For a while there, the affordable gaming laptop was on the way out — we were seeing either laptops and 2-in-1s with less powerful integrated graphics from Intel or we were seeing super big, super powerful, and super expensive gaming machines. There wasn’t much left for the erstwhile gamer who needs to get some work done and doesn’t want to spend well over $1,000.
That seems to be changing this year, with a few laptops bridging the gap successfully. One of the best we’ve seen so far is the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming laptop. Usually, Dell leaves gaming to its specialty brand, Alienware, so the choice to release a gaming laptop in their Inspiron line is telling. This one is no powerhouse, but it’ll do just fine for gamers who need a laptop, but don’t want an incredibly expensive one.
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming is an addition to the existing Inspiron 15 7000 line, which was previously a regular 15.6″ laptop. This version is noticeably larger and heavier, as usual for a gaming laptop. The base specs are an interesting mix — the Intel Core i7 processor is an H-series CPU, which is better suited for gaming, and the max of 32 GB of RAM is higher than the 16 GB we’ve been seeing on some other mid-range gaming laptops. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU isn’t a world-beater, which is why this laptop is mid-range — it won’t run VR well, but it should be able to run 1080p gaming at high settings and 4k gaming at more modest settings. Best of all is the 74 WHr battery, which is a good deal larger than similar gaming laptops we’ve seen at CES this year.
There are some choices we’re less sure about. There is a 4k anti-glare option for the display — nothing wrong with that exactly, but it’s worth remembering that the GPU here won’t be able to make 4k gaming as crisp and clear as you might want. For the money, the 1080p option might end up being the better choice. The other bummer is that 512 GB is the highest capacity of SSD available — not usually a complaint of ours, but we usually see 1 TB as the max, and given how enormous AAA games have become (some can be up to 70 GB), that’s become an important point. You can get a 1 TB HDD, but it’s hard to recommend the much slower and less reliable HDD now.
Dell doesn’t yet have final numbers on dimensions or weight, but to keep the laptop cool, they’ll have two fans on the rear blowing hot air out of large backside vents. And, if something goes wrong inside, Dell has made it easy to get into the components. Flip the laptop over, and you can pop the hood by removing a single screw. The whole rear cover swings up, giving you easy access to most components inside.
As usual, Dell has partnered with Waves and used MaxxAudio tuning with two speakers and a subwoofer. So, audio performance should be solid without the need for external speakers.
Dell isn’t including any Type-C or Thunderbolt 3 ports like we’re seeing on a lot of other laptops this year, but they’ve got plenty of ports on the Inspiron 15 7000 otherwise. It has an HDMI 2.0 port, three USB 3.0 ports (one with pass-through charging), a Kensington lock slot, a 2–in–1 SD card slot, an ethernet port, and a combo headphone/microphone port. An optional spill-proof backlit keyboard is also a nice touch.
It’s pretty great to see affordable gaming laptops make a comeback. With a much bigger battery than most (Dell hasn’t given a battery life estimate yet, but we’re optimistic), a processor better optimized for gaming, and a simple way to access components, we think the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming is the best example we’ve seen so far at CES 2017. Dell also has a 14″ version with a GTX 1050, a smaller battery, and no 4k option, which could also be attractive (we’re inclined to say the 4k option isn’t worth the money here, regardless).
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming will be available on January 5 starting at $800.