The Dell Inspiron line has a fresh look. Targeting shoppers willing to spend a little bit more for a premium design, the new Inspiron 15 7000 sports an uber-chic aluminum chassis, 15.6-inch touch screen and a fourth-generation Intel processor, all for an alluring $699. Throw in more than 9 hours of battery life, and there are plenty of reasons to make this notebook your own.
Sleek, sexy and solid are just a few of the words that come to mind when gazing at the Dell Inspiron 15 7000. The silvery aluminum lid has gentle, rounded corners and is cool to the touch. The notebook's minimalist interior is just as captivating, offering diamond-cut edges around the deck and touchpad. A medium-size power button sits above the keyboard in the upper left corner.
Despite its sleek looks, the 14.9 x 10 x 0.8~0.9-inch Inspiron 15 7000 is on the bulky side at 5.6 pounds. Compare that to the Acer Aspire V7-582P-6673 (15.02 x 10.08 x 0.79 inches) and the Toshiba Satellite P55t-A5202 (15.2 x 9.9 x 1.2 inches), which weigh 4.85 and 5.2 pounds, respectively.
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Measuring 139 lux on our light meter, the Inspiron 15's 15.6-inch, 1366 x 768 display isn't the brightest touch screen. It falls short of the 202 mainstream average and the Aspire V7's 165 lux. This panel does manage to outshine the Toshiba P55t's 138 lux display.
Colors popped in 1080p "Machete Kills" trailer. Amber Heard's form-fitting red dress drew the eye, as did Mel Gibson's piercing blue peepers. Too bad the viewing angles are frustratingly narrow, inverting colors past 45 degrees.
The 10-point touch screen is fluid and responsive, allowing for smooth Windows 8 gestures and pinch-to-zooming.
The Inspiron 15's pair of bottom-mounted speakers pack a wallop. Paired with the Dell Audio software, the laptop filled our small test space with loud, clear audio. Janet Jackson's "I Get Lonely" had rich deep bass, clear piano chords and crisp snares -- all balanced against Jackson's breathy vocals.
On our LAPTOP Audio Test, the Inspiron 15's speakers blasted out 84 decibels of sound, slightly below the 88 dB mainstream average.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Inspiron 15 7000 offers a spacious backlit layout with a dedicated number pad. Unfortunately, the keys don't offer enough travel, resulting in a hollow and slightly uncomfortable typing experience. We managed to hammer out 50 words per minute, missing our usual 55 wpm score.
The 4.2 x 3.2-inch touchpad is plenty large, giving our fingers lots of space to perform gestures. We liked the way its slightly textured surface felt against our fingers. Windows 8 gestures such as switching between apps and summoning the Charms menu were nice and smooth. Pinch-zoom, two-finger scroll and rotate, and three-finger swipe was also easy to perform.
The bottom corners of the touchpad performed adequately as right and left mouse buttons, but delivered somewhat spongy feedback.
When we ran the Laptop Heat Test (streaming a full-screen Hulu video for 15 minutes), the touchpad measured 79 degrees Fahrenheit. The space between the G and H keys and the notebook's undercarriage both registered 86 degrees. However, the space beneath the laptop's main vent blew a hot 96 degrees, slightly above our 95-degree comfort threshold.
We found that the colors on the 720p webcam were a shade lighter than reality, including our neon-green headphones. While we were able to make out the knit pattern on our sweater, the picture was full of visual noise. The end result was a photo with fuzzy, hazy edges and little detail.
The Inspiron 15 has an ample offering of ports, including a pair of USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, an 8-in-1 card reader, a headset jack and Ethernet on the right. The left side of the notebook holds another pair of USB 3.0 ports, a secure lock slot and a jack for the power adapter.
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000's 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-4200U can handle a fair amount of lifting. The notebook streamed "Event Horizon" full screen on Netflix with eight open tabs in Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer and Google Chrome while running a system scan.
The Inspiron 15 scored 2,818 on the PCMark 7 benchmark, failing to meet the 3,250 mainstream average. The 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-4200U-powered Toshiba Satellite P55t and Acer Aspire V7 notched 3,208 and 4,266, respectively.
The Inspiron 15's 750GB 5,400-rpm hard drive booted Windows 8 in 10 seconds. That's faster than the 33-second average as well as the P55t and Aspire V7's times of 18 and 14 seconds.
During the File Transfer Test, the Inspiron 15 duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 2 minutes and 46 seconds. That's a transfer rate of 30.7 MBps, which is faster than the P55t's 23MBps, but not enough to top the 44MBps average. The Aspire V7 was somewhat faster at 33 MBps.
At 5 minutes and 27 minutes, the Inspiron 15 performed slightly faster than the 5:40 category average on the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Test. However, both the Aspire V7 and the P55t edged it out, with 5:23 and 5:14, respectively.
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000's Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU is good for streaming high-def video and playing some mainstream games.
On the 3DMark11 benchmark, the laptop scored 897, failing to match the 1,397 mainstream average. However, this showing was enough to top the Toshiba Satellite P55t's Intel HD Graphics HD 4000 chip, which achieved 878. The Acer Aspire V7, with an Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU, managed 958.
When we ran the "World of Warcraft" test, the Inspiron 15 registered a fairly smooth 43 fps on 1366 x 768 on autodetect. That's well below the 75 fps average, but still above our 30 fps playability threshold. The Aspire V7 notched 45 fps. The 1080p Satellite P55t hit 35 fps at 768p and 22 fps at its native resolution of 1080p.
After cranking the settings to maximum, the Inspiron 15's frame rate dropped to an unplayable 18 fps.
During the Laptop Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi), the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 lasted an impressive 9 hours and 26 minutes. That's nearly 3 hours longer than the 6:31 mainstream average. The Acer Aspire V7 delivered 8:13, while the Toshiba Satellite P55t posted a below-average 5:32.
Software and Warranty
Thankfully, there's virtually no bloatware on the Inspiron 15 7000, but Dell has added a small suite of utilities. My Dell software, which encompasses System Info, PC Checkup, Backup and Drivers and Downloads, keeps the notebook up to date on the latest software. Dell's Backup and Recovery software is also included.
In terms of third-party software, there's Amazon, eBay, Kindle and a 30-day free trial of McAfee Security Center.
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 comes with 90 days of Premium Phone Support with one year of In-Home service after remote diagnosis.
Our $699 review unit features a 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 6GB of RAM, a 750GB 5,400-rpm hard drive and an Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU. An $899 version has a 1.8-GHz Intel Core i7-4500U CPU with 8GB of RAM, a 1TB 5,400 hard drive and an Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU.
The $699 Dell Inspiron 15 7000 offers an elegant aluminum design, a responsive touch screen and impressive battery life. The notebook also provides solid audio, graphics and overall performance. What prevents this 15-incher from grabbing a higher rating is its shallow keyboard and dimmer-than-average display.
For an additional $100, consumers can get the $799 Acer Aspire V7 that offers better performance and a brighter screen in a lighter, slimmer package. However, you'll be sacrificing nearly an hour of battery life and a more attractive design. Overall, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 is a very good Windows 8 touch laptop.