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Dell Dell Inspiron 15Z 5523 Corei3/6G/500G/WIN7PRO/Aluminum Finish

 

 

 

Inspiron 15z 5523 

SERVICE TAG: 83M2QT1

NEW Dell Inspiron 15z 5523 Corei3-3217U/6G/500G/15.6/Non-Touch/W7Pro/ULTRABOOK/Backlit KBD/44whr-6c

 

 

Review Dell Inspiron 15z (5523) Ultrabook

Manuel Christa, ✓ Sabine Kückemanns (translated by Peter Krastev), 01/24/2013

Inspiring. Ultrabooks have found their way into Dell's Inspiron family. The all-rounders of the past now benefit from lower weight and longer battery life, in addition to the good performance. We examine whether the ultrabook measures up to the broad multimedia class.

For the original German review, see here.

The thin line between ultrabooks and multimedia notebooks is gradually disappearing. First came the elegant Zenbooks that emulated the genre leader MacBook Air. The ultrabooks of today are a bit thicker and heavier, due to the  additional equipment such as DVD drive and 15.6-inch screen. Both of these are characteristics of the broad class of multimedia notebooks. But the usual ultrabook features are also not neglected: Solid State Drives or hard drives with ExpressCache offer quick system start-up. At about 2 kg, the Dell Inspiron 15z 5523 is approximately one kilogram lighter than most 15.6-inch notebooks. The predecessor with the same name, Inspiron 15z, was still a classical multimedia notebook.

As with all its devices, Dell offers an individually configurable notebook. Our Inspiron 15z 5523 comes with the cheapest available processor Intel Core i5-3317U – a ULV CPU of the current Ivy Bridge generation with a good price-performance ratio. It also houses the graphics chip Intel HD Graphics 4000, which is augmented by the dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 630M with 2 GB of video memory. The total system memory available is 6 GB, composed of one 4 GB and one 2 GB modules, occupying both RAM slots. In addition Dell's ultrabook comes with a 128 GB Solid State Drive, of which at least 18 GB is taken up by Windows 8 Pro (64 bit).

In this configuration, the Inspiron 15z is available for 749 Euros (~$1008) on Dell's website. Those who are happy with just the integrated graphics chip and the conventional 500 GB hard drive, can save exactly 100 Euros (~$134). An upgrade of our configuration to the Intel i7-3517U costs 50 Euros (~$67).

Case

Dell Inspiron 15z
Dell Inspiron 15z

The Inspiron 15z looks like a proper ultrabook with its gray brushed aluminum display lid and palm rest. The well-rounded edges are a matter of taste. Although the metal surfaces are not as dirt prone as is high-gloss plastic, some fingerprints are still clearly visible. The same is true about dust on the glossy display, which is not an issue on matte screens. Thus, a cleaning cloth is a must-have accessory.

The fancy metal surfaces are protected by plastic around the edges and on the bottom cover, both of which feel quite solid. In addition, all the gaps are uniform and the Inspiron 15z can be awarded a good workmanship mark.

A 15-inch notebook, which at 23 mm is also very thin, will mostly have the disadvantage of a wobbly display. The Inspiron 15z is not an exception. When opening the 5 mm thin display lid, it feels like no teetering should be expected. But small vibrations prove the opposite. Still, the hinges hold the lid firmly in place and it can be comfortably opened with one hand. The maximum opening angle is only about 120 degrees.

Connectivity

Webcam: noise is clearly visible
Webcam: noise is clearly visible

As we already mentioned, the ultrabook has no less equipment than a multimedia notebook. The 15z features a DVD burner and a LAN port, which needed an adapter on most ultrabooks of the first generation. In addition, the notebook has a total of four USB ports - two on each side. The HDMIKensington Lock and the SD card reader were also not forgotten. We are only missing a VGA port, because external monitors and projectors do not always have an HDMI input. All of the interfaces are located on both sides and are not too close to each other. At the front the status LEDs glow discreetly in white.

Like most notebooks, the 15z also has a webcam above the display. It is nothing special with a resolution of 1.3 megapixels. Our test shows some noise in the picture despite the sufficient light. The quality is enough for Skype video calls, but nothing more. A small LED right next to the camera indicates operation. Thanks to the integrated microphone, you can easily "Skype" without any external accessories.

Front: white status LEDs
Front: white status LEDs
Left side: AC jack, Kensington, LAN, HDMI, USB 3.0, audio jack
Left side: AC jack, Kensington, LAN, HDMI, USB 3.0, audio jack
Right side: SD card reader, USB 3.0, DVD burner
Right side: SD card reader, USB 3.0, DVD burner

Communication

Dell has equipped the Inspiron 15z with a "Dell Wireless 1704" module that uses the latest WLAN and Bluetooth standards. The former supports 802.11b/g/n and we cannot ask more of it. But our test revealed some problems. At first the ultrabook could not connect to the access point, but that was resolved after a re-installation of the driver. The module also could not communicate well with our FritzBox, which is a couple of years old and supports the b/g standards. Although the tray icon said that the connection was stable, the internet access was interrupted at random intervals. A reboot of the module bought us some more internet time. There are different explanations of the problem on some internet forums, but unfortunately we could not find a solution for the period of the review. However, the connection to other access points was flawless.

The range of the WLAN module was rather mediocre. At a distance of 10 meters (~33 feet) and a wall between the router and the notebook, the wireless strength fluctuated between two and four bars out of five. With one floor and about two walls between the two devices, the ultrabook could not connect to the router at all. In comparison, both an old netbook with an Atheros module and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 still had reception at this point.

The latest Bluetooth Version 4.0, which is more energy efficient than the widely used version 3.0, is also available. Annoyingly, Bluetooth and WLAN can only be switched off or on together and not separately via the Fn button.

Accessories

The ultrabook comes only with the essentials. In addition to the power supply and some printed materials, there is only a single DVD with drivers, which currently can also be downloaded off the internet. A Windows Recovery DVD could have been useful in order to quickly restore the system to its factory settings. Instead, we have the Windows Recovery function and Dell's "Backup and Recovery" at our disposal.

Maintenance

A small cover allows quick access to the system memory. The rest of the bottom side cannot be removed without the risk of damage. Therefore, attempting to do so is not advisable at least for amateurs. You cannot easily access the other components such as hard drive, graphics card, and fan.

Warranty

Dell delivers the Inspiron 15z with a two-year warranty. If you purchase the ultrabook directly from the manufacturer, you will also receive one year of the so-called On-Site Hardware Service, which promises "hardware repairs within one day". Also included are 90 days of over-the-phone support. For 75.01 Euros (~$100) it can be extended to one year. 97.50 Euros (~$131) pays for two years of On-Site Hardware Service and just as long phone support. Three years of both costs 180 Euros (~$242).

In addition, one year accident protection can be purchased for 40 Euros (~$53). Also, Dell offers software theft protection via the LoJack application. This of course only protects against inexperienced thieves that would continue to use the installed operating system.

Input Devices

Keyboard

The Inspiron 15z has a keyboard in the common chiclet style. It features low-profile square keys with rounded corners. The 3 mm gap between the keys separates them well and can prevent typos. The keys also have a clear pressure point, thus allowing convenient and quick typing. Generally, the good workmanship and keyboard quality go hand in hand. At the top right of the keyboard we find three special buttons. One opens the Windows Mobility Center, allowing quick access to the main modules of the notebook. The second one switches between the various sound settings. The third key is configurable and can start any program.

A highlight, in the truest sense of the word, is the keyboard's back lighting. It can be switched off completely or adjusted in two steps via an Fn key. If the keyboard has not been used for some time, the lighting automatically switches off and comes back on at the first key press.

Touchpad

The touchpad is slightly recessed into the body and visually fits well in the overall image of the notebook. The slightly rough surface is different optically and tactile from the brushed aluminum of the palm rest. Finger gliding is comfortable and the cursor movement is smooth. The familiar multi-touch gestures, such as two-finger scrolling or zooming, work well. The tray icon of the touchpad leads to an extensive menu, offering a variety of gestures with up to four fingers. In spite of all efforts, we could not make even one of them work. Only the two already mentioned gestures worked as advertised. The software seems incompatible with Windows 8 – we can only hope for an update.

The two mouse buttons are made of smooth plastic, but imitate the aluminum look of the case. They function perfectly, have a pleasant pressure point, and do not wobble. Overall, the touchpad corresponds to the good workmanship of the case.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Back lighting
Back lighting
Touchpad
Touchpad

Display

Outside use
Outside use

The screen has a diagonal of 15.6-inches and has a resolution of 1366x768 pixels in the 16:9 format. A higher resolution can often be found only in a device above the 1000 Euros (~$1346) mark. This is a glossy display, which hinders outdoor use. The values of the screen we measured prove that the image quality cannot compensate for this shortcoming. The maximum brightness of 212 cd/m² forces compromises in brightly lit places. The contrast ratio of 650:1 is surprisingly good for the moderate brightness values.

 
  212
cd/m²
209
cd/m²
208
cd/m²
 
  192
cd/m²
209
cd/m²
192
cd/m²
 
  195
cd/m²
194
cd/m²
205
cd/m²
 
 
Distribution of brightness
X-rite i1 Basic Pro 2
Maximum: 212 cd/m² Average: 201.8 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 91 %
Center on Battery: 214 cd/m²
Contrast: ∞:1 (Black: 0 cd/m²)

The low coverage of the sRGB and AdobeRGB color spaces is no surprise. Anyway, it is relevant only to professional graphics and photo editors. As expected, the color spaces are barely reproduced. Nevertheless, the Inspiron 15z is slightly better in this test than its smaller brother, the 14z.

Inspiron 15z vs. sRGB
Inspiron 15z vs. sRGB
Inspiron 15z vs. AdobeRGB
Inspiron 15z vs. AdobeRGB
Inspiron 15z vs. Inspiron 14z
Inspiron 15z vs. Inspiron 14z
Viewing angles Dell Inspiron 15z-5523
Viewing angles Dell Inspiron 15z-5523

While the viewing angles of the Inspiron 14z were abysmal, those of the 15z can be considered as acceptable. Horizontally, the image remains relatively stable up to 45 degrees. Vertically, we see a fading and color inversion even at a small angle. This is typical for notebooks with a TN panel. The rarely used IPS panels offer significantly better viewing angles, as the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist Convertible shows.

 

Performance

The heart of Dell's Inspiron 15z in our configuration is the Intel Core i5-3317U. It is a popular choice since it offers good value for money to most customers. The processor has two cores with a base clock of 1.7 GHz. At idle, the frequency is automatically reduced to 800 MHz and under high load Turbo Boost should increase it to 2.6 GHz (single core). The chip also houses the Intel Graphics HD 4000, which is used in simpler applications in order to save power. The dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 630M comes with 2 GB video memory. Thanks to Nvidia Optimus technology it is automatically turned on for demanding video and 3D applications. As we already mentioned, the Inspiron also comes with 6 GB of RAM, which ought to be enough for most users. The 128 GB Solid State Drive is rather fast, but might be a bit too small as a storage device.

In this configuration, the Dell Inspiron 15z costs 749 Euros (~$1008). The cheapest version with Intel Core i3-3217U, 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive with a 32 GB ExpressCache will set you back 599 Euros (~$806). The most powerful chip is the Intel Core i7-3517U, which Dell offers in the Inspiron 15z model starting from 949 Euros (~$1277).

Systeminfo CPUZ CPU
Systeminfo CPUZ Cache
Systeminfo CPUZ Mainboard
Systeminfo CPUZ RAM
Systeminfo CPUZ RAM SPD
Systeminfo GPUZ
System information Dell Inspiron 15z-5523

Processor

CPU benchmark: the CPU runs at the base frequency under load
CPU benchmark: the CPU runs at the base frequency under load

Compared to other notebooks with the same processor, the Inspiron 15z shows a rather poor performance in the CPU benchmark Cinebench. The smaller Inspiron 14z or even the cheaper Asus Aspire V5-571G are about 50% quicker in the Single Rendering test. We saw the same results in both the 32 and 64 bit Multi Core tests.

According to the specifications, a single core should be able to reach 2.6 GHz and both cores - 2.4 GHz. But under continuous load, which the benchmark simulated, neither cores exceed the base clock. This is the reason for the relatively low scores. This also leads to performance loss in demanding applications. Some consolation comes from the fact that the frequency is not lower on battery power - the benchmarks showed the same results as when plugged in.

 
 

Video

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