Nobody ever said PC gaming was an inexpensive hobby. A really solid gaming laptop can set you back $2,000 or more, and some high-end models easily double that. That’s about £1,635 or AU$2,640. The best-case scenario is still usually $1,200 or more for a mainstream gaming laptop, and that’s usually without extra features such as a touch screen or support for virtual reality headsets.
And yet, there’s never been a better time to be a laptop gamer. After years of underpowered, overpriced gaming laptops, we now have a huge selection of well-made, high-performance systems, from very portable 13-inch ones to massive 17-inch and even 18-inch monsters.
Even better, the latest generation of Nvidia graphics cards — graphics cards being the key component inside a computer that supports 3D gaming — has (mostly) erased the line between mobile and desktop versions, which means laptop shoppers are no longer paying significantly higher prices for significantly less performance.
The price is right
And price is what makes this Dell Inspiron 15 7000 so interesting. Instead of making the workmanlike plastic laptop you’d expect from a 15-inch Inspiron, Dell has decided to see just how much gaming performance it can squeeze into a laptop that starts at just $799 in the US. In some ways, it’s a very successful experiment, built around an Intel Core i5 CPU and Nvidia’s new GeForce 1050 graphics card. For a little extra, the $899 model we tested trades up to the faster GeForce 1050Ti GPU (and that step-up model is currently on sale for $849 in the US). International configurations differ slightly, but start at £899 or AU$1,699.
For a robust gaming laptop, those are pretty incredible prices. Note that this is a special “gaming” edition of the Inspiron 15, and standard versions without the red design and graphics hardware are also available.
To put the price in context, the Asus Strix GL753 15-inch laptop we’re currently testing has the same 1050Ti GPU, but a faster Intel Core i7 processor (and more storage, more RAM, a nicer body and better display), and runs about $1,300 in the US (I’ve seen similar models for £1,278 or AU$1,599.)
Dell tried a similar experiment in mid-2016, with a then-current Nvidia 960M GPU in an inexpensive Inspiron 15 body. The biggest change here, aside from the updated components, is the design, which combines a matte red exterior with a black interior and some automotive-grille-like rear vents. It frankly looks nicer than a lot of more expensive gaming laptops, which can veer toward overblown nonsense.
Dell Inspiron 15 7000
|Price as reviewed||$849|
|Display size/resolution||15-inch 1,920 x 1,080 display|
|PC CPU||2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ|
|PC memory||8GB DDR4SDRAM 2,400MHz|
|Graphics||4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Home (64-bit)|
The flip side is that giving you those 1050 and 1050Ti GPUs at these prices requires some serious corner cutting. The question becomes, just how many corners are you willing to cut to play PC games on the cheap? It’s an especially important question, because some of the Inspiron 15’s shortfalls make it harder to use as an everyday midsize laptop.
The biggest trouble spot is the display, which has a standard FHD 1,920×1,080 resolution, but that’s about the only positive thing one can say about it.
The LCD screen looks washed out and lacks punch and contrast, and that’s when viewing it head-on, as one would while gaming at a desk or dining table. It’s when you move even slightly to the side that the even bigger problems come to light.