Dell Inspiron 1525 Value Laptop PC

If you don’t like the specifications of the particular Dell Inspiron 1525 we tested, you can easily configure your own online. That’s an important difference between this unit and most other inexpensive laptops: You can customize it down to the smallest detail–even lid color–before finally clicking the ‘Buy now’ button .

Our review unit will please those for whom good performance is a priority. Equipped with 2GB of memory and the best notebook CPU Dell offered for this model at the time of our review (a 2-GHz Core 2 Duo T7250), our US$999 (as of 2/7/08) Windows Vista Home Premium machine earned a WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 78. That’s 17 per cent faster than the average score of 65 earned by the five under-$1000 laptops in this roundup, and even 13 percent better than the average of 69 earned by16 recently tested all-purpose notebooks in any price range.

With the battery upgraded from the standard four-cell to a six-cell (US$15 extra), our notebook lasted a fairly generous 4 hours, 4 minutes on one charge, about 10 minutes longer than our five budget laptop test group’s average.

About the only thing the Inspiron 1525 can’t handle is 3D graphics; with an Intel Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 and no dedicated video card option, it’s limited to simple games and other 2D applications.

The 1525 is wedge-shaped but svelte at six pounds, including a 15.4-inch 1280 by 800 resolution screen, a DVD writer, and a good keyboard. The port variety and layout is fine (the 1525 is one of the few notebooks in this price range with an HDMI connection).

And like the excellent HP Pavilion dv2600se, the 1525 gives multimedia lovers lots of entertainment features: an instant-on button, a Webcam, and even dual headphone jacks. In fact, I like the Dell’s MediaDirect button more than the HP’s QuickPlay because it has Instant Office, an application viewer that lets you access your calendar, contacts and PowerPoint presentations. Also, Dell’s volume gauge is easier to use. Alas, the raspy-sounding speakers take some of the shine off the 1525’s entertainment appeal.

The real beauty of the 1525 is its customizability. For instance, our glossy screen (a no-extra-cost option at the time of our review) was pretty reflective, so you might be happier with Dell’s standard antiglare screen. From a base configuration of US$500, you can build your perfect sub-$1000 laptop that includes a lid in any one of 11 different colors (US$25 usually, but included in our test model’s price), Bluetooth (US$20), an integrated mobile broadband card (US$150), and even built-in wireless USB ($150).

If choice of features is paramount in your budget laptop, the Inspiron 1525 is your best bet among the models in our test group.

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