Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming
The Core i7 CPU will handle any game and most applications
D ell’s Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (7577) aims to offer abundant gaming ability without the gregarious looks and high prices of Alienware machines. It’s a smart system. The lid’s dark magnesium alloy is only disturbed by a red Dell logo, and the same colour rings the touchpad. The keyboard has an unobtrusive white backlight, and the metal is matt and plain – not brushed. Meanwhile, the slatted front edge conceals two speakers, while the back has more slats that hide exhausts. It takes more inspiration from business laptops than gaming machines, which may be preferable, depending no your tests. It has a sleek design, and there’s no disputing Dell’s build quality either. The keyboard base and the metal around the touchpad barely moves, and there’s only a little more give in the lid. It’s one of the strongest mid-priced gaming laptops we’ve seen. The Dell’s strength doesn’t come at the expense of size either. The Inspiron weighs 2.65kg and is 25mm thick, which plants it in the middle of the market – it’s a tad smaller than Acer’s Nitro 5 (see p30), for instance.
The edges provide three USB 3.1 ports, a Thunderbolt connector and HDMI, but there’s no DisplayPort and only one audio jack. You also get the standard Intel Gigabit Ethernet and dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, while the power button doubles as a fingerprint reader.
Pleasingly, removing a single screw also removes the base panel. Underneath, you’ll find access to the battery and storage, and a spare memory slot. A shroud covers most of the motherboard and cooling gear, which makes the interior look cleaner and presumably improves strength. That’s fine, but it does make it trickier to clean the fans.
Meanwhile, the keys have a plain white backlight, but we encountered a few minor layout issues. The function and cursor keys are small, and the numeric keypad buttons are a little narrow. The Return key is also only single-height. It’s a mixed bag for typing too. The keys have 1.4mm of travel, which is conventional, but the action is quieter and softer than keys on rival machines. It makes typing comfortable, but it’s not necessarily great for gaming. The touchpad’s surface is a little rough too, but the buttons are good, with a shallow, fast action.
On the inside, Dell’s machine is only the second one we’ve seen with an Nvidia Max-Q GPU. The Max-Q range reduces power consumption, and improves battery life and thermal performance by cutting clock speeds. The GTX 1060 Max-Q inside the Dell runs at 1063MHz with a 1342MHz average boost clock. By comparison, the full-power GTX 1060 runs at 1404MHz with a 1670MHz boost. You get 6GB of graphics memory though.
The low-power GPU is paired with a Core i7-7700HQ CPU, which runs four Hyper-Threaded cores at 2.8GHz with a 3.8GHz turbo peak.
Meanwhile, Windows 10 sits on a 256GB Toshiba XG5 SSD, and there’s a 1TB hard disk. There’s 16GB of memory in this machine too, but it’s disappointingly single-channel.
Dell also makes two other versions of this machine. The cheapest costs £849, and uses a Core i5-7300HQ CPU with a GTX 1050 GPU, while the middle machine costs £1,049 and pairs the i7-7700HQ with a GTX 1050 Ti. Performance The GTX 1060 Max-Q’s reduced speed has an impact on performance, but the mid-range Nvidia card still delivers enough power to handle gaming on the Dell’s 1080p screen. Deus Ex is our toughest game, and the Dell still returned a minimum frame rate of 30fps alongside a better figure of 44fps in Fallout 4.
The Dell fell behind in standard benchmarks though. For example, the i7-7700HQ’s image editing score of 36,280 is around 9,000 points behind that of the Razer Blade Pro (see Issue 174, p32), which is much more expensive but is based on the same CPU. This test responds to clock speed, so it’s likely the Dell’s CPU isn’t hitting its turbo frequency as often as the Razer. The Dell’s multi-tasking result of 89,581 was also slower than that of the Razer, likely down to the latter having dual-channel memory, among other factors.
The Dell never felt sluggish, though, and the Core i7 CPU will handle any game and most applications, but it’s clear that more speed is available elsewhere. It’s the same with the SSD. The Toshiba’s read and write results of 2,194MB/ sec and 963MB/sec are much quicker than SATA drives, but Samsung’s NVMe drives are quicker. That said, it’s good to see a 256GB NVMe drive in this machine.
In its favour, the Dell was silent during low-intensity tasks, and during a gaming test, the noise level was modest. There
were no exterior heat issues either - temperatures were fine, and the GPU boosted beyond 1400MHz in games. During a full system stress test, the CPU’s delta T of 68°C was high, but the GPU topped out at a modest 50°C. The noise was only a little louder, and there were no throttling or exterior heat problems.
The Max-Q GPU does help the Dell deliver slightly better battery life than many gaming machines. The Inspiron lasted for just over two hours when gaming, which is a solid improvement over most rivals. It also lasted for three hours, 40 minutes in an application test.
Meanwhile, the screen’s brightness level of 239cd/m² is fine, and the black point of 0.19cd/m² is solid, so contrast is an impressive 1,257:1.
However, the Dell’s colour temperature of 7,223K is a tad cool, and its delta E measurement of 5.76 is mediocre. The sRGB gamut coverage level of 56.7 per cent isn’t great either.
The high contrast means games will have plenty of punch, even if those colours are a little dulled. It’s a shame, but at least games won’t be hindered.
Finally, the speakers lack volume, and bass is a little weak, which is to be expected from a machine with no subwoofer. However, treble and high-end frequency reproduction is surprisingly good, with lots of detail and punch without any tinny high-end hiss. Conclusion Nvidia’s GTX 1060 Max-Q delivers solid gaming performance while contributing to decent thermals and improved battery life, and the Core i7-7700HQ remains quick. Elsewhere, Dell’s machine offers solid, subtle aesthetics and good screen contrast. However, the Inspiron isn’t without fault. The application performance is generally disappointing, as is the lack of dual-channel memory, and the subtle keyboard isn’t ideal for gaming either.
Dell’s latest laptop doesn’t have any major issues, but those smaller problems prevent it from reaching greatness. The Inspiron is a solid mid-range gaming machine that will handle games at its 1080p native resolution, but it doesn’t really excel in any particular department.
The Dell looks more like a business laptop than a gaming machine. It has a sleek design, and there’s no disputing Dell’s build quality either