The lid and contours of the keyboard are coated in anodised aluminium with an engraved honeycomb motif, with the rest of the chassis in grey and black plastic. The body looks really nice and is scratch-resistant, but it's definitely a big laptop.
This 17.3-incher has a quality keyboard with a numerical keypad that offers quiet and nimble typing. The only thing that's missing is backlighting.
The multitouch touchpad has a nice surface with matte black coating that doesn't collect smudges. It supports all the most common two- and three-finger commands (you can find the configuration and a demonstration in the touchpad's driver). Add to that its smooth and precise movements, and what you have is a comfortable touchpad. It's the exact same size as the touchpad on the 15.6-inch model, though; it's too bad Dell didn't make use of the extra space to make it bigger.
Something else that's exactly the same as the 15.6-inch model is the connectivity on the sides: four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, a headphone jack and a microphone jack.
There's also an SD card reader in the front. The model we tested has a Blu-ray player that makes the perfect combination with the screen's Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution.
The 17R Special Edition's heat levels are relatively good, staying below 40° C (104° F). The noise levels, however, are much higher; when you put the computer to work the fan wakes up and makes 53 dB(A) of noise, compared to 35 dB(A) at rest.
Dell gave the TN screen a glossy surface, although it shouldn't cause too much glare because it has a maximum brightness of 350 cd/m². Another strong point is the contrast, which varies from 1,000:1 to 1,100:1, depending on the brightness level.
The colour rendering is a different story. With an average Delta E of 11, the only way to get accurate tones out of this screen will be to use a calibration profile.
Our Review Model
The model we were sent for review contains an Intel Core i7-3610QM processor, 6 GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GT 650M video card and a 1 TB hard drive (5400 RPM). Whereas the comments above refer to all versions of the Dell Inspiron 17R Special Edition, the observations below apply only to the configuration we tested, as each model has different specifications. Individual components may also vary depending on the country/region you live in (see inset).
With 6 GB of RAM and, more importantly, an Intel Core i7-3610QM processor, this 17.3-inch laptop can handle any task, even the most CPU-intensive.
The 1 TB HDD makes for plenty of storage space, but unfortunately doesn't help the computer start up faster in the way a solid-state drive would. As is, it takes just under a minute to start up (including time to connect via Wi-Fi). Shutdown is much quicker, at fifteen seconds.
Advanced users could easily make use of the second 2.5" disk space to add an SSD and gain responsiveness without losing storage space. The compartment is located on the bottom of the computer, where you can also increase the RAM by adding a stick in either of the two slots.
The GeForce GT 650M allows the 17R Special Edition to run nearly any game (Diablo III, Darksiders II, etc.) in native resolution with high detail. Certain games that are especially processor-intensive (Metro 2033, Crysis II, etc.) will, however, require you to lower the detail in order to avoid choppy gameplay.
The 17R Special Edition reads Blu-ray and other Full HD movies flawlessly.
To handle the audio on this Special Edition, Dell decided to get help from Skullcandy and Maxx. And the results ain't too shabby. The headphone output is nice and loud; it's well isolated and produces no distortion—all signs of a well-built product.
Green section = good / Orange section = tolerable / White section = too heavily altered
To complement the rest, the 17R Special Edition has three speakers, which offers better listening than many of its competitors. Unfortunately, you won't want to turn the volume up too high because past 50% the speakers quickly start to saturate (so much that the keys on the keyboard start to vibrate).
Mobility / Battery Life
This is a pretty big laptop. The dimensions are 416.8 x 276 x 31.9~37.37 mm. At that size it won't even fit in a backpack. And at 3.3 kg it isn't ideal for carrying around in any kind of bag. So it's more of a stay-at-home laptop that you might stuff in a suitcase when you go on vacation. It gets two and a half hours of battery life during continuous video playback (with Wi-Fi turned off, the screen at 100 cd/m² and headphones plugged in). Basically, just long enough to watch a movie and a little bit more.
- Great gaming capabilities
- Low heating
- Excellent processing power
- High contrast (from 1,000:1 to 1,100:1)
- Full HD display
- Blu-ray player
- Glossy screen with false colours
- Ethernet gets a max. of 100 Mbps (no Gigabit)
- No keyboard backlighting
- Loud fan, up to 53 dB(A)
The Dell Inspiron 17R Special Edition offers excellent processing power and gaming capabilities. It also has a Full HD display with great contrast, above-average sound and well-finished hardware. This is a choice laptop—as long as you don't need much battery life.