It's rare that we see a gaming laptop with good dedicated graphics and a fast quad core CPU for under $1,000. The Dell Inspiron 7000 "Gaming Series" model 7559 is just that machine. It currently sells for $750 nicely appointed with an Intel 6th generation Skylake Core i5-6300HQ CPU, NVIDIA GTX 960M graphics, 8 gigs of RAM, a full HD non-touch IPS display and a 1TB hard drive. It has enough horsepower to tackle current demanding 3D games, is strong at editing video and can handle number crunching and large code compiles. It's finished in not too flashy gaming togs and is solidly made. The notebook has Intel's lower end dual band WiFi 802.11ac card (Intel 3125) with Bluetooth, a 720p webcam and decent stereo speakers with a subwoofer.
For those who want higher specs, you can get it with the Core i7-6700HQ processor for $100 more, and there's a 4K touch screen option in the $999 configuration (with the same CPU, RAM and HDD as our model). Or you can mix and match to suit yourself--the highest end pre-built configuration is $1,299 on Dell's site and that nets you the 4K touch screen, Core i7, 16 gigs of RAM and a 256 gig SSD plus 1TB hard drive. The NVIDIA GTX 960M 4GB DDR5 is the only graphics card option.
Design and Dell's Own Competition
Think of it as the budget interpretation of a cross between the Dell XPS 15 and Alienware 15. It's finished in soft touch matte black with red accents that include the Dell logo, rear vent grilles, speaker grille and touchpad surround. It's aggressive without being too out there to take to work. If you prefer a wilder look, it's also available in "Hibiscus" red with black accents. This is a sturdy but not particularly thin or light laptop at 1 inch thick and 6 pounds. The Dell XPS 15 is thinner and much lighter at 4.5 lbs. but it's also many hundred dollars more expensive. The Dell Alienware is likewise more expensive and no less bulky or light (but it is available with an even more powerful graphics card).
The bottom service panel is held in place by a few Phillips head screws, and it's easy to open up the laptop for upgrades and battery replacement when it reaches end of life. The laptop has traditional ports, but no USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 (look to the Dell XPS 15 for that). It has 3 USB 3.0 ports, HDMI 1.4 (4K @ 30 Hz), Gigabit Ethernet, an SD card slot, 3.5mm audio but no mini DisplayPort.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The keyboard is backlit in white (single stage) and it has a number pad. Key travel is more comfortable than the very slim XPS 15's, and tactile feel is decent... a little soft but overall good. In fact, I like it better than the XPS 15's short travel keyboard, despite that hint of sponginess. The trackpad is OK, but it's certainly not among the best Windows 10 laptops we've reviewed recently.
Our Inspiron 7559 has a 1920 x 1080 matte IPS, non-touch display that's bright and has decent color gamut. For the price and other specs, it's actually a good display, and there's a 4K glossy touch screen option for those who want more. For our 1080p model, color gamut is 68% of sRGB and 51% of Adobe RGB, which comes up short for serious photo and video editing but looks fine for gaming and everyday use. Brightness is usable indoors at 212 nits, but it's not ideal for outdoor use, though the matte display does help since it mitigates glare. Contrast is decent at 720:1, thanks to a good black level of 0.29 at max brightness. Laptops usually have white points that are well above the ideal 6600K, but the Inspiron 7559 is a low at 6000K, which means colors look warm (toward the yellow rather than blue). This can be remedied via display calibration with a colorimeter, or judicious use of Windows display calibration control panel software. Overall, it's a fine display for the price and it's pleasing for gaming and productivity work. Response times are actually better than the higher end IGZO panels used in the XPS 15, though they're not high end gaming laptop or monitor fast.
Deals and Shopping:
Dell Inspiron 15 7559 Gaming Series Video Review
Horsepower and Performance
The laptop has NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 4GB DDR5 dedicated graphics, switchable with Intel HD 530 graphics on the fly for power savings. The 960M is in NVIDIA's upper tier of graphics cards, and 4GB of VRAM is plenty enough for a full HD display. If you want even more powerful graphics like the GTX 970M or top of the line 980M, you'll have to look at more expensive gaming laptops. The GTX 960M is powerful enough to drive most current 3D tier 1 games in a mix of medium and high settings with good frame rates.
The laptop ships with 8 gigs of DDR4 RAM and it has two RAM slots. Dell also offers preconfigured 16 gig models or you could upgrade it yourself to a theoretical max of 32 gigs using two 16 gig modules. Our $750 model has a 1TB HDD that spins at 5400 RPM. You could upgrade it yourself to a faster 7200 RPM drive or a 2.5" SSD for a speed boost loading Windows, games and programs. Or you could spend an additional $50 and get it with a 256 gig M.2 SATA3 SSD and no HDD (serious gamers will need more space). The laptop has both an M.2 SSD slot and a 2.5" drive bay; you can opt for both a 256 gig SSD and 1TB HDD when ordering, or upgrade it yourself to an SSD boot drive and big HDD to store games, photos and video.
Our Inspiron Gamer 7559 shipped with the 45 watt quad Core Intel Core i5-6300HQ, a powerful CPU that can handle most any task well. It's twice as fast as dual core, 15 watt Ultrabook CPUs, but not quite as fast the as Core i7-6700HQ.
Laptops that aren't wafer thin have room for more cooling, and thus the Core i5 Dell Inspiron 7559 didn't get overly hot or loud when gaming or editing video. We played Fallout 4 and The Division, and the Dell kept its cool (relatively speaking since gaming heats up any laptop). The fans are certainly audible when gaming, but they don't drown out game audio, nor does the chassis get uncomfortably hot (there is one hot spot on the underside rear center area that can get hot). We averaged 45 fps when playing Fallout 4 in a mix of medium and high settings recommended by NVIDIA's GeForce Experience software that we downloaded and installed (it's not pre-installed but we recommend it if you want to game). The Division is one of the most demanding titles, and it played best on medium settings for those high frame rates desirable for shooters.
Unigine Heaven 4.0: high, no AA or tessellation: 45.5 fps, score: 1146. Max GPU temp: 79C
3DMark 11: P 5,302 / X 1,832
3DMark Fire Strike: 3,931
3DMark Cloud Gate: 12,550
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited: 115,456
3DMark Ice Storm Extreme: 52,765
The laptop's 74 WHr, 4 cell battery is accessible if you remove the service cover (it's not swappable with the flip of a slider switch). It ships with the usual large power brick typical of quad core machines with dedicated graphics. Battery life for productivity and streaming video with WiFi on and brightness set to a slightly dim 50% averaged 6 hours. Intel Skylake and the ability to use integrated HD 530 graphics for non-demanding tasks help today's powerful machines achieve decent runtimes.
The Dell Inspiron 15 7559 Gaming Series is quite the wise buy for budget constrained folks, and it's a relative bargain for what you get-- a very solid chassis, an ample selection of ports (alas no USB-C or DisplayPort), a decent IPS full HD display, optional 4K display, powerful CPUs and NVIDIA GTX 960M graphics. It's hard to find those specs for under $1,000, let alone for $750. Even if you order it with a few upgrades, you're still looking at one of the least expensive powerhouse gaming and multimedia machines on the market since Dell doesn't charge an arm and a leg for upgrades on this model.
Display:15.6", 1920 x 1080 matte IPS non-touch display, Also available with a 4K glossy touch screen. Intel HD 530 integrated graphics and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 4GB DDR5 dedicated graphics. HDMI port.
Battery:4 cell, 72 Whr Lithium
Performance:Intel 6th generation Skylake quad core, 45 watt CPUs, Core i5-6300HQ and Core i7-6700HQ available. Ships with 8 or 16 gigs DDR4 RAM in two RAM slots.
Size:15.1 x 10.4 x 1 inches. Weight: 5.7 to 6 pounds.
Audio:Built-in stereo speakers with subwoofer, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo combo headphone/mic
Networking:Integrated Intel 3125AC dual band
WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth. Gigabit Ethernet.
Expansion and Ports:3 USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, 3.5mm audio, Ethernet and
SD card slot.