Hands-On And First Impressions
[Editor's Note: The following content is intended to be a first look, with some hands-on impressions and a few benchmarks. We will be conducting full reviews of gaming laptops soon enough, with a battery of exhaustive tests, including more thorough benchmarks (we're currently revamping our benchmark suite), and deeper analysis. But we wanted to get some of the newer models into the lab for some early testing.]
The Dell Inspiron 15 7559 is a budget system that is primarily black, but has red highlights in several sections including the touchpad, speaker, fans, the rubber pads on the bottom of the system and the Dell emblem emblazoned on the back.
Like most laptops, the bottom of the chassis has a panel that can be removed, giving you access to some parts of the system's hardware. Dell clearly designed this laptop to be easy for enthusiasts to work on and upgrade. There is only one screw holding the panel in place, and after removing it, you can get to the hard drive, RAM, Wi-Fi card, battery, two fans and an M.2 slot, all of which are replaceable. A few additional screws hold the fans in place, but after unscrewing them, the fans slide out of place with little effort, making it easy to blow dust out. Unless a major piece of hardware fails, you won't find many reasons to dig any deeper into the Inspiron's guts.
Dell's Inspiron 15 comes loaded with an almost clean installation of Windows 10 Home. Looking through its drive, the most troublesome find was a trial of McAfee LiveSafe, which only took a moment to uninstall.
The internal hardware is fairly high-performance for an $800 system. You don't get Hyper-Threading technology, but unlike most mobile Core i5s, there are four physical execution cores capable of frequencies as high as 3.2GHz. Because Dell's machine employs a 5400 RPM SSHD for storage, games are loaded noticeably slower than competing platforms with SSDs. Fortunately, it boots fairly quickly. And because the M.2 slot is easily accessible, enthusiasts concerned about not having an SSD can simply install one.
The laptop is a little heavy, weighing roughly 5.67 pounds. As such, it's a bit painful to carry around all day. This isn't the system I'd choose if I knew I'd be walking around with it a lot. Still, it's lighter than many of the gaming laptops we have in the lab, and it didn't bother me to lug it around for short stints. Any longer than an hour, though, and the weight did start hurting my shoulder. In comparison, when I carried Lenovo's Ideapad 100S, which is only about 2.2 pounds, it was much more comfortable to haul for long periods of time.
The laptop's hinges are rather stiff. I'm sure that many of you own notebooks with weak hinges, where the display wobbles a bit when you use it in a plane or car. This system doesn't do that. I went so far as to shake it around a bit, and the display stayed in place.
The Inspiron's 2.1-channel audio setup is decent. The left and right speakers are placed directly in front of the display, while bass comes from a small driver in the base. While listening to music, lower frequencies were more apparent than I would have expected, and if you have the system sitting on your lap, you'll feel it go off. The left and right speakers sounded a little distant at times, but still did their job well enough. With the volume turned up all the way, they get rather loud without significant distortion. Naturally, I prefer a decent gaming headset, but listening to music or movies played over the Inspiron 15's speakers is still enjoyable.
The Inspiron 15 7559 I tested came with a 1920x1080 IPS anti-glare display. Dell offers a less expensive configuration with a 1366x768 panel and a higher-end model with a 4K resolution, but I specifically asked for the popular FHD screen to complement the GeForce GTX 960M inside. Nvidia's GPU is paired to 4GB of GDDR5 memory, which could be enough for 4K gaming. But with only 640 CUDA cores and a 128-bit aggregate interface, the GM107 isn't suited to anything higher than 1920x1080.
Examining the display from all sides, I didn't notice any viewing angle issues or light bleeding effects.
Dell's Inspiron 15 7559 has a back-lit keyboard with white LEDs. The F10 button also controls the lighting, which can be switched between a bright setting, a more muted mode and off altogether. Although the keyboard doesn't have any obvious issues, typing on it isn't as pleasant as what I'm used to on my desktop. If anything, though, the soft key presses are easier on my finger tips.
The touchpad is made of a hard plastic material with a semi-rough surface. Frankly, it's the worst part of this system. It always responded sluggishly, forcing me to make multiple swipes across the touchpad to get from one side of the screen to the other. I turned mouse acceleration up, which helped. But it still wasn't ideal. Use a USB-attached mouse instead, if you can.
Dell's spec sheet claims an exaggerated battery life of 11 hours with a similar configuration using only 4GB of RAM, or up to 7 hours and 41 minutes with 8GB of RAM, a faster Core i7 processor and a 4K panel. I found the battery life to be significantly less than that though, averaging about six hours, at best, when I only used the machine for basic Web browsing and word processing.
To be honest, I actually expected less battery life, as gaming notebooks with discrete GPUs typically gobble up power in greater quantities. But offering six hours of battery life and less weight than most competing gaming laptops makes this system more useful as a productivity-oriented platform as well.