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Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (2016) review

Gaming on a budget done right

Great Value

Comparing the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 to similarly priced gaming laptops, it's apparent just what you are giving up, and gaining, in exchange for its price tag. 

The Asus ROG Strix GL502, for example, starts at $1,399 (about £1,055, AU$1,850) and features a screen we found exquisite. Whereas with Inspiron 15 7000, the screen is a big let down. In its defense, however, battery life in the Inspiron 15 7000 is nearly double that of the GL502. 

A similar situation faces the MSI GE62 Apache Pro with a starting price of $1,399 (about £1,124, AU$1,825), with the Inspiron 15 7000 touting the same general specs for hundreds less.

That’s why, if you opt to pick one of these up, we suggest you spend the extra cash for the $949 model, which features a 1TB HDD in addition to an i7 processor. The 256GB SSD on our review unit surely won’t offer enough space for more than a few games. Heck, after installing just a handful of games on the review unit, the SSD is sitting at 200GB of used space.

In Australia, this laptop starts off with similar specs for AU$1,614, but with 128GB SSD and 16GB of memory. In the UK it starts with similar parts at a similar price of £899, the major difference being a 256GB SSD.

Benchmarks

Here’s how the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark Sky Diver: 17,025; Fire Strike: 6,548; Time Spy: 2,405
Cinebench CPU: 504 points; Graphics: 94 fps
GeekBench 3: 3,396 (single-core); 10,235 (multi-core)
PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,999 points
PCMark 8 Battery Life: 5 hours and 51 minutes
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 7 hours and 38 minutes
The Division (1080p, Ultra): 60 fps; (1080p, Low): 61 fps
GTA V (1080p, Ultra): 26 fps; (1080p, Low): 95 fps

Performance

As we discussed shortly after getting our hands on the Inspiron 15 7000 in early January, Dell is using Nvidia’s latest, entry-level graphics processors in this budget friendly gaming laptop.

The model we received features the Nvidia GeForce 1050 Ti, with 4GB of video memory. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t come close to hitting 60 frames per second (fps) at Ultra settings during the GTA V benchmark, instead clocking in at 26 fps. That said, running The Division’s benchmark did return an impressive 60 fps at the highest settings.

Even beyond gaming performance, there’s no denying the Inspiron 15 7000 is an all out workhorse.

At no point during testing did we feel as if we were pushing the Kaby Lake Core i5 processor to its limits. This was regardless of how many tabs we opened in Chrome, while jumping back and forth between Steam and checking email.

The laptop’s fans do a decent job at cooling the machine, which at no point during our testing got excessively hot. We felt comfortable with it sitting on our lap, or resting our hands on the keyboard after long gaming sessions when it was hottest. The fans aren’t overly loud or annoying, but you’ll know when they’re running when they do kick on.

Despite the surprisingly solid performance, we find the colors to be dull and muted on the Inspiron 15 7000’s 15.6-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED display. Looking at photos we had captured on our Google Pixel XL, we were disappointed in the difference in color reproduction. This was particularly disappointing when gaming, especially after connecting the Inspiron 15 7000 to a 24-inch Dell monitor we own. 

With two speakers on the front of the laptop, and a subwoofer pointing down, sound could get muffled depending on how the laptop is resting on your lap. Granted, a laptop of this size isn’t necessarily designed for primary use on a lap, it’s target user will surely appreciate the dual functionality of an everyday PC and a gaming PC all in one.

Other than potential muffling, the speakers are loud and crisp, both during music and gaming.

Battery life

Gaming laptops aren’t exactly known for amazing battery life. Instead of sipping every last ounce of power out of a battery, gaming machines are designed to prioritize performance over longevity; that’s not the case with the Inspiron 15 7000.

While trying my hand at Tom Clancy’s The Division for right at two hours, on battery power, the battery dropped by 66%. Playing at Ultra settings on battery, naturally, chewed through the juice pack at a faster pace.

However, putting the Inspiron 15 7000 through TechRadar’s movie test saw 7 hours and 38 minutes of constant use, with the PCMark 8 battery life test results showing 5 hours and 51 minutes of battery life. Compare that to the measly 1 hour and 42 minutes of battery power on the same test for the MSI GT83VR Titan and you can’t help but come away impressed. 

We liked

This thing flies, offers a solid gaming experience, and has a battery that keeps going (all things considered). All of that comes in at a decent, three-digit price to boot.

We disliked

The display isn’t anything to write home about, sadly, with muted and dull color reproduction. Also, the touchpad is, to be blunt, rather annoying.

Final verdict

Frankly, for everything this budget gaming laptop does right, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming’s display is in need of an upgrade. While there is a 4K screen available, that should be a nicety – not something you feel as if it's required.

At the end of the day, Dell’s revamped entry-level gaming laptop does an excellent job of balancing everyday computing needs with the increased demands of handling games while boasting astounding battery life. And, it does all this at a very approachable price point.