In the race for smaller, slimmer and lighter laptops with all-day battery life, the desktop replacement can feel like a forgotten category. With the exception of gamers and graphic designers (or bodybuilders just looking to lug something around), most users will have a hard time justifying all that heft. The Dell Inspiron 5770 (starting at $549.99, reviewed at $649.99), unfortunately, doesn't move the needle much in making that case. While relatively affordable, with solid performance, the Inspiron is throttled by a dim, dull display and below-average battery life.
Design: Bigger isn't always better
The Inspiron's design is not awe-inspiring by any means. This machine sports a cheap plastic chassis with a silver-metal finish and a shiny Dell logo in the center. This is big laptop, and it shows. Weighing in at 6 pounds with a 16.4 x 10.9 x 1-inch footprint, the Inspiron makes it clear that little effort was made to shave any size off in any way. Still, it's a tad lighter than the 6.4-pound HP Envy 17 (16.4 11.1 x 0.9 inches), and both systems are significantly heavier and larger than the 4.9-pound, 15 x 10.2 x 1.2-inch Acer Aspire E 15-576G-5762.
Even when opening the lid, I noticed some real heft to it. Despite its bulk, the plastic frame is easy to bend and doesn't feel particularly sturdy. Inside, there's a brushed-metal finish and a backlit, island-style keyboard with number pad in the center. The keyboard looks nice enough, and the brushed metal-finish is visually acceptable if unexciting.
A thick, black bezel around the screen frames an underwhelming display, with a Dell logo at the bottom. Unlike the HP Envy 17 with its elegant-looking (albeit, a bit awkward) drop-hinge design, the Inspiron has a big, clunky hinge that's clearly visible beneath the display.
The left side of the machine has a power jack, an HDMI output, Ethernet, two USB 3.0 connectors, and an audio jack for headphones or a microphone. On the right side, there's a Noble lock slot, a DVD-RW double-layer drive with eject button, a USB 2.0 connector and an SD card reader.
Like the design, the Dell Inspiron 17 5770's 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 display is big but underwhelming. When I watched the 1080p trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, the movie looked sharp but colors were washed out with a dull contrast.
I found the viewing angles to be extremely unforgiving. Even sitting the slightest distance away from the center led to an overly dark picture as I watched Captain America, Spidey and friends deal with yet another crisis. Seated in the center, I faced the opposite problem: an overly whitish/blue tint, with Spider-Man's new, eye-popping red-and-blue metallic costume appearing undersaturated. The deep blacks never get that dark, and the colors fail to come alive.
The 5770's lack of vibrancy made sense when we measured the panel's color reproduction at only 87 percent of the sRGB gamut. That's below the 94-percent category average as well as the Envy 17's impressive 209 percent. However, the Inspiron managed to top the Aspire E 15's 74 percent.
The Dell Inspiron 17 also has the lowest brightness level, at 188 nits, compared to the HP Envy's 276 nits and the Acer Aspire E 15's 200 nits. The 5770's score is also well below the 229-nit average.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Inspiron's keys are well-spaced and have a soft feel, with 1.2 millimeters of travel and 71 grams of required actuation force (1.5 to 2 millimeters are within common range, and at least 60 grams is typical). They're not particularly clicky keys, but they delivered a comfy, smooth experience. They actually felt a bit better than what I'm used to; sprawling keyboards like this can be a nice benefit of desktop replacements.
I reached 110 words per minute on10fastfingers.com with 97 percent accuracy and 2 incorrect words, which is close to my usual result. A test on my daily driver right afterward gave me a 115-wpm score with 3 incorrect words and only 92.87 percent accuracy.
The 4.1 x 3.1 touchpad, while not enormous, is spacious enough and accurate. I could hit precise points on screen without difficulty and had no problems activating the Windows 10 navigational gestures. I was able to easily swipe between applications and move desktop icons around to my heart's content.
The audio on the Dell Inspiron 17 5770 gets pretty loud but otherwise sounded flat and muddy. The saxophone riffs that normally punctuate "California" by The Lagoons felt distant and overpowered by a blend of difficult-to-distinguish layers. Likewise, vocals took a back seat, but I didn't feel rewarded by powerful bass either.
For good measure, I also tried a more bass-heavy dance-floor tune with "Dreams" by Beck. Again, the song didn't hit the midtones with any particular clarity, and the pounding bass that usually powers the song was lacking.
Equipped with a 1.6-GHz 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB and 5,400-rpm SATA hard drive, the Inspiron delivered disappointing performance out of the gate. Simple tasks like opening a web browser or switching between menus had noticeable lag at first and seemed to put real strain on the machine.
After I opened 17 browser windows in Google Chrome, the fan roared incredibly loudly, as if a jet were taking off. After this "liftoff," the machine did run a bit more smoothly, but remained distractingly loud throughout relatively mild multitasking.
The Inspiron earned al Geekbench 4 score of 11,913, beating the 8,681 average. Competing laptops like the Envy 17 (Core i7-7500U) and Aspire E 15 (Core i5-8250U) failed to keep up, with scores of 8,175 and 9,278, respectively.
For the Excel macro test, which matches 65,000 names to addresses using VLOOKUP, the Inspiron completed the task in 1 minute 13 seconds, a bit faster than the comparable Acer Aspire E 15's 1:30 time and the 1:42 average. Converting video from 4K to 1080p in our HandBrake test, the Inspiron really blazed ahead, with a time of 15 minutes 23 seconds to the Acer's significantly slower 25:15 time and the 20:50 mainstream laptop average.
For light gaming, the Inspiron 17's integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU held its own, delivering a frame rate of 48 frames per second on Dirt 3. Armed with the same graphics chip, the Aspire E 15 notched 33 fps. The game could barely run on the Envy 17, giving us 17 fps despite the Envy's discrete Nvidia GeForce 940MX GPU.
Desktop replacements typically aren't for carrying around town, and the Inspiron 17 is no exception. The system lasted 5 hours and 30 minutes in our Laptop Mag Battery Test, with the screen at 110 nits of brightness while continuously web browsing over Wi-Fi. That time is well below the 8:12 mainstream laptop average and the Aspire E15's time of 9:26.
During our various tests, the Inspiron 17 mostly stayed within the cool range, but it got a bit on the warm side in some areas. After we streamed HD video for 15 minutes, the underside of the system reached 86 degrees Fahrenheit (below 95 degrees is considered comfortable) but reached 101 degrees near the vent. The center of the keyboard heated up to 93 degrees, and the touchpad stayed a relatively cool 80 degrees.
The webcam on the Inspiron 17 leaves much to be desired. Pictures are serviceable to the extent that they show what you want to photograph and nothing more. While we played with different lighting settings, even in a well-lit room, images lacked sharpness, appeared noisy and came out pretty dark. Color representation appeared to be accurate, though. I held a sky-blue pillow with a pinkish/red circle design and was satisfied with seeing generally the same colors reflect back at me.
Software and Warranty
The Dell Inspiron 17 5770 comes with some preinstalled software but nothing too obtrusive. Most of it is beneficial, like Dell SupportAssist, CyberLink PowerDirector 14, McAfee Live Safe, and a nifty Dropbox offer for 20GB of free storage for a year. Otherwise, it's the standard Windows 10 installed apps and bloat such as Candy Crush Soda Saga, Netflix, Minecraft and March of Empires.
The model I reviewed costs $649.99 and comes with a 1.6-GHz 8th Generation Intel Core i5-8250U processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB and 5,400-rpm SATA hard drive, and an Intel HD Graphics 620 GPU.
The $549.99 base model has nearly identical specs to our review unit, but with an older, 2.0-GHz 6th Generation Intel Core i3-6006U CPU. Want more power? The $929.99 model bumps the specs up to a 1.8-GHz Intel Core i7-8550U CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 2TB and 5,400-rpm hard drive, and an Intel HD Graphics 620 GPU.
The Dell Inspiron 17 5770 is a solid choice for consumers looking for a middle-of-the-road machine that won't wreck a budget. For $649.99, you get a fairly attractive-looking system with decent graphics and overall performance and a comfortable keyboard. However, a dim, lackluster display paired with below-average battery life are major cons.
The system's faults are even more apparent next to the Acer Aspire E15 ($599), which lasts over 9 hours on a charge. And if you have room in your budget, there's HP Envy 17, which for $879.95, offers a gorgeous 4K display and discrete graphics for light photo and video editing. But if you're looking for an entry- to mid-level multimedia machine that's cost-effective, the Dell Inspiron 15 5770 is worth some consideration.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag