Not many sub-£1,200 laptops can offer a smooth, slick Full HD gaming experience. Dell’s Inspiron 15 7000 does just that, undercutting pricey gaming laptops from the likes of Alienware, and indeed Dell’s own XPS line. Unfortunately, in order to hit that tempting price point, one or two important corners have been cut.
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 review: What you need to know
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 is a 15.6in gaming laptop with a full-blown Intel Core i7 CPU and Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti graphics. That’s enough power to deliver excellent performance in both applications and games, and for £1,129 it’s exceptional value for money.
However, there’s one major factor holding it back. The screen is seriously lacking in brightness and colour accuracy, and that dampens the experience whether you’re working, gaming or watching movies.
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 review: Price and competition
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 is available in a range of configurations, with prices starting at £900 and going up to £1,349. I tried out the £1,129 configuration that ships with an Intel Core i7 processor, 4GB GTX 1050 Ti GPU, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, coupled with a 1TB 5400rpm HDD.
There are plenty of other gaming laptops to choose from, but all the best ones are quite a bit more expensive. For example, the £1,899 15in Gigabyte Aero 15 comes with an Intel Core i7-7700HQ and a 6GB GTX 1060.
Another option is the excellent 15in Razer Blade, with GTX 1060 graphics and an Intel Core i7-7700HQ, costing £1,800. The Scan 3XS LG15 Carbon G-Sync costs a steep £2,080 but features not only a powerful Intel Core i7-6700 processor but also a terrifically powerful GTX 1070 GPU. If you’re looking for style, consider Dell’s gorgeous £1,649 XPS 15 (2017), which features an Intel Core i7-7700HQ and GTX 1050 graphics.
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 review: Design and build quality
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 looks quite stylish, with a tasteful matte black and red design. It’s a colour scheme that’s reminiscent of everyone’s favourite web-slinger, and indeed the laptop makes a central appearance in an advert-cum-trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming.
It opens up via a single middle-section hinge – an arrangement which does mean the panel is prone to flex and wobble. The bezels around the screen are quite large, making them a little distracting for gaming, and the top bezel houses a front-facing 720p HD camera. The lid doesn’t flip all the way around, like Dell’s 2-in-1 designs.
The laptop is relatively heavy at 2.62kg, and it’s also a little chunky, measuring 25mm thick. However, it’s well specified: there’s full-sized HDMI and RJ-45 Ethernet ports, a Noble lock, an SD card reader, three USB 3 ports, a 3.5mm headphone/mic jack combo, and a proprietary Dell power port. The only thing missing is a USB Type-C port – a surprise for a modern laptop.
The Inspiron 15 7000 also features an Intel dual-band Wireless-AC 3165 adapter, supporting Wi-Fi speeds up to 433Mbits/sec, plus Bluetooth 4 – which could be handy for wirelessly connecting headphones or other peripherals.
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 review: Keyboard and trackpad
The Inspiron 15 7000’s keyboard has a slightly mushy feel to it. The spacing feels odd too, with the keys appearing a little smaller than I’m used to. This is due to the inclusion of a full numeric keypad alongside the regular keys; if this pad were removed and the keys were slightly larger, it would be easier to type and game on. Still, it provides extra input options for games and applications.
I wasn’t impressed by the trackpad either: tracking wasn’t always perfectly smooth and left and right button presses sometimes missed the mark.
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Dell Inspiron 15 7000 review: Performance
At the heart of the machine, there’s a 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor; this is a powerful quad-core CPU, and partnered with 16GB of DDR4 RAM it makes multitasking a breeze.
In the Expert Reviews 4K media benchmarks the Inspiron 15 7000 scored 113, a stone’s throw behind its more expensive competitors. The indicates that video encoding, image editing and CPU-heavy games will work flawlessly on this laptop.
^ Dell Inspiron 15 7000: Benchmark table
It was a similar story in the cross-platform Geekbench 4 benchmark. Here the Dell scored a fantastic 4,453 score in the single-core benchmark and a very impressive 12,764 in its multi-core benchmark. For comparison, the latest Apple MacBook Pro (13in, dual-core 3.1GHz Intel Core i5-7267U) managed 4,365 and 9,223 respectively.
Of course, this laptop isn’t intended solely for CPU-intensive tasks. Graphical performance is a big part of its appeal, and the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 raced through GFXBench with flying colours. It managed to run the Car Chase onscreen benchmark at 129fps, and on the onscreen Manhattan 3.0 benchmark it clocked up a ridiculous 251fps.
That translates very nicely to real-world games. In Dirt: Showdown, with Ultra settings, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 rendered an average of 78fps. The more challenging Metro: Last Light benchmark ran at 69fps at Very High settings with Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO) disabled. Turning it on severely affected performance, however, causing the average framerate to drop to 36fps.
These scores mean that this laptop is perfect for 1080p gaming: most AAA titles should run at above 60fps with very high detail settings. There’s just one caveat: you’ll need to keep the laptop plugged in for optimal performance, and you’ll have to live with its fans running at full pelt. During the aforementioned benchmark tests, we saw the processor hit 80°C – edging close to its thermal threshold.
Despite the powerful internals, battery life is surprisingly good. In fact, it’s best I’ve seen from a gaming laptop, delivering 7hrs 57mins of video playback before needing a recharge – beaten only by the XPS 15.
^ Dell Inspiron 15 7000: Battery life
Storage performance is decent too. Our model featured dual drives, partnering a 256GB SSD with a 1TB 5400rpm HDD. In the AS SSD benchmark the 256GB SSD achieved sequential read and write speeds of 479MB/sec and 387MB/sec.
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 review: Display
The big problem with this laptop is its display. The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 features a 15.6in Full HD (1920 x 1080) TN panel that runs at 60Hz; that sounds fine, but as soon as you look at it, you notice how dull it is. That impression was backed up by our i1 DisplayPro display calibrator, which measured a maximum luminance of just 220cd/m2.
This is very low, and it makes everything you do look drab. And colour accuracy and balance are way off: we measured an average Delta E of 6.29, with blues hitting a ridiculously high Delta E of 22.19. Colour coverage is very poor too, representing just 61.6% of the sRGB gamut.
The only good news is a 1,054:1 contrast ratio, with a 0.2cd/m2 black level. While the screen certainly lacks vibrance, it’s not too hard to read text and make out graphical details.
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 review: Verdict
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 is a competent gaming laptop. It offers all the performance you need for Full HD gaming, a blisteringly fast processor, plenty of RAM for all your multitasking needs, a fast SSD, a good range of ports, and a cool Spiderman look to go with it. For £1,129 it’s a lot of computer.
It’s just a shame that it’s all let down by the screen; a better, brighter panel would have allowed you to enjoy the full visual impact of your games. For a little more, you can grab the impressive Dell XPS 15 with a 7th generation Core i7, GTX 1050, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for £1,449. Even so, if you’re on a tight budget, you simply won’t do better for the money with the Dell Inspiron 15 7000.