Picture this: It’s 2008 and I’m in my freshman year of college, badly in need of my own laptop, but not having a ton of extra income (read: next to none). By this time, Dell, which had firmly established itself as a brand thanks to the desktops it provided for me and other high schools, it was my number one choice as a solid manufacturer of affordable mid-range laptops.
After careful savings, I opted for a Dell Inspiron 1525, which was their mid-range option. Of course, back then none of that mattered to me. I just needed something that would allow me to take notes, watch movies, play games and also customize it with a yellow backplate, I didn’t need to have the best gaming laptop or a MacBook or anything like that, just something that worked.
That laptop lasted almost a decade and I loved it to pieces. It was truly one of the best student laptops there could have been. My note-taking game was flawless, I could stream movies and play them on DVD, type research papers without needing the computer lab (and for a student on the go this was vital) and much more.
This yellow Dell Inspiron 1525, which I even called Madeline, was my baby and to this day I cherish the time we spent together. And looking back, it was absolute crap that I had to fix countless times. But despite that, it has taught me many valuable lessons on how to correctly choose a laptop that best suits your needs, and with everyone getting ready to go back to school in a month, I hope more people will make a similar choice as I did. .
Size and weight are very important
Let me start by saying that the Dell Inspiron 1525 weighs exactly six pounds. And I carried this laptop with me seven days a week between school and school work. To be fair, that weight came from the built-in DVD drive, which I wouldn’t trade for the world. But as you can imagine, that was quite a burden for a young adult to carry every day along with all her books.
What made it even bulkier was the 15.4-inch screen, which greatly increased the size and likely contributed to the weight along with the optical drive. And considering that most of my use for this laptop was mundane, it was completely unnecessary to carry around a six-pound paper typewriter.
Instead, my focus should have been on finding a more portable laptop or, better yet, a home PC. With the latter I wouldn’t be able to take notes, but it would be a more stable machine with a much longer lifespan. Unfortunately, Chromebooks didn’t exist until after I left college, so that wasn’t an option. But regardless, I should have spent more time researching my purchase and it could have saved me a lot of back pain.
Lesson one: Make sure your screen size and weight meet your needs.
Build quality is very important
Old Madeline gave me about ten years of lifespan before she passed out, something I don’t even think the best laptop in the world could really do these days, so she was a tough old lady. Considering that the average lifecycle of a laptop these days is three to five years, Madeline literally ran circles around smaller laptops. However, this came with its own problems, something I hadn’t foreseen or planned for.
About two years into my property, I noticed the hinges were a little… off. They stopped opening properly to the point where it lifted part of the back plate from the rest of the laptop whenever I opened it. Fortunately, this problem was mostly fixed by the university technicians, replacing the entire part.
I also realized very quickly that this laptop got very hot, very quickly. As with not having this laptop on your lap, unless you like it to be too warm. Apparently this was because the 1525 used a single heatsink, which was not abnormal, but this model was the most common with this problem. But in the past, Allisa never looked at it because she didn’t understand how important this kind of construction issue was. So I learned the hard way.
At one point the battery failed on me too, and I had to buy and install a new one. The positive is that this greatly increased power and therefore battery life, but the downside was that I now had a battery that jutted out of the back.
Lesson Two: Due Diligence Goes A Long Way
I miss built-in optical drives
Remember when I mentioned that one of the main causes of the 1525’s weight was the optical drive? I wish this was a common problem with modern laptops. Of course, it’s great to have ultra-thin laptops that are easy to carry around, as more variety meets more needs. But there is no way to find a laptop with a drive.
We can discuss the many reasons why this particular feature was eliminated, but the fact remains that this design choice severely limits what a laptop is capable of and restricts it to digital-only products and downloads. Also, they no longer work as DVD players, which is a scam.
Thinking about my Dell Inspiron 1525, the fact that I could pop in a movie whenever I wanted or install games or programs or burn CDs gave me a lot more flexibility. This laptop has done more for me in a few years than any other laptop has done for me since.
Lesson three: you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.
Take care of your computer and it will take care of you (usually)
Over the years, me and my Dell Inspiron 1525 – my Madeline – have gone through many, many ups and downs. And while that old broken beast gave me more than a fair share of headaches, I still love her with all my heart, and the lessons I learned from that I wouldn’t trade for the world.