thirsty CPUs and hard drives.
A full charge will last up to 8 hours, but more like 6-7 hours in real life conditions, which is still impressive for a laptop that costs just under $400. More so, the battery is user removable, meaning a replacement won’t cost a fortune and a trip to the authorized service. Congrats to Dell for making a budget laptop actually budget friendly in the long run!
As for portability, this model weighs 4.9 pounds, just under the psychological 5-pound barrier. Carrying it around everywhere you go is a stretch. It’s great around the house, around the office, around the home office and it’s a good alternative for an inexpensive college laptop.
Conclusion: should you buy one?
The Dell Inspiron i3552-8043BLK is a surprisingly versatile laptop for its price. It’s not the fastest, not the most portable, not the most beautiful, but it doesn’t try to fool into thinking so. This is a sincere notebook that was built to satisfy as many daily users as possible by giving it just above average performance with the added benefit of a solid state drive.
Buy it if you need a cheap, reliable laptop, but don’t plan on travelling much with it. It will work great for editing documents, Internet browsing, moderate multitasking and as a (mostly online) media center.
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