The Dell i7577-5241BLK-PUS seems like the best choice for a Max-Q laptop, that succeeds in its design goals and power. It looks as good as it feels luxurious, and the fact that it can play games in HD at or near the highest settings, make it the best choice around.
THE GOOD: Nicely designed. Proficient HD gaming performance.
THE BAD: Middling battery life. Mediocre trackpad.
When the Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 was being released, we suspected it would be the epitome of all gaming laptops. Sure, Asus did release it, and as expected, it was a spectacle to behold – with the right gaming notes and performance caps. At the time, it was the first notebooks to leverage Nvidia’s Max-Q technology, that allows high-end graphics cards to fit into super-slim laptops. All was going well, until we saw the price tag.
With the new design and massive gaming power, the Zephyrus was priced way out of reach for most gamers. The Dell Inspiron i7577-5241BLK-PUS $895.00 at Amazon is the antithesis of the ROG GX501, with the Nvidia’s Max-Q internal design, meaning all components have been packed into a frame that’s just under an inch-thick. In fact, compares more to the Acer Predator Helios 300 or the MSI GL62M, and less to the Asus Zephyrus.
For the enthusiast PC game on a budget, the Dell i7577-5241BLK-PUS – henceforth known as ‘Inspiron 15 Gaming’ – seems like a compelling choice, especially if you need notebook with subdued looks for both work and play. You’ll discover that it’s not easy to find a system, for under a grand, that delivers on the promise of true portability and unmatched gaming prowess as this.
As far as Dell’s Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming Series laptops go, an all-aluminum premium build is never in the cards. The Inspiron 15 sports a well-crafted magnesium alloy exterior, with a subtle appearance. I do find the red and black color scheme to be ‘rather’ edgy, but I find solace in its subdued looks compared to what Dell does with its Alienware Series.
At this price range, you don’t expect anything close to customizable RGB keys or case LEDs. If that something you demand, better look elsewhere. Instead, the Dell 15 sports a matte black finish that works in its favor, especially in making the ventilation look sophisticated. It uses a ‘sub-1’ design, which is equipped with a single hinge and huge cooling vents on the front and rear.
That said, the Inspiron 15 Gaming has a red-backlit keyboard, with a full-size number pad. With 1.4mm Key travel, its response decent and feels nice to touch. Just above is a power switch that doubles up as a fingerprint reader, which is a lovable inclusion.
Below it is a trackpad that’s slightly offset towards the left. It isn’t particularly large, nor is it overtly responsive to my liking. Worse still, its default settings mean that you won’t use it while keys are being pressed. Simply put, bring along a mouse for gaming. It is very classical to think that anybody gaming will have a mouse at hand –in reality, that isn’t true for everyone.
Ports and Speakers
Moving on to I/O ports, the selection isn’t very exciting. However, seasoned gamers will appreciate the inclusion of three USB 3.1 ports – one with Powershare, a solo USB Type –C with Thunderbolt 3 and DisplayPort and a full HDMI port. Other include an RJ 45 port, and a 2-in-1 SD card reader. Wireless connectivity comes via dual-band 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2.
The Inspiron 15’s speakers are located on the underside, making sound quality flimsy. To sound better, you’ll have to hook it up to an external audio source. Better still, you can bring along headphones, but audio ought to be better for a 15-inch laptop.
Running the show are a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ processor, 8GB of memory, and the Nvidia GTX 1060 (with 6 GB DDR5). The processor isn’t part of Intel’s latest generation, but it’s still proficient. It shouldn’t come to anyone as a surprise that the Inspiron 15 is generally weaker than the Lenovo Legion Y720 or the Acer Predator Helios 300, whose name we dropped earlier in this review.
But, because both of these laptops wield souped-up Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor alongside their GTX 1060 GPUs, VR ready and cost slightly more than this iteration of the Inspiron 15. For that, we can easily understand the slight performance inferiority at this price point. The good news is; the Max-Q version of the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming beats its predecessor from last year on almost every category. It is even 0.02 inches thinner, which is a good showing.
For instance, in the graphically intensive Hitman (played at Very High settings), the Legion rendered the game at 62 fps, a smidge behind the Predator’s 64 fps –both with GTX 1060 GPUs, while the Inspiron 15 managed 59 fps, still ahead of the mainstream average of 55 fps.
That said, systems with GTX 1050 Ti could easily come closer to the GTX 1060 iteration, perhaps 50 fps on the same game tests. Not a big difference at a glance, but it isn’t mean feat considering that the Dell Inspiron is using a GTX 1060 that’ slightly strangled by a thinner profile, a feat worth celebrating.
In real world, the Dell Inspiron i7577-5241BLK-PUS isn’t a system you can easily passby and move to something else. It is among the best you can get, especially on a feature-price basis. You can use it to play Full HD videos, edit videos and other multimedia projects without any issuers to speak of.
It can do Far Cry primal at the native resolutions as recommended by Nvidia’s GeForce Experience software, and it won’t drop any frame rates. You can be assured of playing all other games on medium to high settings, at par, or even better than what you’d experience on the Xbox One X. Plus, unlike a console, this laptop can play pretty anything released for the Windows platform at around 60 frames per second, which is a good showing.
Battery Life and Storage
We expected that since the slim size promotes toting your Inspiron 15 along with you, battery life would be better –not so much so. The Dell i7577-5241BLK-PUS is equipped with a 56Whr, 4-cell battery that lasts 4 hours 29 minutes, down from last year’s rendition that delivered 5 hours 46 minutes, with its 74Whr battery. Still, that is enough juice that will last some time off the charger.
There’s a considerable amount of storage inside in the form of a 128GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive. The SSSD will keep your system launching applications quickly and fast booting, while the larger hard drive offers plenty of real estate for games.
The Bottom Line
By and large, the Dell Inspiron i7577-5241BLK-PUS seems like the best choice for a Max-Q laptop, that succeeds in its design goals and power. It looks as good as it feels luxurious, and the fact that it can play games in HD at or near the highest settings, make it the best choice around. On the flipside, it is held down by other aspects that you wouldn’t normally consider important when buying a gaming laptop, including a not-so-precise touchpad and middling speakers.
Otherwise, it stands out of the crowd as a gaming laptop that doesn’t cut corners, is reasonably priced and sets a good precedent for future Dell Inspiron 15 gaming refreshes. For all these, it deserves a top spot in your shopping list.