It’s often the cheaper laptops that are best selling models. Many people just use their notebooks for very lightweight tasks, which in turn don’t require high performance. And a laptop of entry level performance is always affordable. That is also the case with Dell Inspiron i3531-1200BK, a 15.6″ notebook with modest Celeron processor and 4GB RAM. Let’s see how far this budget machine would be able to take you…
This laptop is all about budget performance. It has the popular Intel Celeron N2830 responsible for processing power. The chip offers dual-core design with 2.2GHz clock speed and 2.4GHz burst frequency. It gets a low 1000 points in Passmark tests, placing it well behind Core is (2500-3000 points). So don’t run very heavy software on this rig. Instead, use it for web surfing and other easier-on-the-system stuff, for which the N2830 is a sufficient processor.
Dell Inspiron i3531-1200BK has 4GB DDR3L memory, the smallest comfortable amount in the year 2015. The speed is 1600MHz on paper although the CPU only supports up to 1333MHz RAM speed. This model doesn’t officially take any more memory, although I’ve read people successfully replaced the old 4GB chip with a 8GB stick (there’s indeed only one memory slot all in all). However, people buying this notebook for lightweight activities should do fine with 4GB RAM.
A 500GB 5400RPM drive is what you’ll get for storage. It’s not very fast which you can fix by installing a solid-state drive. Please note there’s no place for an additional drive so the old one has to be taken out first. Any 2.5 inch SATA III drive works, such as Samsung 850 EVO.
Display and graphics
Dell Inspiron i3531-1200BK features a 15.6″ screen, and this particular model has no touch support (although pricier ones have). The 1366×768 resolution might make some people sad, but keep in mind you’re not getting a thousand dollar notebook here.
This Dell hardly works for gaming. It has a poor integrated Intel HD (Bay Trail) responsible for graphics. It’s one of the slowest modern units so many games will have too much lag. I’ve seen people playing GTA 5 on similar rig but the FPS is around 15 which is pretty much unplayable for that kind of game. Unfortunately, the same would be true for many titles from 2014-2015. That being said, very simple titles such as Sims 4 and Fifa 14 will work at least with minimum eye candy on.
Connections are not particularly good on Dell Inspiron i3531-1200BK. There are no USB 3.0 ports, just two USB 2.0 ports. That’s not good news if you want to plug in high-end peripherals.
HDMI output is offered so you can connect a PC display or external monitor to the notebook.
For networking you’ll only get 802.11b/g/n WiFi. The laptop has no RJ-45 port or Bluetooth support, but you can always get a cheap USB adapter for them.
Yet another thing this laptop does not have is an optical drive. If you need access to CDs and DVDs consider this as a minus. Otherwise, it doesn’t really matter. And if you don’t use discs often you can always hook the laptop to an external DVD drive.
There’s a built-in webcam, so despite being cheap you can still use this laptop for Skype video.
Dell Inspiron i3531-1200BK weighs 4.7 pounds, not bad for a 15.6 incher (they often are around 5 pounds). The unit also contains a 4-cell 40 Whr user replaceable battery, which people reported to last over 5 hours. That’s pretty good for such a budget notebook for sure.
The keyboard is not backlit but it has a 10-key pad on the right hand side.
Summing it up
Dell Inspiron i3531-1200BK has many good sides, the most obvious being low price. For the money, you’ll get Celeron-level performance that works for web surfing, paper writing and even HD video streaming. The worst thing is probably the hard drive. As somebody pointed out, to speed up this rig big time, replacing the drive for an SSD might be a good idea. Performing upgrades is easy on this model, there’s an access panel for that. Connections are nothing special, the laptop is missing USB 3.0 port and DVD writer. But then again, it is very affordable model. If you can do with such a basic system, by all means go for it – many home users don’t need anything fancier than this Dell.