Dell's Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming has always been a solid, if unexciting, option among entry-level gaming laptops. With its latest refresh, Dell is making things a little more interesting with some improved graphics options, ports and a refreshed design.
Most of the spec options are identical to the last model. There's a choice of Intel's 7th-gen i5-7300HQ or i7-7700HQ, anti-glare 1080p and 4K panels, between 4GB and 32GB of RAM and various hard and solid state drives for storage.
The main improvement is graphics: While the current 7000 Gaming tops out at an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti, the latest adds the option for a 6GB GTX 1060 Max-Q, a more-powerful card. Although the full-fat GTX 1060 is marketed as "VR-ready," the Max-Q edition with its reduced energy draw (6OW versus 80W) may struggle with some titles. Inside there's also 2x2 802.11ac WiFi as standard, an improvement over the 1x1 chipset in the previous model.
To keep that new graphics card from burning through the chassis, Dell has made the bold and some might say odd decision to decrease battery capacity by 25 percent. The new spec sheet lists a 4-cell 56WHr battery as the only option, which is not going to last as long as the previous 74WHr model. Dell claims it got between 7 and 10 hours of use on a Mobile Mark 14 battery life test, with the 7 being the GTX 1060 model, and the 10 the GTX 1050 base. These tests are often very friendly towards laptop manufacturers, with a lot of idle time. Expect real-world results to be quite a bit lower.
You could argue that no one should be using a gaming laptop away from a power outlet anyway, but the 7000 Gaming is the sort of laptop that parents buy their kids as they go away to college -- it's always served as a work-and-play kind of machine. By cutting down the battery without swapping in lower-power components, that dual use-case becomes harder to justify. At least it's a "quick-charge" unit, which can go from 0 to 80 percent with an hour of charging.
Aside from the upgraded graphics and downgraded battery, the most notable change is visual. The 7000 Gaming has had its share of gnarly vents over the years, and this time around the entire rear of the machine is covered in horizontal lines, with the front edge mirroring the look. In matte black, it almost looks subdued. In bright red, it doesn't. It's got the usual array of HDMI, USB 3.1 and ethernet ports, along with a an SD card reader and, for the first time, a Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C port. At 0.98 inches thick, it's a hair thinner than the outgoing model, but retains the same 5.82-pound (2.65KG) weight, which increases to 6.28 pounds (2.85KG) if you opt for the GTX 1060 model.
The Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming is out September 12th starting at $1,000 for the 1080p display model and $1,500 for 4K. While $1k for a quad-core i5 and GTX 1050 is pretty good, it's going to be a far tougher sell at the higher end, where brands with more gaming cachet like ASUS and MSI have similar options in the same price range.
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