Wait, Dell Makes Gaming Laptops?
I’d be willing to bet one of the first names you think of if I asked you to name a gaming laptop is Alienware. And that company makes some of the best in the business. But they can be a little pricey. Alienware’s parent company Dell also makes some gaming laptops, and these are more budget-friendly. They’re also just mainstream-looking enough to be able to pull double-duty as high performance productivity laptops. I just wrapped up a review session with one of these, the 15.6-inch Dell Inspiron 15 7000.
Unboxing and First Impressions
The Inspiron 15 7000 arrived in a sizeable, plain cardboard box. Inside is the laptop itself and the power adapter.
Two things struck me immediately as I unpacked the gear. First, the Inspiron 15 7000 doesn’t look like a typical Dell laptop. The Dell logo on the lid is a brilliant scarlet red and there’s been an attempt to make the case stand out with some angular corners and grill effects with bright red backgrounds. Everything else is black, with a slightly rubberized texture that does an excellent job of avoiding fingerprints. The chiclet keyboard has red lettering and red LED backlighting. Sense a theme here yet?
Despite the efforts to make it stand out from the pack with its black and red paint job, the Inspiron 15 7000 is relatively restrained compared to many gaming laptops. It’s also slimmer, at just 1-inch thick. Overall, it’s a good look. You could easily get away with bringing this laptop into a meeting, yet it offers just a slight hint of menace.
The second thing that immediately struck me was the size of its power brick. It’s big. It didn’t help that I was also working with a new Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 laptop (read my review here) that uses a USB-C power adapter that’s positively tiny in comparison. One of my kids popped by while the Inspiron 15 7000’s power adapter was sitting on my test bench and thought it was a Bluetooth speaker.
Hands-on With the Dell Inspiron 15 7000
I’m not a big PC gamer. With three kids keeping me busy I don’t have the time I used to, so most of my gaming these days is limited to consoles and my iPhone.
That being said, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 checks the boxes for crucial PC gaming must-haves. Chief among those is its discreet video card, an Nvidia GTX1050Ti with 4GB of RAM. According to Nvidia, this card (which features its Pascal architecture) is a significant upgrade over last year’s GTX1050 adding a nice performance and power efficiency boost. It’s not on the same level as the company’s flagship mobile video cards, but I checked out benchmarks published for various current games and it offers decent performance, especially at the 1080p resolution of the Inspiron 15 7000’s display. For example, at medium settings, it averaged 94 fps for Battlefield One. For The Division, it managed a respectable 57 fps average on medium settings.
There is also a snappy CPU, a seventh generation quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ. The laptop comes with 8GB of RAM standard, although my review unit was equipped with 16GB. There’s also Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac Wi-Fi for online gaming and the keyboard is backlit and has the WASD keys high-lighted.
Storage is a dual system. There’s 128GB of super-fast SSD storage for the operating system and frequently used files. This ensures near instant start-up and fast system performance. It also has a 1TB hard disk to cover off mass storage needs.
The Inspiron 15 7000 has much better audio than most laptops, with a pair of forward-firing speakers and a built-in subwoofer.
Besides its gaming use, the Inspiron 15 7000 would make for a nice performance laptop. The 15.6-inch display is crisp and has the room to show a lot of info without needing to squint, the keyboard is decent for typing and there’s plenty of storage. With the Core i7 and Nvidia card working together, there’s plenty of power on tap for number crunching or high demand tasks like editing and compiling video. You also get lots of ports for USB accessories—although no USB-C support.
My biggest issue with the Inspiron 15 7000 is power. As mentioned, the power adapter is big. But the 74Whr battery doesn’t last long, either. On medium screen brightness, when streaming HD video I got just 2.5 hours on a charge. You can tweak the settings and use battery-saving to extend that a bit, but you wouldn’t want to do so if you were using the laptop to play a game. No gaming laptop offers great battery life, but this is something to be aware of if you’re considering it as a general use laptop.
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Key Specs (as tested)
A single Phillips screw and popping some tabs is all it takes to access the Inspiron 15 7000’s components. There are two RAM slots and the laptop can be upgraded to 32GB of RAM. You could always boost the SSD capacity if you wished and the hard drive is a 5400 rpm model—you could replace it with a 7200 rpm drive for greater speed.
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 isn’t aimed at hardcore PC gamers—they’ll want something a little more powerful—but it’s a lot more capable than many budget gaming laptops. Let’s call it somewhere in the middle in terms of performance.
Given its affordable price tag, that makes it a pretty good bet for mobile gaming on a budget, and it’s also more than capable of being used as a performance laptop. Battery life isn’t stellar and the power brick is bulky, but otherwise there’s a lot to like about the Inspiron 15 7000. And if you want to cut costs even more, there’s a Core i5 version available.
Make sure to check out the Inspiron 15 7000, along with the huge selection of gaming and performance laptops at Best Buy.