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If the words “budget gaming laptop” still bring to mind images of big, bulky laptops that are as short on performance and features as they are on battery life, the new Dell Inspiron 15 7000 should be a pleasant surprise. 

Actually, the older version of this 15.6-inch laptop impressed us when we reviewed it earlier this year, and that was in spite of the corners Dell cut to get its sub-$800 price including a mediocre display that immediately faded when viewed from even just a little off-center. The updated version gets a full-HD IPS matte screen with good off-angle viewing as well as improved touchpad performance, a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port, 2×2 dual-band 802.11ac wireless and even a fingerprint reader built into the power button for near-instant sign-ins with Windows Hello. 

Most importantly, Dell bumped up the graphics power from Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1050 or 1050Ti to a GeForce GTX 1060 card. It’s the Max-Q version of the card, so it’s a little less powerful than the regular 1060, but it also runs cooler allowing for a slimmer and more stylish laptop than budget systems from a year or two ago. It’s more energy efficient, too, helping give this Dell long battery life (though it’s shorter than its predecessor’s due to a smaller battery). Despite the power differences, though, graphics performance is excellent even with video settings cranked up.

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming late 2017

The new Dell Inspiron 15 7000 is a little less flashy than its predecessor.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The older GeForce GTX 1050/1050Ti-based version is still available for the time being starting at $899 (£919, AU$1,499), but the new version with the GTX 1060 GPU is $999 for the base configuration — well worth the extra $100. That config has just a 256GB SSD for storage and 8GB of memory, along with a seventh-gen Core i5 processor. In Australia, you can get the same base configuration for AU$1,599, but in the UK you’ll currently pay £1,399 to get one with the GTX 1060, but that also gets you more storage and memory and a Core i7 processor. 

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming

Price as reviewed $999
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 IPS
PC CPU 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ
PC Memory 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2400MHz
Graphics 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (Max-Q)
Storage 256GB NVMe PCIe SSD
Optical drive None
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

It’s still a mainstream gaming laptop

While Dell made some nice improvements on the updated model, a chunk of your money is going toward that graphics card. That means the rest of the system isn’t as polished as something from Dell’s Alienware division or a Razer laptop. It’s a pretty tame design for a gaming laptop (a plus or minus depending on your preferences) and its plastic body looks and feels less than premium because, well, it is. 

Similarly you won’t find a glass touchpad or a mechanical keyboard with multicolored backlighting. You get a full keyboard and number pad and it is backlit in red, but I found the shallow key travel a little uncomfortable and the red markings difficult to read against the gray keys. The plastic touchpad performs much better than the previous model’s and didn’t have me immediately reaching for a mouse. 

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming late 2017

The power button at the upper right doubles as a fingerprint reader. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Likewise, the speakers didn’t make me scramble to put on headphones. They had good clarity for movies and music without being too bright and a fair amount of bass to add some heft to gunshots and explosions. The dual fans do get loud trying to keep things cool when under load, so you’ll probably still want headphones for the best experience with games and movies. 

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