Dell Inspiron I3542-11001BK, another useful touch laptop or perhaps just a lemon? Glancing through the specifications and noting the price I’d say the former, but let’s not be too quick to judge here. Instead, a better look at this affordable computer should reveal its good and bad sides for you.
The dual-core Intel Core i3-4030U processor offers a clock speed of 1.9HGz with no turbo frequency available. In Passmark benchmark it receives an average 2700 grade while entry-level Celerons in comparison get only around thousand. It’s a typical Core i3, a common CPU good for everyday tasks at home or office. There’s also an integrated graphics engine which is powerful enough to run some lower profile games like Minecraft.
Dell Inspiron I3542-11001BK features 4GB DDR3L SDRAM. Only one SODIMM slot is available on the mainboard (it’s already taken!) so you can upgrade the RAM to 8GB only by removing the old module first.
A 750GB hard drive is installed, noticeably bigger than 500GB usually seen in cheap notebooks. Unless you’re using your laptop as a data storage for files from past 5-10 years, such a size should be well enough. You can store 100s of movies on 750GB to give you an example. But the 5400RPM speed is unfortunately not on par with modern solid-state drives. If you value faster transfer rates over sheer storage, you can put an SSD in after removing the old hard drive.
Screen and graphics
Dell Inspiron I3542-11001BK has a 15 inches touch-enabled screen. If you’ve been unsure whether Windows 8.1 (64-bit) works with a normal display you don’t have to worry about it with this Dell. The 1366×768 resolution shouldn’t get you too excited, but for everyday computing it should suffice. It’s more of a power user thing to use a Full HD display, if you ask me.
The graphics card Intel HD 4400 is an integrated unit so a great gaming performance can’t be expected. However, many people still play on these cheaper laptops, although heavyweight titles like Assassin’s Creed IV will hardly reach 25-30FPS even on low details. Of course, many lighter games are popular too, and types like Minecraft and Tomb Raider won’t have any problems running on this Dell.
There are three USB ports in Dell Inspiron I3542-11001BK. Like with most laptops of similar price, just one of those is USB 3.0. There’s also a HDMI out, so plugging a HDTV or PC monitor in is possible and recommended if you’re planning to use this Dell as a desktop replacement.
Both 100Mbps Ethernet RJ-45 and 802.11b/g/n WiFi adapters are installed, letting you use Internet with or without cable. Bluetooth is likewise enabled, so transferring small files is from mobile devices is convenient.
DVD burner is available on the right hand side. The built-in SD card slot can be used to upload photos from cameras.
The notebook has a webcam and microphone combo as well, so Skype video works on it.
Any other things to keep in mind?
Dell Inspiron I3542-11001BK has a weight of 5.3 pounds, about the same than other 15 inchers have. The 4-cell Li-ion battery is probably good for ~4 hours of use. So the notebook is not on-the-go person’s dream, although none of these inexpensive 15.6″ laptops are.
The keyboard is a basic one, with no illuminated keys. A numeric keypad is however available.
I don’t think Dell Inspiron I3542-11001BK differs from other basic notebooks in any way. It has Intel Core i3 processor and 4GB RAM, enough performance a home or office user might ever need. Playing titles with easy system requirements is possible, too. The touchscreen might also come handy. Traveling with this Dell is not ideal due to heavy(ish) weight and mediocre battery life, but that is the reality with these common 15.6″ models. All in all, a solid budget laptop, with no obvious blunders I can think of.