Dell Inspiron R with Intel Wireless Display

Dell seems to think its customers, especially college-bound customers, like glossy and can’t get enough. The evidence? Take a look at the new Inspiron R Dell just announced. The Inspiron R is glossier than ever. I’m starting to really wonder if someone who has design influence at Dell interacts with anyone who uses an actual glossy Dell machine. Maybe I’m unique in that I don’t like my computer to be glossy, especially the display. Plastic is cheaper than other materials such as aluminum. I understand that, but does it have to be glossy? And if glossy is here to stay would it be possible to make it fingerprint resistant?

The new Inspiron R series isn’t going to win any beauty pageants. It seems Dell’s designers, except for those who were responsible for the Adamo, don’t have a sensible feel for good design. An example would be the forward-positioned hinge, something Dell considers a design element to be emphasized. Or maybe the hinge is simply functional and looks had nothing to do with it. Either way I hope they get rid of this ugliness as soon as possible. Dell has always pumped out above-average notebooks for a budget price. I think that’s the formula Dell uses most of the time, and it shows: you get a lot of hardware for the money, but not much in terms of refinement.

The Inspiron R comes in three sizes: the 14-inch 14R, the 15.6-inch 15R, and the 17.3-inch 17R. You can find more details at Dell (14R, 15R, 17R). The 14.0-inch 14R starts at $549.99 and the 15R and 17R starts at $529.99. Both sports a LCD featuring a “High Definition (720p) LED Display with TrueLife”. Marketing-speak that means zip. An LED display? Psh. In words that make sense, the LCD sports a 1366×768 pixel format and a LED backlight. What is TrueLife? A gimmick. The resolution on the 14R is decent at 111.94 PPI and the 15R is barely adequate at 100.45 PPI. The 17R’s 17.3-inch LCD has an even more esoteric term attached to it: “HD+ WLED Display with TrueLife”. What idiots. As if all that crap jargon means anything to anyone. Here’s something clearer: Pixel format is 1600×900. The LCD uses a LED backlight. Aspect ratio is 16:9. Resolution is a ho-hum 106.11 PPI. It is clear Dell wants its notebooks to resonate with HD, so what HD content uses a pixel format of 1600×900? Absolutely none. I’m glad there’s a Blu-ray option. Unfortunately there is no display option to take full advantage of the 1080p video stream coming out of it.

Maybe you’re not interested in HD movies and are more focused on gaming. I wouldn’t get too excited. The ATI Mobility Radeon HD5470 with 1GB VRAM is an entry-level DirectX 11 GPU manufactured using a 40nm process. It supports GDDR5 but often equipped with DDR3 for cost reasons and my guess is the Inspiron R series notebooks are using DDR3. According to Notebookcheck, most games should be quite playable in low/medium setting. Crysis, Need For Speed Shift, Modern Warfare, etc. runs fluidly only in low detail settings. The more powerful HD5600/5700 series feature 400 cores, and with a 360-520 GigaFLOP computation power on the HD5650. The HD5470 with 80 Stream processors is limited to around 120 GigaFLOPs.

AMD claims the HD5470 was improved for general computing. An improved video processor, UVD2, is onboard to better decode HD videos and is technically able to decode two HD streams simultaneously. The HD5470 can accelerate Flash 10.x content, too. HD audio (Dolby True HD, DTS HD Master Audio, etc.) can be transmitted via HDMI 1.3a with up to 8-ch, 192KHz, 24-bit. Eyefinity is supported to connect up to four monitors but is limited to the number of physical connectors, which on the 17R is one VGA and one HDMI. Power consumption is rated at 12-15W and AMD claims the performance per watt ratio and idle power per watt ratios were improved. Switchable Graphics is also supported that allows for switching between integrated and discrete GPUs but I’m not sure if it is implemented or not.

I think Intel’s Wireless Display is a good idea and I hope the implementation was done well, otherwise I foresee many folks getting tangled up trying to setup this wireless connection. According to Intel “connection is a snap.”  You need to connect the adapter that comes with an Inspiron R notebook to your TV. Make sure your TV has a HDMI or a composite A/V connection. The notebook also must have one of the following: Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6200, Intel Centrino Advanced-N + WiMAX 6250 or Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300. What does the R series have? The “Dell Wireless 1501 802.11 g/n.” Is that compatible? I have no idea. Next you’ll need the Intel My WiFi Technology and Intel Wireless Display software installed and running. The My WiFi piece makes your notebook into a personal area network or PAN that Wireless Display makes use of. Oh, and you’ll also need the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional or Ultimate. That’s just the stuff you need. I hope getting it up and running doesn’t require as many things. Wireless Display makes use of software-based compression and encoding and results in about a 0.5-second delay between the display on the notebook and the display on the TV. Gaming is a no-go in this situation.

The Inspiron R series pack a lot of technology into a glossy fingerprint-magnet chassis with components (hinge) that have been hit by the ugly stick, display options that are at best sub-par and perfectly unsuited for HD video playback, and a not-powerful-enough GPU for intense gaming. The price is quite aggressive, though, for a Core i5-packing notebook.