Hands on: Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming review

This is Dell’s gaming laptop for the rest of us

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Our Early Verdict

One of a few laptop makers looking to bring PC gaming to a wider audience with Nvidia’s help, Dell’s Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming just might have the chops to do it.

For

  • Slick, understated design
  • Great starting price
  • Gorgeous display options
  • Clever thermals

Against

  • GTX 1050, 1050 Ti only

What’s this, a gaming laptop from Dell missing the Alienware logo? No, your eyes don’t deceive you. This is the new Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming, Dell’s latest attempt to infuse its PC gaming chops into a more approachable, affordable device unveiled at CES 2017.

The Inspiron 15 7000 may have a better shot at that mission than any of its predecessors, thanks to Nvidia’s advanced (but still entry-grade) GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti graphics chips. Combine that with some clever new thermal design, and you have the makings of an awesome “PC gamer’s first laptop.”

Price and availability

Dell has priced the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming to start at just $799 (about £650, AU$1,110), which has been rare for a 15-inch gaming machine short of Black Friday up until now. Mind, though, that at this price, you’ll be getting the Nvidia GTX 1050 – not the 1050 Ti. (That said, both chips come boasting 4GB of GDDR5 video RAM.)

You’ll also get an FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED display, a 7th generation (Kaby Lake) Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of memory and 1TB of spinning storage at 5,400 RPM. (All of these options and more, save for the GTX 1050 Ti and IPS screens, are available in a 14-inch version, too.)

Anything more than that – like the 4K IPS LED screen, an Intel Core i7 chip, a 512GB SSD and up to 16GB of RAM – is going to cost you extra. Dell hasn’t disclosed any pricing beyond the starting cost. And, with options like that, we wouldn’t be surprised to see that awesome price inflate quite a bit when this laptop lands on January 5 in the US.

Design

This take on the Inspiron 15 doesn’t look markedly different from the previous in its silhouette, but there are some stark changes on the surface. First, the red accents on top of soft-touch black plastic – namely on the new rear-facing heat vents – immediately give away that this machine has an ulterior motive to your boring class work.

But, if black isn’t your thing, the Inspiron 15 7000 flavor comes in two colors that basically invert the palette: black on red (pictured here) or red on black.

Dell hasn’t issued exact dimensions regarding the new Inspiron 15 7000 other than it’s less than one inch thick. That said, think of this laptop sitting between the Razer Blade Pro and the Alienware 17 in terms of thickness and weight (save for their 17-inch screens, of course).

The stark red front grille serves a dual-purpose: for one, it’s where the laptop takes in air to push it out the back vents. Secondly, there are two speakers behind there, firing out some booming audio, thanks in part to a downward-facing subwoofer in the base.

This laptop’s entire keyboard deck, wrapped in more soft-touch plastic and attached to a large, stiff hinge that holds the beautiful screen, is awfully comfortable to rest your hands on. However, don’t expect to see Alienware keys here – these are strictly Dell. They’re backlit in a crimson red and are colored in gunmetal gray shade of sorts, but it’s the same membrane keyboard you’ve seen on previous models.

Specs and performance

Rounding out the list of available hardware from this machine are three USB 3.0 ports (one with charging), HDMI 2.0, a 2-in-1 SD-slash-multimedia card slot, an RJ-45 Ethernet port and a 3.5mm audio jack. As for wireless, 802.11ac Wi-Fi (dual-band) and Bluetooth 4.2 are on offer as per usual.

All of that hardware – including the components, of course – is powered by a sizable 74 Whr battery (a 54 Whr one in the 14-incher), though Dell has yet to say how long the thing can last. We’ll just have to see for ourselves in a full review.

While the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming comes rocking Nvidia’s latest entry-level graphics processors, we have yet to be able to test a laptop using them. That said, Nvidia itself promised that they can "play classic and modern games at 1080p @ 60 FPS with additional support for the latest DirectX 12 features" in the recent reveal of these chips.

Perhaps those extra-wide, copper cooling pipes and special-made fans with a unique pitch to reduce noise and increase air flow inside will help the GPU more regularly reach its full potential without throttling for fear of instability.

However, judging how the latest 1060 laptop chip can’t muster these aforementioned frame rates in games at their highest settings, something tells us that either way you’re going to have to compromise in places to achieve that mythical frame rate standard. (What’s wrong with 30 frames per second, eh?)

Early verdict

There’s a lot that can be said about the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming and about just as much that can’t just yet. For instance, we can say that the design is slick and the price is right, not to mention its smart thermals.

On the other hand, Dell has yet to make any statements regarding the laptop’s battery life and gaming performance. While we can gauge what the latter will be like by judging how Nvidia’s next strongest counterpart has performed, that’s still not enough to go on.

In short, you’ll have to wait for our full review to see whether the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming is right for you. But, know this: Dell wants to either create or better serve more entry-level or budget-conscious PC gamers, and this Inspiron looks like an awfully strong start.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joe has worked in games and technology media for nearly a decade for several publications. His writing has been featured in PC Magazine, AOL's Games.com, Laptop Magazine and Tom's Guide among others. Currently, Joe serves as TechRadar's Senior Editor, leading computing coverage specifically. Yes, that means he uses both macOS and Windows – every day.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.