Earlier this year at Computex in Taipei, we saw a paradigm shift in gaming laptops. Long known for being thick, heavy, and only technically portable, the gaming laptop got a conceptual overhaul thanks to Nvidia’s Max-Q design, which allows hardware makers to stuff performance gaming components into much thinner and lighter shells. We saw Acer and Asus debut their takes on Max-Q at Computex, too, but now it’s Dell’s turn at the PAX West gaming expo in Seattle this week.
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 G7 Gaming Laptop is a little less than an inch thick and weighs 5.82 pounds, and while that’s awfully thin and light compared to what gaming laptops used to be, it’s a bit bulkier than what Acer and Asus debuted. That might be for a good reason, though — Dell is looking to provide a stronger speaker system. Tucked into the near edge of the laptop are two forward-firing speakers with Waves MaxxAudio Pro, the premium version of the sound processing we usually see in Dell devices.
Otherwise, we’re looking at a strong gaming laptop here, although one not quite as powerful as the other Max-Q laptops we’ve seen. While those other two notebooks can be configured with up to Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPUs, the Inspiron 15 7000 G7 gaming laptop maxes out at a GTX 1060. That should do well enough for gaming at high settings in 1440p, but it’ll probably struggle to max out 4K gaming or run high-end VR games. That’s a little bit of a disappointment considering that there is a 4K IPS display option (a 1080p IPS display comes standard, with touch optional).
The rest of the hardware is what we’d expect. The laptop runs on a 7th generation Intel Core i7 H series — Intel has only released less powerful U series chips in their new 8th generation line of CPUs so far. The laptop can be configured with up to 16 GB of RAM and up to either 512 GB of PCIe SSD storage or a 1 TB HDD. The 56 WHr battery probably won’t last very long, but Dell does have quick charging technology that can get it from 0% to 80% in one hour.
The laptop also has a USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 port, which supports really fast transfer rates and can be an audio/video cable for use with an external monitor and a DisplayPort connection. To keep everything (relatively) cool, Dell has used two fans with large pipes and heat exchangers to ferry heat away from the components.
Another neat little feature is the fingerprint reader. The reader has been set into the power button, allowing you to both turn on the laptop and log in using Windows Hello with a single button press. Not the biggest deal, but it’s a pretty neat little time saver.
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 G7 is definitely the cheapest Max-Q laptop we’ve seen yet. The others have ranged between $2,000 and $3,000, but this one starts at $1,000 for the 1080p model and $1,450 for the 4K model. A lot of that price difference has to do with using the GTX 1060 instead of the GTX 1080, but even then, that’s quite a gap! You can expect this laptop to be available in September.
If you want to go even cheaper, Dell has given their Inspiron 13 and 15 2-in-1s a little gaming power, too. Unveiled this week ahead of IFA in Berlin, these sleek 360-degree hinge 2-in-1s will feature the new 8th generation Intel Core i U series processors, with a 1080p IPS display coming standard. The casual gamer might want to spring for the Nvidia GeForce GTX 940 MX discrete GPU on the 15 — it’s not powerful, but it’s far more capable when it comes to games than Intel integrated graphics. A 4K display is also optional on the 15, although that would be more important for watching movies or creating digital art than for gaming on this particular machine. Dell expects users to get a little under 8.5 hours on a single charge using a 1080p display, so adjust expectations down accordingly for the 4K model.
Speaking of digital art, Dell is selling their Active Pen as an extra with these two 2-in-1s, so it’s a decent choice as a digital canvas, as well.
Dell is also throwing in a couple of features that we’ve been looking forward to. One we saw in the gaming laptop above — a USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 port that can be used for audio/video connections as well as data transfer, making it really convenient to use with external monitors. The other is compatibility with Intel Optane memory, a new kind of storage that improves the performance of HDDs. That means you get something closer to SSD storage speeds at the cost of an HDD — that’s a pretty good value!
The Dell Inspiron 13 and 15 2-in-1s will both be available on October 3, starting at $850 and $800 respectively. That’s a little cheaper for the larger machine, but keep in mind that’ll go up fast if you opt for the discrete GPU and the 4K display.
Check out more of our IFA 2017 coverage right here!