Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (2016) review

Gaming on a budget done right

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Great Value

Our Verdict

An ideal laptop for students who are bogged down with homework, but also need an escape from time to time. Dell well delivers on its promise of an affordable gaming laptop.

For

  • Stellar battery life
  • Ports for days
  • Super affordable gaming setup

Against

  • Trackpad is touchy
  • Screen is lacking

Update: Dell has updated the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming with a new Max-Q model, check out our hands-on review here.

On one end of the portable PC gaming spectrum, you have the $4,199 MSI GT83VR Titan, a beast of a machine. Beyond breaking your wallet, the Titan is a machine designed to handle any and everything you throw at it.

Then, there’s the $799 (£899, AU$1,614) Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming. Hardcore gamers need not apply here. This laptop is aimed directly at those who want an affordable-yet-capable gaming laptop.

We find the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming to deliver on nearly aspect of an affordable gaming device, save for the display, which is undoubtedly the weakest point of an otherwise strong, entry-level offering from Dell.

Price and availability

The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming is available in a series of different configurations, ranging from $799 (£899, AU$1,614) to $1,099 (£1,299, AU$1,999).

It’s available now in the US, Australia and UK, with varying specs based on your location. All models ship within a week of placing an order.

The model we tested is a slight upgrade from the bottom of the pack in the US, priced at $849 (£1,099, AU$1,999). In the next tier, Dell upgrades the base model’s graphic chip to the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti from the standard GTX 1050, and replaces a 1TB spinning hard drive with a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD).

On the high end of the specification and pricing sheet, you can go all out, adding an Intel Core i7-7700HQ (7th generation Kaby Lake), a 128GB SSD with 1TB HDD and 16GB of memory.

Spec Sheet

Here is the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ (quad-core, 6MB cache, up to 3.5GHz) 
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (4GB GDDR5); Intel HD Graphics 630
RAM: 8GB DDR4 (2,400MHz) 
Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) anti-glare LED-backlit
Storage: 256GB SSD
Ports: 3 x USB 3.0, HDMI 2.0, 2-in-1 SD/MMC card reader, RJ-45 Ethernet, headphone/microphone jack 
Battery: 74Whr, 6-Cell Battery (Integrated) 
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi (dual band 2.4GHz & 5GHz); Bluetooth 4.2
Camera: Integrated Widescreen HD (720p) 
Weight: 5.76 pounds (2.61kg)
Size: 15.15 x 10.82 x 1 inches (38.48 x 27.48 x 2.54cm; W x D x H)

Design

There’s red, and then there’s red that screams in your face and refuses to apologize about it. Our review unit is the latter, and it looks stunning. 

The keyboard deck and palm rest are black with red color accents on the keys, complete with, you guessed it, a red backlight.

For those who prefer a more subtle look, Dell offers a black variant as well – though, there is some red on that model, too.

On the right side, you will find an ethernet port, HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Flanking the left side is a security lock, power port, another USB 3.0 port and, finally, a 2-in-1 SD card reader.

The front speaker grille doubles as an air pathway for the dual-fan cooling system. On the backside of the Inspiron 15 7000 are two grilles on either side of the hinge designed to blow air away from the user.

At nearly six pounds, and over an inch thick, you are going to know when the Inspiron 15 7000 is in your backpack. 

It’s far from the smallest laptop you can buy right now. So, if that’s important to you, perhaps you should look at the Acer Spin 7 that’s light, portable and offers enough power for most students and general users.

Mixed inputs

Dell included a full keyboard, complete with a number pad, using every bit of the laptop’s 15-inch frame. The keys are in a slightly recessed valley, if you will, when compared the to trackpad. Someone who, like this writer, regularly types on the MacBook Pro’s keyboard ( with the butterfly mechanism) may find the keys on the Inspiron 15 7000 to travel a bit too much. 

That said, the amount of travel and response is on par with competing Windows laptops we’ve previously tested. Naturally, there’s an adjustment period when switching between keyboards, and with more practice we imagine we’d feel right at home on Dell’s keyboard.

The trackpad is something we continue to struggle getting accustomed to. Specifically, we have a hard time not triggering a right-click regardless of where we touch or press on the trackpad.

In device settings, we currently have the lower right corner of the trackpad set to act as a right-click. We’ve errantly triggered it, however, near the top right of the trackpad, with no plausible explanation, on multiple occasions.

We’ve had to consciously remind ourselves when pressing on the trackpad to stay on the left side of it as much as possible.

That hinge, though

This may sound weird, or maybe it just means we’re weird, but let’s take a moment to point out the hinge on the Inspiron 15 7000 as the best hinge on any Windows laptop this writer has used.

Somewhere along the way, manufacturers quit caring about how stiff of a hinge they use. It’s important to keep a laptop’s screen in place, particularly when a user is typing. As such, we’ve become increasingly annoyed as screens wobble and shake while we pound away on the keyboard.

We’ve even avoided using touchscreen laptops, as the added touch capabilities seem to exacerbate the shake.

Not so with this laptop – at least, not to the point where it’s wobbly enough for us to notice. Granted, this laptop does lack a touchscreen.