Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming review: cheapish portable power

My ongoing quest to find the perfect gaming laptop – at the conclusion of which I shall buy my favourite – continues. I should note at this point that ‘perfect’ can mean several different things in this case. Clearly, attractiveness, features and performance are the main draws, but this is by no means a money no object deal. If a decent lappie is cheap enough, the fact that I won’t spend months trying and failing to justify the cost to myself means it might tick the ‘perfect’ box despite falling short in other areas.

And so to Dell’s £1000 Inspiron 15 Gaming, aka the Inspiron 7567. A diamond in the rough, or a get-what-you-pay-for folly?

I’ll say right off the bat that £1000 isn’t cheap by any wider metric – a lot of money for most of us, but more to the point you could build an equally-specced desktop for significantly less – but, by gaming laptop standards, that’s damn near as affordable as it gets.

Those specs, then:

Intel 7th generation Core i7-7700HQ Quad Core, 3.8GHz, 6MB Cache
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB
16GB DDR4 2400MHz
256GB SSD + 1TB 5400 rpm HDD
15.6″ 1920×1080 screen
Height: 25.44mm (1.00″) x Width: 384.9mm (15.15″) x Depth: 274.73mm (10.82″)
Weight: 2.65Kg / 5.84 lbs (higher or lower depending on hard drive config)

The bulk of that is essentially identical to what you’ll find in the twice-the-price Alienware 15 I looked at the other week, including the display (more on that shortly). The key on-paper difference, of course, is the graphics card. A 1050 Ti is not much above entry-level, a big step down from the 1070 in the Alienware and even from the 1060 in the Razer Blade (a review for another day, that, but I did look at its non-gaming ultraportable cousin). That alone makes the price several hundred quid cheaper than many others in the gaming laptop field.

The good news is that 2017’s entry level GPU is surprisingly meaty. We’re talking the magic 60 frames per second at 1080p in The Witcher 3 with a mix of high and very high settings (not ultra, however), and the same’s broadly true of the more recent Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, though you’ll have to get a bit more granular with settings to achieve that. (Also, the 4GB of video memory locks you out of higher texture settings there). In other words, you’re looking at something which will very comfortably trade blows with a PS4 or Xbox One. I’d recommend against aiming for higher than 1080p though.

I’m impressed by the capabilities of the 1050 Ti, but there are two big provisos here. The first is the most important: you can buy this Inspiron with either a 1050 Ti for £1000, or a 1050 (note no suffix) for £900. The difference between the two GPUs is the Ti has 4GB of RAM but the non-Ti only 2GB. In many very popular games – MOBAs, WoW, Overwatch, Dawn of War III and the like – that won’t be an issue, but in big bunnies like Witcher 3, Deus Ex and Mass Effect Andromeda it’s going to force you into dropping texture quality quite low, which can result in an obviously muddy-looking game.

I’m tempted to say that if you’re considering this machine or one like it, the extra hundred quid is well worth it, but I entirely appreciate that a hundred quid is by no means chump change. It’s just, well… that brings me to my second proviso.

My major concern with even a 1050 Ti is that, while it’s got a decent amount of clout now, it’s liable to be significantly less punchy as time – and the march of game technology – wears on. The eternal problem with a laptop over a desktop is that you can’t upgrade its GPU or CPU, something that’s historically kept me desk-bound.

The mobile 1070 (not to mention 1080, but that’s beyond the realms of realistic affordability) changes that somewhat – I’m confident you’d get three years out of that before even beginning to think about an upgrade – but my suspicion is that the 1050 Ti might run into difficulties all too soon. The 1050 even more so. This should manage to be a two-year laptop, but not much more – not without dropping resolution down to 720p, which looks pretty ugly on a native 1080p screen.

On the other hand, ‘only’ £1000 now is going to hurt a lot less than a 1070 or even 1060 spec machine would, which may mean you’ve got more of a chance of saving up again for a new laptop in a few years’ time. I really would steer clear of the non-Ti 1050 though, despite the £100 saving.

The comparatively low price also makes itself obvious in overall build quality. The exterior of the Inspiron isn’t bad, with a soft touch that suggests a premium device, but open up the lid and the fascia around the keyboard feels a bit like it’s made from a flattened shampoo bottle. The trackpad buttons are too light and hollow-feeling too, while the big bezel around the screen screams ‘budget business laptop.’

None of it’s awful, and it’s not like it’s horribly bendy or anything, but you’ll probably experience the sort of mild sinking feeling that dropping a grand in one place shouldn’t entail.

A positive side effect of its plasticky frame is that it’s surprisingly light given how thick it is. I mean, look at that truck grille-like heatsink on the rear – I’d worry that low-flying bees might get stuck in there. The girth of the device – seeming a result of its cooling array – seems fairly excessive given the lowly 1050, but I imagine non-fancy cooling is one more way of keeping the price down. More importantly though, it’s not a back-breaker despite the size.

You couldn’t call this a sexy machine, but at the same time I much prefer it’s more-or-less understated looks to the tiresomely blingy Alienware, and the lack of neon strip-lighting means there’s less to go wrong in addition to getting fewer pitying looks in Costa. It does, however, share the same poorly thought-through permanently-on blue LED on its power plug, so again you won’t be able to leave this charging overnight in your bedroom.

Now, this may be a trick of the mind, given that it’s smaller and lighter than the Alienware brute, but it felt to me that the Inspiron was appreciably quicker at sleeping and resuming. Other than in games, it feels like an ever-so slightly faster machine than the identically CPUed Alienware did, but without still having the latter here to test, I can’t say whether that’s the case – e.g. because of all the stupid lighting control software – or just psychosomatic.

Whatever, that’s a very good CPU in there, and as a general purpose computer, this thing’ll do you proud for quite a while. Sadly, the fly in that particular ointment is the screen, which very much appears to be the same washed-out, viewing angle-challenged panel I saw in the Alienware. It’s far less of an issue in a thousand quid PC than it was in a two thousand pound one, but it’s still a bummer. Again, you have to angle it just so to get any kind of contrast, and even then games and movies look like someone’s holding a sheet of tracing paper over the screen.

Dell/Alienware really need to up their game here – a screen is our main means of interaction with a computer, and as such the worst possible place to compromise. I’d rather a lesser CPU than this.

That said, all told this isn’t a bad machine and the price is right for what it is. It’s a crying shame it lacks a Thunderbolt 3 port, as that would mean that using a more powerful external GPU later on would be a possibility, but that and the poor screen aside, it does everything that should be expected for £1k.

Does it meet my criteria for perfect? No, not personally, not even given the significant money-saving. I don’t inherently object to a 1050 Ti, but I’d want something a bit slimmer and with a better screen if I was consciously compromising on performance. If I was strictly limited to a £1000 budget I do believe I’d be reasonably satisfied, however. The Inspiron 15 Gaming is, after all, an entirely decent gaming laptop for the same money as many, admittedly far sleeker, non-gaming laptops sell for.

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23 Comments

  1. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I considered this for quite a while, the lack of USB C charging is a deal breaker for me, my old XPS has been though 4 charges and 2 batteries in ~4 year it’s lifetime. I must’ve spent about £250 on chargers and batteries that I don’t think I would’ve had to spend if i’d went for a more reputable company.

  2. vorador says:

    The price is pretty reasonable for a gaming laptop. Quite a bit of bang for the buck.

  3. Brainstrain91 says:

    I bought this fellow’s little brother at the end of last year for about $800 – GTX 960 instead of 1050 Ti. It really holds up very well, although a few particular games give it lots of trouble (Heroes of the Storm in particular, for no discernible reason).

  4. Halk says:

    About the screen complaint, the dell site lists a costlier version with a uhd ips panel.

  5. Philopoemen says:

    I’m in the hunt to replace my 3 yr old Alienware 17 laptop which has stood up quite well to the test of time, and the main reason I’m replacing it is because my non-gaming ASUS laptop has been destroyed by the cat, and the rotation begins.

    is 15″ big enough for gaming?

    • mgardner says:

      How are your eyes? I went from a 17″ laptop to 14″, for improved portability and lower weight (I do rest it on my lap) and I already know that my next will be 17″ again. A younger pair of eyes would have fewer issues I am sure (I use bifocals). If you mostly play games designed for PC, keep in mind the text tends to be much smaller than games designed for PC + console and that may be a factor.

  6. Mezmorki says:

    So this would be £1171.63 ($1,500 US) but a 15″ sager with the following:

    i7-7700HQ, 15.6″ Full HD IPS Matte Display with G-SYNC Technology, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB GDDR5, 16GB Dual Channel DDR4 at 2400MHz, 250GB Western Digital Blue M.2 SSD + 1TB 7200rpm HDD

    Strikes me as a vastly better deal given the increase speed of the GPU.

  7. Juan Carlo says:

    I’ve had 2 gaming laptops. I’d never get one again, though, because: (1) heat is a major issue. In fact, I think a latop with a 1060 and proper heating will perform way better than a laptop with a 1070 or 1080 and poor heating as heat affects performance in a major way that people often overlook when buying. On my last one (ASUS ROG, 1060), the GPU would heat up and throttle fairly quickly, dropping even old games to sub-30FPS. So if cooling is poor, there is basically no point in paying extra for a decent GPU as it’s going to self-limit anyway once it heats up. And if you do research, most gaming laptops seem to have some form of heat issues, especially the very thin ones which are most popular (if you want a laptop with decent cooling you will basically have to get a massive brick).

    Also, (2) you basically have to shell out the 300 or so for the warranty as every laptop I’ve ever owned has had something go wrong at some point (with my second to last one, GPU died 3 months after the limited warranty expired, so I was basically screwed).

    It’s why I ultimately decided they were a waste of money. Still, I do miss being able to game in the library.

  8. manny says:

    – someone should come out with a laptop and tell me about it, of a 15 inch screen and a ten inch screen that swings/slides/swivels from the back, preferably partly detacheable (with cord). Two screens increase productivity and enable you to do things like concentrate on reading. Perhaps it has something to do with the body hemispheres. I’ve seen it’s usefulness in a class where this guy had a tablet with a digital book open on a stand, next to their laptop. I’ve never had two screens but no doubt others can rave about their benefits. I mean separate lcd ten inch monitor, not a tablet running a different os. Problem is it’s only been possible with desktops which are not as popular, partly due to comfort and convenience. Using a laptop in bed is far more comfortable than any desktop setup I’ve ever used. And as has been found out, sitting is really bad for your health, Lying in bed less so, more blood circulation and less pressure on the spine, neck and so on. Will also need a counterweight so laptop doesnt fall.

  9. Stone_Crow says:

    I went down the gaming laptop road about 10 years ago, and it was sort of OK, but the GPU died and had to be replaced after 15 months (suspect due to heat) and the keyboard (the E and W keys) failed after about 2 years (due to me hammering them as you do!). Replacing the keyboard was a fiddly nightmare involving pretty much dismantling the whole thing and digging out the soldering iron.

    I hope one day IO ports on machines will be fast enough to realise the dream of external GPUs and stuff (I know there some attempts now over USB3 or Thunderbolt3 but they don’t seem quite there yet) or someone comes up with a modular standard for laptop hardware so we can swap out bits and upgrade with ease, but until I can upgrade a laptop as easily as a desktop I think I’ll give them a miss for the foreseeable future.

  10. HoboDragon says:

    What bothers me on any hardware review is the “how long will it be ok”?
    Reviewers and people with lots of money get to see quite a bit and once you’ve seen more than just a demo at a show of say 4k, then of course everything else after that is “meh”.
    Obviously I wouldn’t mind always ultra settings, 2-4k, etc, but I can’t say that I am dissapointed not having had it, using a graphics card delivering 1080p for the last 4 years or so in most games, even Witcher 3 (though in that case I upgraded memory and HD-to-SSD). In addition, I have to have 3 PCs since I have to sons playing PC games as well. And everybody is happy.
    So I believe my 7970, RX460 and R280 systems (all now with 16GB onboard memory) will last another 2-3 years and even then some as long as it’s not the latest AAA game. And once that won’t work, there is the thing of using the PC for work and buying equivalent systems that cost 1000 pounds for even less in 2-3 years. Or get more bang for the buck.

    If you think “that’s just you dude”, perhaps, yes, but go check e.g. Steam statistics (not the only, but a pretty representable platform) that there aren’t many 4k and 1080 gamers. So… yes. That.

  11. babbler says:

    I wouldn’t buy a laptop these days unless it had a good cpu and thunderbolt 3 so you could mate it to an external graphics card.

    External graphics cards solve so many of the issues of gaming laptops. Gaming laptops are always hot because of the small space they’re stuffing a gpu into. External graphics card is outside the computer so that’s not an issue. Gaming laptops become obsolete quickly- you can just get a better gpu with an external gpu.

  12. Shaun239 says:

    Why even consider this when you could get a Clevo/Sager laptop from Scan or XMG for an equivalent price with a 970 or even a 1070.

    I’ve been using one for the last 2 years, best laptop I’ve ever owned. Light, doesn’t look garish like most gaming laptops and is pretty damn powerful.

  13. Chufty says:

    I have a HP Pavilion lappy with similar specs except for an arguably just as good if not better GTX960. Great screen, decent keyboard and doesn’t look like it was designed by a 15-year-old boy in the 90s.

    It runs all the games I throw at it without issue and only cost me £710 in November last year.

    I shan’t be paying £1000 for a GTX1050 thanks.

  14. Premium User Badge

    iris79 says:

    My Dell that approaching 4 years old has done good service. I’ve never had the money for a proper gaming rig and it kept up well. It doesn’t do anything fancy anymore but can still run civ v to a degree. I ended up buying a PS4 to play fancy games but this is still my lifeline, I do disability support and often have to be awake overnight on shift with long gaps between crisis.
    The main cons with it, heat heat heat, it sucks up ciggy filters and bugs and you can’t easily access the fan to give it a clean. A few bits of plastic fell off, but myself and some of the kids I work with have brutalised the thing.
    I got it for 900 Australian and cost per use it worked out well. Hopefully this will be the year I upgrade though

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