This is a review that’s going to be less focused on the technical details, and more on the day to day use case, of the laptop from a University student’s perspective and why I bought this section. This is because as much as technical spec sheets are useful, as well as benchmarks, depending on the use case this isn’t always as applicable. And unless you really care about a laptop’s form factor, design, or weight, there’s a good chance you can gauge that by yourself.
Regardless though, the unit I bought, has an Intel i7 7700HQ base clocked at 2.8GHz with 4 Cores Hyperthreaded for 8. A discrete Intel HD Graphics 630 and dedicated GTX 1050 Ti (details linked above), 16GB of RAM @ 2400MHz, 250GB M.2 SSD @SATA speeds and 1TB 5400RPM HDD. In terms of real world performance, as the M.2 handles the OS and system files, start up times are near instant being a few seconds at a time. And when navigating or mass editing files, slow downs can happen sometimes. A example from my use case is mass editing MP3 files, when trying to edit about 100+ MP3 file tags, it took a dozen or so seconds depending on how much information I was editing. Also, thanks to the three 3.0 USB ports, having external hard drives with potentially large volumes of data is transferred and used relatively seamlessly. The lack of Type-C or Thunderbolt 3 will vary from person to person, but as someone who’s often using USB ports to handle files between Uni and home, it can be a hassle, especially with my type of work flow. Granted most people don’t use 4 USB ports at a time, it does bear mentioning if you have bulkier USB devices for right handed people. Because two of the USBs are on the right hand side, you may find it mildly annoying. Especially with an external hard drive with their length cables and natural bulk, it can be slightly cumbersome.
As far benchmarks go, in Blender the BMW scene had a render time of 14:15:73 and the Classroom render took 37:07:72. Not ground breaking renders, but for University day to day, it’s relatively solid performance. And the best thing about it, is the lack of thermal throttling thanks to the beefy coolers on the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming Laptop. This meant the keyboard never got beyond warm to the touch, even when running for extended periods of time. The two ventilation ports at the back, in terms of sound it’s relatively loud and low pitched. Although this is to be expected from a gaming laptop, it nothing a headset won’t solve. As far as my day to day is concerned, comprised of Unity and Unreal Engine 4 (every now and again), I’ve yet to experience any form of slow barring obvious bottlenecks from poorly optimised and layed out game scenes. UE4 is pretty heavy, but unlike my previous laptop and uni desktops, it runs relatively smoothly with rendering the game and being playable for testing purposes. The times are still somewhat hefty, but noticeably faster compared to my previous CyberPower FangBook EVO laptop’s i7-4810MQ, GTX 860M, 8GB RAM, and 1TB 5400RPM SSHD. In terms of upgraded performance, I got a big one with UE4 not running in single frames.
Gaming is a huge improvement, running Fallout 4 on Ultra settings at 60fps with minimal frame dips in dense areas of the game like Diamond City. Destiny 2 and Wolfenstein 2 are both recommended at medium settings to avoid frame stuttering. Final Fantasy 14 can be run on max settings, with the benchmark scoring a high 7034 on maximum settings. However, there was notable screen tearing when testing this. This was exacerbated when set on laptop high settings when benchmarking, scoring 7754. Despite these scores, its average fps was below 60 for both tests, 47 and 52 respectively. In terms of actual game performance, the experience had no noticeable frame stuttering, with relatively instant loading screens. However, when playing Shadow Warrior 2 the odd screen tear appeared during fast paced combat sequences which involved a lot of fast paced movement. This was replicated when playing Osu!, where the monitor would at times screen tear with noticeable lag at times. This wasn’t remedied with setting the default graphics processor to either Intel or Nvidia. Rocket League on maxed out settings didn’t show any signs of screen tearing, whilst running at a solid 60fps. So as a general rule of thumb for this generation of gaming, it’ll manage most titles on medium settings.
During day to day use, there are several things to highlight. Compared to most 15.7 inch laptops, this is slightly thicker than others. Because of this, my previous daily laptop bag couldn’t house it properly, without it protruding its corners. Weighing in at 2.65KG, depending on the person this isn’t ideal. However, having experienced carrying it around on trains and commutes, this heft isn’t as bad as you might expect. But buyer be warned, this is dependent on the bag being used. I’ve had to purchase a new bag to properly carry it around without bringing a camping rucksack that’s not meant for this type of use case. A criticism in terms of build quality is the fact it’s almost too well built. The solid plastic feels premium to the touch, with the keyboard not flexing. Its single hinge for the laptop screen is solid, but pulling from the corner doesn’t feel right, almost like peeling a scab when you shouldn't kinda feeling. The edges of the laptop by extension feel sharp on the wrist. Having relatively large hands, by palms fit neatly in the touchpad’s space. But if your laptop isn’t positioned well, relative to your body, you’ll find resting on the laptop can become discomforting after extended periods of time. If you rest your arms with your elbows pointing out, your left arm might rest on the laptop’s corner which will dig into your arm. arrow keys are in their compressed form, this does require some getting used to. number keypad is a great, while the half sized function keys aren’t impressive, they do the job. The inclusion of media shortcuts are a great addition with the function lock.
As a Uni student, the keyboard has a nice tactile and clickiness to it that isn’t mushy or difficult to type on. Having a short travel distance for each press, you shouldn’t get too exhausted from typing over long periods of time. Having done a few essays and several articles on this, the typing experience was solid and a slight improvement over the Corsair Raptor K30 Gaming Keyboard with its rubber dome keys for my tastes. In extension, the spacing of the keyboard isn’t super tight and has a little wiggle room for rotating your palms on the laptop rather than having to constantly rearrange its position. One of the slight downsides is the colours not being super vibrant, it should be noted I do have IPS panel, not the previously shipped TN panel that had worse colours and brightness. Working outside of a dorm room or with direct sunlight isn’t advised, as the monitor doesn’t get super bright. The backlit keyboard with its white light is a nice change from my previous red backlit Fangbook. Coming in useful a few times, but what really set this out for me is the beefy laptop battery. Lasting me around 4-7 hours on battery, this easily saw me through my three and six hour lectures. Just don’t expect to game for long though. But thanks to its incredible 74 WHr battery, even if you forget the charge cable for a lecture or two. The laptop can last you through the day of studies. Charge time took about two hours, however this is dependent on your workload when plugged in. Being somewhat tethered to the wireless, it manages to maintain solid speeds and kept a stable connection even when in Uni dorms where the wifi is a bit shaky when moving between room to room.
Why did I buy this?
To boil into a single point, it was the best value for money laptop available at the end of 2017’s summer prior to term time. Compared to other laptops that were reviewed by tech YouTube channels like Dave Lee, Matthew Moniz, and LinusTechTips, none of them matched the trifecta of performance, build quality, and battery, the Inspiron managed for its price. Whilst the Acer Predator Helios 300 has a Nvidia GTX 1060, with similar internals minus the HDD in the base format. Its aesthetics carry too much of a gamer tone, that wouldn’t look right. Coupled with the less substantial battery, it’s day to day usage would be slightly impeded. But the one factor that tipped in the performance bracket was the ease of access. Being one screw to access the motherboard, it’s relatively easy to access HDD, M.2, and RAM are great for potential incremental upgrades. Throw in the extensive library of peripherals to extend the laptop’s longevity (replaceable battery and Dell’s battery companion), the only point of comparison was the price. And unlike the Helios, at time of purchase, there wasn’t any university student discount that brought its price down to the £800-900 margin. Plus, the subwoofer is a nice addition when watching anime.
Verdict: Should you still bother buying it when there’s the new refresh?
Dell’s latest refresh of the Inspiron 15 7000 has a slightly altered form factor with a more sleek and dark finish. As far as boosts go, the upgrade to a GTX 1060 6GB VRAM isn’t a groundbreaking or even substantial boost. Reviews of it have stated the 1060 is a Max-Q version, which is an underclocked base GTX 1060 for better thermals and battery performance with a slight bump to visuals. But considering you’re throwing away a bit of battery performance and subwoofer, it boils into a purchase of GTX 1060, USB Type C and Kensington Noble lock for an additional £100 on Amazon, or £200 from Dell directly (at time of writing) compared to the configuration I have. This is an upgrade you will have to decide on how much you value those three specific hardware features. For me, I’m happy with my purchase and would definitely recommend this laptop. But as noted, this was purchased by myself and for personal use cases so do take that into consideration.