Dell Unveils Colorful Inspiron Laptops
Dell today announced U.S. availability of the sleek new Inspiron R laptops first launched a few months ago in parts of the world such as Australia and India.
Like Dell's existing 14-, 15- and 17-inch Inspirons, the new R models are geared to carrying out multiple roles, ranging from replacing desktop PCs, to serving up multimedia home entertainment, to acting as take-along workstations on visits to Starbuck's. Yet the Inspirson Rs bring a cooler look and a smoother feel.
Yes, the covers for the Rs come in four different brushed metal finishes with chrome accents, as I saw at a recent press preview event. So maybe you'll be happier to show off your PC to friends. But a lot more significantly, Dell has conjured up some nice usability improvements based on results of consumer tests.
For ease of use -- especially among those who spend a lot of time in front of computer screens -- Dell has replaced the earlier keypad to a new one with raised keys, Jonathan Guttell, a Dell product marketing manager, told me at the event. A dedicated 10-key number pad -- available on the 15R and 17R only -- offers gamers more keys for shortcuts.
To make it handier to plug in drives and other outside peripherals, Dell has moved one of the USB ports to the back, leaving the other US ports on the right-hand side of the PC.
To keep kids from wrecking the machine, the new frame is more solid, and the touchpad is now easily wipeable and "smudgeproof," Guttell said. The new touchpad also comes with integrated scrolling and gestures.
A Webcam, once available for Inspirons only as an option, is built into the R models. Also built-in are SRS Premium Sound and multiple media card readers and types of wireless connectivity.
Bundled software includes Dell SafeLocal, for backing up the factory image of the software the comes with the PC; DataSafeOnline, for backing up data to (and recovering it from) the cloud; and DellDock, for organizing music, photos, and other media and putting the most commonly used apps on top.
Dell is offering high definition (HD) resolution on all systems. In addition, Intel Wireless Display -- for cable-free connection to HDTVs -- is an option on the R models.
I haven't had much hands-on time with these machines, so I can't speak to their performance. With that said, the specs include a range of Intel Core i3 and i5 mobile processors; up to 1GB ATI graphics; and hard disk drive (HDD) capacity of up to 640GB on some models.
Also in the Inspiron Rs, Dell has replaced the DDR2 memory of previous models with DDR3, supposedly for faster task performance. Up to 8GB of DDR3 is available.
Pricing starts at $449. The R series will be available to U.S. customers through Dell's Direct and FastTrack programs, and starting on June 25 at retail partners such as Fry's Electronics.
The U.S. lineup of Inspiron Rs doesn't include the 13-inch model being sold in some other countries, but it adds a 17-inch model, said Anne Camden, a Dell spokesperson.
Also in some other parts in the world, Dell is selling an AMD-powered R model called the M501R. Camden told me that Dell also expects to sell the AMD version in the U.S., but only at retail.
The proverbial bottom line? If you already own an Inspiron laptop -- or a comparably outfitted notebook PC from some other vendor -- maybe the enhancements in the Inspiron R models won't add up to the need to rush out a buy a new PC. But if you've been shopping around for a new Windows 7 laptop, anyway, these new Inspiron models seem to offer a lot of power, features, and usability for the price.
Oh, and one last thing. If you're not into metallic covers, colors like Mars Black, Peacock Plue, Lotus Pink, and Tomato Red are optionally available in the US on some models.