Introduction and design
Alienware isn’t the only grin-worthy gaming laptop brand at Dell anymore. The Inspiron 15 7000 lets you take your PC gaming on the go without necessarily breaking the bank. With a price tag of $999 (£749, AU$1,599) this notebook offers a lot in the way of discrete graphics and a gorgeous, matte HD screen.
This Inspiron stands out as an impressive entertainment system, especially with its loud speakers and subwoofer to give the sound a little extra oomph. In combination with a fleet-footed Intel Core i5 processor, Nvidia GTX 960M graphics and 8GB of memory, the Inspiron 15 7000’s hardware matches well against other entry-level gaming laptops.
In particular, the sleek HP Omen houses the same Nvidia graphics chip in addition to a 15-inch touchscreen. Then there is the decidedly less flashy Gigabyte P55K V4, which similarly packs performance into a hulking notebook.
Dell has coated the Inspiron 15 7000 in a smooth black exterior with red accents, visible cooling fins along the back, and equipped it with a full backlit keyboard – all hallmarks of a gaming laptop without being excessive.
The spine and left side are heavily vented with two fans, though you won’t see them through the decorative, copper-colored heat dissipation fins. Red bands run parallel across the bottom, acting as feet to keep the notebook from slipping on surfaces, while giving the little subwoofer enough room to breathe.
Although the Inspiron’s design isn’t as bold as the LED lights, patterned surface and the trapizodal shape of the HP Omen, it maintains a sense of power without overstating. More importantly, its sleek looks don’t compromise on features or the size of the battery.
Built to boom
One feature that immediately impresses is the Inspiron’s loud speakers with built-in subwoofer for superior-sounding explosions in games and movies. I wouldn’t say that the bass blows me away, but it is pretty deep for a notebook system.
Sound fidelity may change, depending on what surface the system is resting on, since the speakers fire downward. That said, I have no problem keeping up adequate volume when playing Star Wars: Battlefront.
The system gets very warm during gaming sessions, but never uncomfortably hot (and you can’t help noticing the noise from the fans once they kick in). Most of the heat vents out the spine and sides, but you can still feel some warmth coming through the right side of the keyboard.
The Inspiron 15 7000’s matte screen is glare-free and offers a stutter-free picture during most fast-paced action gaming sessions. However, the notebook’s major weak point is in its 1TB hybrid drive.
Although repeated activities, like booting up Windows 10 or launching applications, are fast (as they are put into the 8GB of cache), the hard drive itself spins at 5,400 rotations per minute (RPM). That means players will be stuck waiting as games install, launch for the first time and while loading levels. Sometimes, it takes so long that I couldn’t tell whether the game froze, especially since the laptop’s indicator lights are only for power and charging.
Specifications and performance
Measuring 15.08 x 10.45 x 1 inches or (38.3 x 26.5 x 2.54cm) (W x D x H), and weighing 5.67 pounds (2.57kg), the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 isn’t the kind of notebook you’d characterize as dainty. However, a little extra bulk is the cost of performance, and even though the dimensions aren’t all too different from competitors, you certainly feel that it’s denser whenever you pick it up.
The Inspiron 15 7000 ends up being the heaviest of the bunch, compared to how the HP Omen weighs 4.68 pounds (2.12kg) and Gigabyte P55K V4 is 5.51 pounds (2.5kg) with a built-in optical drive. While it’s not a huge burden, the Inspiron’s weight is very noticeable, and puts it more into the desktop replacement category than a get-up-and-go system.
Here is the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 configuration sent to techradar:
- CPU: 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5-6300HQ (quad-core, 3MB Cache, up to 3.2GHz)
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M (4GB GDDR5 RAM), Intel HD Graphics 530
- RAM: 8GB DDR3L (1,600MHz)
- Screen: 15.6-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 anti-glare LED-backlit display
- Storage: 1TB 5,400 RPM hybrid drive w/ 8GB cache
- Ports: 3 x USB 3.0; HDMI; SD card reader; headphone/microphone jack
- Connectivity: 802.11ac; Bluetooth 4.0; gigabit ethernet
- Camera: 720p webcam
- Weight: 5.67 pounds
- Size: 15.08 x 10.45 x 1 inches (W x D x H)
The Gigabyte P55K V4 and HP Omen both have faster, albeit older, Intel Core i7 processors and extra features. You’ll get a higher-end Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M graphics on the Gigabyte, and it boots from a 128GB SSD (with an additional 1TB spinning drive), while the Omen has twice the memory in addition to a 512GB SSD as its only drive.
Keep in mind that extra features mean more money, with the HP Omen priced at $2,219 (about £1,442, AU$2,885) and the Gigabyte going for $1,650 (£1,049, AU $2,230). There are also more high-end configurations of the Inspiron 15 7000, which include a faster processor and a 4K resolution screen, which can bring the price up to $1,199 (£849) – or AU$ 1,899 for the Australian variant that comes with a 4K screen, double the memory and a 128GB SSD. Overall, though, the Inspiron the most affordable among the three.
If you want an alternative while staying in the Dell family, you can check out the Alienware 13. For just $100 more, you could equip it with a 256GB SSD blazing fast load times. You’d have less overall storage capacity, along with half the system memory and VRAM, but you would have the option upgrading your GPU to a desktop card through the Alienware Graphics Amplifier for enhanced performance.
Although the Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics processor might be enough to run most games acceptably, don’t expect it to push the limits. The notebook runs games like Star Wars Battlefront, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, and Mad Max at around 30 to 40 frames per second (fps) using mid to high settings, but most games have to be significantly dialed down to reach the optimal 60 fps mark.
Here’s how the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
- 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 12,945; Sky Diver 11,718; Fire Strike: 3,930
- Cinebench CPU: 465 cb; Graphics: 46 fps
- PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,809 points
- PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours and 35 minutes
- Geekbench 3: Single-Core Score: 2,795; Multi-Core Score: 8,647
- Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor [1080p, Ultra]: 33 fps; [1080p, Low]: 76 fps
- Metro: Last Light [1080p, Ultra]: 17 fps; [1080p, Low]: 59 fps
Despite featuring Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M discrete graphics, the performance of the Inspiron ended up scoring the lowest against its competitors. That’s even when compared to the HP Omen, which has better overall benchmark scores (Cloud Gate: 16,952; Sky Diver: 12,616; Fire Strike: 3,965) using the same GPU.
Although average in-game performance in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is about the same (31 fps at ultra settings), the Omen did far better in the Metro: Last Light benchmark (33 fps at top settings).
Similarly, the Gigabyte P55K V4 has a leg up with its Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M graphics providing it significantly better benchmark results (Cloudgate: 18,043; Sky Diver: 14,859; Fire Strike: 4,949), in addition to better in-game frame rates. With the Gigabyte machine, Shadow of Mordor averaged 44 fps at highest settings, while Metro: Last Light got 26 fps.
Power isn’t all about pixels
On the other hand, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 gets high marks with its lengthy battery life. It’s pretty much a given that most gaming systems consume battery like popcorn, which makes the long-lasting Inspiron battery all the more impressive. Although power usage may vary from game to game, the system lasted almost 3 hours during our movie test, and the exhaustive PCMark 8 estimate comes out to 3 hours and 35 minutes.
That’s quite a feat, given how the Gigabyte’s PCMark 8 estimate comes out to 2 hours and 36 minutes, and the HP Omen does even worse, with 2 hours and 6 minutes. The Inspiron 15 7000 might not be the most convenient notebook to lug around, but you can get more time in with it before you have to recharge.
- My Dell – Technical support software, your direct line to help from Dell
- Dell Backup and Recover – An automated cloud backup service in the event you’re not already on another
- McAfee Anti-virus – Anti-virus and internet security software that you’d be fine deleting
- Waves MaxxAudio Pro Audio – Adjust the balance and presets of the laptop’s audio
Affordable yet powerful, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 is a fine option for someone looking for a strong-performing entertainment system. Although the system is a little on the heavy side and radiates a noticeable amount of heat during long sessions, those issues are balanced out by generally impressive performance for the price.
The notebook has full, loud speakers, backed by a built-in subwoofer, which wonderfully compliments the clear, 15-inch screen and its wide viewing angles. While the Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M might not let you crank settings up all the way, it offers decent enough performance across a variety of games. Together, these qualities make this laptop great for everything from games, to movies and even music.
Topping it all off is the battery life, which surpasses the competition by an hour or more.
The 1TB hybrid hard drive forces you to play the waiting game as programs and applications load. You’ll need to relaunch games a few times before enough files are copied over to the cache, which eventually lightens some of the load times. But, you may be stuck staring at slow moving progress bars – wondering whether a game has actually locked up – until that happens.
Despite the lack of an optical drive, the system still ends up feeling heavy enough that it almost makes the long battery irrelevant. Lastly, even though the cooling system helps prevent the notebook from becoming too uncomfortable, there is still a noticeable amount of heat and fan noise during multi-hour gaming sessions.
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 strikes a strong balance between value and performance. Although you might get better features from competitors, you’ll probably have to pay significantly more.
While the slow hard drive can be quite a nuisance, stand out features, like the impressive battery and loud sound system, definitely help make up for it. You might have to turn up the volume quite a bit to drown out the noise from two cooling fans, but that’s ultimately a small price to pay when you the value and performance you out of the Inspiron 15 7000.