Let’s start out with listing the tech specs of the computer in review:

  • 3rd Generation Intel i7-3630QM (turbo boost up to 3.4Ghz)
  • 8GB DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz
  • 1TB SATA Hard Drive (5400 RPM)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M GDDR5 2GB Graphics Card
  • Windows 8
  • Price: $630 (How did I get this great deal? Scroll down to find out! MSRP: $1000)

What’s Good:

This computer is a monster in performance. The Intel i7 quad core processor easily handles anything that is thrown at it, without even thinking about slowing down. I did not opt for the fast-boot solid state drive, but this machine boots very quickly and is up and running within 30 seconds.

The best thing about this laptop is the bang for the buck. Some high quality components are stuffed into the shell. However, this is considered to be a budget laptop, so the look and feel isn’t the same as what you would expect from a high-end MacBook or gaming PC.

Naturally, it’s not going to be a gaming powerhouse, but the NVIDIA 650M can handle most games at medium settings. The laptop will switch between the dedicated graphics card (NVIDIA 650M), and the integrated graphics (Intel HD 4000) depending on the task at hand. This also comes in handy when trying to save battery life. The NVIDIA 650M can be turned off to reduce power consumption while the computer relies on the integrated graphics.

The Inspiron 17R SE comes with integrated SkullCandy speakers. These are a nice upgrade from regular laptop speakers. The sound is rich and full in comparison to previous generations of Dell Inspiron models. There is a subwoofer on the underside of the case. Now, you won’t be getting super-bass with this, but it makes listening to music an enjoyable experience if you don’t have your headphones handy

The Inspiron 17R SE
Credit: notebookcheck.net

What’s Bad:

This thing stands out. It looks like a beached whale due to its size, which causes it to look somewhat dated due to the lack of desktop replacements out there today. Even though it is an inch and a half thick, the design on the laptop isn’t that bad. It consists of a honeycomb design with a “brushed aluminum” border. However, it is extremely susceptible to fingerprints.

The keyboard is chiclet styled, meaning that there is spacing in between the keys. It’s very responsive, but there seems to be a certain amount of flex in the center of the keyboard. Also, it’s very easy to accidentally touch the touchpad when typing. Dell has integrated TouchGuard controls to prevent this, but that only seems to work some of the time.

The main flaw is the battery life. Today, some laptops are being advertised as the all-day laptop. This is definitely not the case for the Inspiron 17R SE. At most, you’d be lucky if you got 3.5 hours out of this computer, and that’s if you’re just surfing the web very leisurely. Low battery life is to be expected from a desktop replacement due to the large screen, but this is a little ridiculous compared to other computers out there.

What’s with the wireless?

The Inspiron 17R SE comes with an Intel Centrino Wireless 2230 card. Out of the box, connection speed was awful. From a speed test, the card was only registering at 0.81Mb/s for download speed. At first I thought it was the router, but it was registering at 5.0Mb/s on an older computer. After poking around for a while with the slow internet speed, I noticed that the connection would completely fade out sometimes. To fix this, all you need to do is update the drivers which can be found at the Dell Driver and Support center. Download, install, restart, and all will be well!

What’s the verdict?

This laptop appeals to a niche market. It’s a beast, in size and performance, at a great price. I would definitely recommend this laptop to anyone that needs to work with large datasets, or if they wanted a rich, mobile multimedia experience. To get this bad boy for 40% off, I recommend shopping with the Dell Outlet. They sell refurbished computers at a fraction of the cost. To get the full benefits of the outlet, you should sign up for their email newsletter. Most of the time, they will email 25% off coupons for their inventory. Even though their products are refurbished, performance isn’t altered. The only difference will be slight cosmetic defects. For example, my laptop only had a small scuff on the bottom side of the case. I’ll gladly take that small scuff for $400 off.