Laptops in general, but especially gaming laptops, are inherently more expensive than their desk-confined counterparts. Portability comes at a price. And yet even among gaming laptop seekers, the hunt for value is typically a primary consideration, which subsequently narrows the search to less powerful systems. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. When Nvidia announced the availability of mobile GTX 1050s and GTX 1050 Tis back in January, that triggered the release of a number of value-oriented gaming laptops that still pack a punch.
Today we’re testing the Dell Inspiron 15 7000, the first laptop we’ve tested with a GTX 1050 Ti.
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 arrives in a standard shipping box with the company’s logo stamped in the middle. The laptop, warranty information, and user manual are secured with two pieces of cardboard padding. A separate compartment is squared off in the shipping box for the power adapter. A rubber strap is attached to the adapter for easy cable management. The adapter’s DC power connector glows blue when connected to a power source.
Dell wrapped the top of the Inspiron 15 7000’s chassis with a red rubberized plastic surface. The company’s logo is engraved dead-center with a glossy black finish. The design is simple and unobtrusive, which is rare for a gaming laptop, while the vibrant red gives it some character. The rubberized finish prevents smudges and fingerprints from appearing, a problem we find often on laptops with metal finishes. The rubberized plastic wraps around the sides of the Inspiron, creating red accents on the corners of the laptop when the lid is open. If you find the red to be too ostentatious, Dell also offers models with a black rubberized finish and a red logo.
The inner workspace features a normal black plastic finish with a smooth surface. The plastic surface will attract blemishes over time, albeit not at the same rate as a metal finish would. There are subtle red accents, such as the keyboard’s lettering and the trackpad’s left/right click divider, and these decorate the otherwise minimalist interior. The Inspiron 15 7000’s power button is located at the top right and is illuminated in white when the system is powered. Finally, the Dell logo is stamped just below the display in matte silver.
The rear lip adopts a bit more character, departing from the simple and minimalist design of the lid and interior. It consists of a gray plastic shroud covering the two rear exhaust fins. The exhaust grilles have a criss-cross design which, while bolder than the rest of the Inspiron’s aesthetics, aren’t as extravagant as designs we’ve seen in the past. Just past the grilles you can see the heat fins painted in red.
The bottom end of the Inspiron 15 7000 reverts back to a simple design. There are two air intake grilles with elaborate triangular cutouts. An additional grille for the subwoofer can be found on the top left corner of the panel. Two long rubber feet span the length of the bottom panel and on the exhaust shroud at the back. Inspiron branding is engraved in the center of the bottom panel. Overall, the Inspiron 15 7000 has an incredibly sturdy build. There are few, if any, flex points, which is impressive for a completely plastic chassis, and a $900 one at that.
Dell hides the Inspiron’s speakers very inconspicuously behind the front lip. You’ll notice a triangular cutout design with a layer of red mesh under it. The mesh hides two holes through which sound can escape the chassis. This is an admittedly clever way of masking the speakers, but an upward-firing placement would have much better served the audio experience.
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 has a standard hinge range of about 135°. The hinge is a bit stiff, but you can rest assured that the display won’t swing or shake with slight bumps.
The Inspiron’s I/O consists only of the absolute essentials. Starting from the right you’ll find a Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45 port, an HDMI 2.0 port, 2 USB 3.0 ports, and a combo headphone/microphone jack. On the left you’ll find an SD card reader, another USB 3.0 port, the DC power jack, and a Noble lock slot.
The Inspiron 15 7000 features a 1920x1080 display with a matte finish. Unfortunately, this particular model doesn’t have an IPS display, so viewing angles aren’t on par with the laptops we’ve tested in the past. Dell offers models with FHD IPS touch displays as well as UHD IPS displays for an additional cost. The HDMI 2.0 port allows users to connect an additional display.
The Inspiron features a scissor-switch keyboard with a number pad. Everyone’s hands are different, so key spacing and actuation distance preferences will be subjective. We found the spacing between the keys a little too wide and the actuation distance a bit shallow. The keys feature red backlighting, adding some gamer flare to the Dell’s simple design. At $900, expect no extravagant RGB lights and typing effects.
We’re glad to find that the Inspiron 15’s trackpad has a nice, uniform actuation. We shouldn’t be surprised, but we are, considering that a good trackpad is hard to come by on gaming laptops. The matte surface is comfortable to use and multi-touch functions work seamlessly. Our only gripe with this trackpad is that fine movements can be jerky. It’s still advisable to use your own mouse, especially while gaming, but for situations where a mouse isn’t necessary, the trackpad will serve you just fine.
Accessing the internal components couldn’t be easier on the Inspiron. The bottom panel is secured to the chassis with just one screw. Removing the bottom panel reveals a streamlined internal layout giving easy access to the upgradeable components. The two DDR4 memory slots are located in the middle, the 2.5" SATA slot is located on the top right corner, and the M.2 SSD slot is located just below it. Left of the M.2 slot is an Intel Dual-Band Wireless AC 3165 for wireless networking. Finally, the 74Wh battery is located at the top. A gray plastic skeleton covers the cooling solution, which consists of two larger heat pipes, the CPU and GPU heatsinks, and two exhaust fans on the left and right.
The Inspiron 15 7000 is relatively barebones as far as software goes. You won’t find a comprehensive software suite with advanced overclocking options or keyboard backlighting controls. Instead, Dell pre-loads SupportAssist, which will perform system checkup scans and download drivers.
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