PC Advisor

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming

- Andrew Williams

The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming is a mid-price gaming laptop. It doesn’t offer the most powerful graphics processors around, but does have enough power to work as your main PC and play almost any game at 1080p with the visuals set to ‘medium’ or ‘high’.

It covers all bases too, with remarkably good battery life a highlight that alternativ­es just don’t get close to. There’s one potentiall­y fatal flaw: most versions of the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming come with a poor quality screen.

Price

Dell’s entry-level Inspiron 15 7567 Gaming is available for £899. That gets you an Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU, a quad-core Intel Core i5 Kaby Lake processor, a 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM. (In the US version, you get a 1TB hard drive instead of the SSD.)

For an extra £200 – that’s £1,099 – you get the version we’re reviewing here. It has a 1TB hard drive, plus a 256GB SSD, a Kaby Lake Core i7 chipset and a more powerful GTX 1050 Ti GPU.

Right at the top of the range is the £1,299 model. It has a 512GB SSD and a radically more advanced screen. Not only is this a 4K panel, it uses better IPS tech, too.

These laptops come with a oneyear collect-and-return warranty as standard. You can upgrade to a better ‘on-site’ warranty for £68 if you buy from Dell, and extend that cover to up to four years. This fullfat cover costs up to £232.

Design

Gaming laptops from Asus, MSI and Acer often have colourful keyboard backlights and great big light-up designs on their lids. They don’t want to hide their gamer chops.

The Inspiron 15 Gaming is more subdued. The Dell logo on the rear is red, and the heat outlets on the front and back edges are red too, though as you use the machine it looks exactly like a ‘normal’ laptop.

You won’t need to feel embarrasse­d should you take it out in a library or a Starbucks, but it has a few more design flourishes than a dull office-bound machine.

The Dell’s entire shell is plastic, but it uses a few different finishes. Its hinge is simple grey plastic, though the lid and inside are softtouch black plastic. The lid picks up fingerprin­ts readily, but looks and feels nicer than that of a basic ‘meat and potatoes’ model. It’s no Dell XPS 15, though looks good nonetheles­s.

Weighing 2.65kg, we wouldn’t advise buying the Inspiron 15 Gaming if you want a laptop to carry around with you every day. Plus, at 25mm thick, it will take up a lot of space in even a large bag. We wouldn’t want to take this on holiday or out for work trips too often.

Connectivi­ty

Dell seems to have made this for people who want an alternativ­e to a desktop, and you see this in the connection­s, too. There’s an Ethernet port for direct connection to a router, as well as three USB 3.0 ports and a full-size SD slot.

Interestin­gly, Dell has not included one of the newer USB-C 3.1 sockets, which is a slight surprise. Most new laptops seem to have one. Right now you don’t miss it, but in

You won’t need to feel embarrasse­d should you take it out to a Starbucks, but it has a few more design flourishes than a dull office-bound machine

two years you might be left wishing you had a USB-C.

Keyboard and touchpad

The Inspiron 15 Gaming has a classic ‘larger laptop’ keyboard layout. There’s a numberpad as well as a normal set of keys, and important keys towards the edge, such as Shift, have not been shrunk down.

We recently reviewed Dell’s XPS 15 9560, and while it has a slightly better, meatier-feeling keyboard, we’d be more than happy to live with this one. It’s crisp, comfortabl­e and has the same sort of light definition you see in an ultrabook keyboard.

It also has a backlight: tap on the F10 function key and it switches between medium and high intensity. There’s no very low keyboard backlight level, but if that’s all you need maybe you don’t need a backlight at all.

The trackpad below is large for a gaming model and has nice click action. However, it’s not perfect: it’s made of plastic rather than glass, so is a little less smooth, and there’s some unwanted ‘pre-click’ give to the pad. It also depresses a little under the weight of your finger, which is a shame.

Display

The screen is easily the weakest part of this laptop. Its size and resolution are fine: 15.6 inches is a great size for gamers and 1080p is the best resolution unless you’re going to pair it with a true top-end GPU.

However, the Inspiron 15 Gaming has a TN (twisted nematic) panel rather than the IPS kind used in the vast majority of higher-end laptops. These TN screens have much poorer viewing angles, suffering from contrast shift when tilted the wrong way, and shifts in the character of the image from even a slight angle.

Gamers will understand why Dell has done this: TN offers much faster response times than IPS, which is what you want for competitiv­e gaming. But there are good and bad TN panels. On the Inspiron, colour and contrast are both poor, and the colour tone changed pretty dramatical­ly after a session with our calibratin­g colorimete­r. The Inspiron 15 Gaming seems to have quite a blue-green tint out of the box. Calibrated or not, it can only cover 54.6 percent of the sRGB colour standard. This is pretty standard for a TN display, but it’s not what we expect from a £1,199 laptop. Colours look washed out as a result.

Contrast of just 281:1 means blacks are not particular­ly deep, another reason for the washed-out, faded appearance. Next to the Dell XPS 15 9560, it looks bad.

From a purely practical perspectiv­e it fares better, though. An anti-glare surface minimises the effect of reflection­s and maximum brightness of 300cd/m2 is enough for use outdoors.

We’d be much more comfortabl­e if this laptop had an IPS screen, though. It’s an ugly face for what is otherwise a great system.

Of course, Dell gives you another option. The £1,299 version of the Inspiron 15 Gaming has a much better 4K IPS LCD screen. We’ve not tested it, but would be surprised if it isn’t radically better, having seen 4K IPS panels on the firm’s other laptops recently.

Performanc­e

The Dell’s performanc­e suffers from no similar issues. All of the available specificat­ions have quad-core Intel Core processors, and the one we’re testing here is a very high-end Intel Core i7-7700HQ.

This is a ‘do anything’ kind of chipset, capable of handling video editing, music production and intense photo editing, as long as you have enough RAM to match. Our 16GB model will sail through more complex tasks like that.

Our review unit has a basic 1TB 5400rpm hard drive and a faster 256GB SSD, onto which the OS is installed. It’s fast and responsive, although oddly enough we saw a greater performanc­e difference than expected compared to Dell’s XPS 15, which uses the same CPU.

The Inspiron 15 Gaming beat the XPS 15 in PCMark 8, with a very good score of 3105 (to the XPS’s 2810), but performed worse in Geekbench 4. It scored a still-great 12050, around 2000 points less than the XPS.

This seems a bit odd when it’s meant to be a CPU test, but the Inspiron does also have a much slower SSD. Its read speeds are around 550MB/s rather than 3000MB/s-plus, write speeds 265MB/s rather than 1700MB/s.

Buy one of the two more expensive versions of the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming and it’ll best the XPS 15 for gaming, though. Our review model and the top-end 4K

4K one both have Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti cards rather than the standard GTX 1050. This is a faster version of Nvidia’s lower-mid range card, and is capable of running most games very well at 1080p.

On the 1050 Ti version we were sent for review, Thief ran at an average of 51.4fps at max settings, 1080p resolution, which

is around 9fps more than the Dell XPS 15 manages. At 720p, minimum settings the frame rate rockets to 70fps.

Alien: Isolation ran at 179fps at 720p low settings, and 60fps at 1080p high settings. For now at least you can play just about anything you like, including processori­ntensive titles. Nvidia’s latest cards are very capable.

Typical of a gaming laptop, the Dell gets reasonably noisy under load, but the fans are not whiny or high-pitched and the welldesign­ed air flow stop the parts you touch from getting too hot.

Battery life

Laptops this powerful do not tend to last very long off a charge, even when using a battery saver mode. Around 4.5 hours of light use is to be expected, but the Inspiron 15 Gaming’s stamina is miles ahead of this slightly depressing standard. Thanks to Dell’s clever power management, this laptop lasts staggering­ly long for a quad-core Intel CPU machine. Playing a 720p video on loop with the screen brightness at 120cd/m2, it lasted eight hours and 50 minutes.

It also has reasonable speakers, with better-than-average bass thanks to a ‘subwoofer’ driver. Unlike some gaming machines, clarity isn’t thrown away as a result, and the tone is natural-sounding enough. We’d still choose to plug in some headphones for gaming, though.

Verdict

The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming gets just about everything right apart from its screen. The design is fine, its performanc­e admirable and its battery life a jaw-dropper. This makes its low screen quality all the more annoying, although at least Dell lets you upgrade this if you can afford £1,299 rather than £899. It’s something to consider carefully if £899 is your upper limit, though, as the poor colour and contrast really does not do games justice.

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