Cheap 15 inch laptops are ubiquitous. Every manufacturer is advertising them whenever there is a chance to. There’s a reason for this: people are on the hunt for affordable laptops all the time – I’ve also witnessed somebody buying a new notebook only because it was cheap, not necessarily because he wanted it. Well, Dell Inspiron i3542-3267BK is the Texan electronics company’s attempt to capitalize on that desire. Let’s see if you’d get a pig in a poke or something actually useful.
The main components
Dell Inspiron i3542-3267BK has, for the delight of power users, a non-Celeron CPU. The Intel Core i3-4030U runs faster than those Celerons often found in budget laptops. The vital stats are 1.9GHz and two cores. According to professional benchmarks one can expect good overall performance from it, definitely sufficient for everyday home use and even some more.
There is 4 GB system memory installed in the laptop. The RAM is expandable up to 8 GB. According to manual (PDF) there’s just one memory slot all in all, so removing the old 4GB module would have to happen first prior to inserting bigger RAM module. With that being said, I think four gigabytes is fine for almost everybody, especially for casual users.
The storage of Dell Inspiron i3542-3267BK is solid. The laptop features 1000GB hard drive, giving you plenty of space to work with. Hundreds of movies could be stored locally on that drive unless you prefer the modern way of watching stuff online. A slight downside is the speed: 5400RPM drives are getting replaced by swift solid-state drives. However, this is by no means a major drawback, and if your current computer has a hard drive (as opposed to SSD) you’ll see no difference in the speed.
Concentrating on graphics
Dell Inspiron i3542-3267BK doesn’t have great graphics performance. The processor integrates a chip called Intel HD 4400 which is the graphics engine of this laptop. These things perform very poorly compared to dedicated graphics but are in no way completely useless. You can use this Dell for older games that don’t have outstanding graphics. The crowd’s favorite Minecraft would run smoothly even on higher settings.
The display is 15.6 inches screen with typical 1366×768 resolution. It doesn’t support touchscreen, so you must resort to keyboard and mouse (as opposed to touch features) when using the Windows 8.1 on this Dell.
The connectivity in Dell Inspiron i3542-3267BK is typical for a cheap laptop. 3 USB ports are present, of which one is USB 3.0. Also HDMI port (but no VGA) is installed for HDTV use. Headphone/mic jack is also supported.
Networking is solid with all the essentials: 10/100Mbps Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0.
The Dell also features 3-in-1 media card reader, DVD reader and 720p webcam.
Other important things
Dell Inspiron i3542-3267BK has Windows 8.1 64-bit edition pre-installed. There are also other software that come with it, namely Microsoft Office and McAfee antivirus 30-day trials.
The battery life is advertised as 6.5 hours. It’s excellent for a budget laptop, but I’m little suspicious you’ll get so good duration. You should realistically expect the battery to last around 4 hours. It will also take four hours to charge the battery from dead to full when computer is turned off.
The notebook weighs 5.3 pounds. It’s a good middle of the road weight that shouldn’t be a problem for people on the go.
Lastly, the keyboard doesn’t feature backlight but has 10-key numeric pad located on the right.
From what I can see, Dell succeeded once again. The Inspiron i3542-3267BK offers pretty darn good performance for the current price, and on top of that also runs many older games. Thinking hard, I can’t see any fundamental issues with it. Some serious gaming is naturally off limits for a budget laptop, but for people at home or office looking for a solid 15″ laptop I would recommend this Dell.