Where design is concerned, the Apple influence is obvious, but the Inspiron 17 7000 is nonetheless a sleek, well-finished laptop. Made entirely of aluminium, the body feels reliable and is easy to clean. It does have a glossy screen, though, which, as you can see in this picture, is quite the reflecting machine. For a price, you can turn it into a touchscreen.
The hinges are perhaps a bit too sturdy, making the lid difficult to open with one hand, but that also means the screen stays well in place when open. Measuring 412.4 x 269.4 x 27.7 mm and weighing 3.29 kg, this isn't necessarily the most carryable laptop, more like the kind you would leave at home and use to move from one room to another.
The chiclet keys offer little resistance, but they have great rebound and are comfortable to type on. The backlighting can be adjusted to two levels of intensity, allowing you to adapt it to different types of settings. The touchpad is standard, yet effective, and the keyboard has all the typical laptop shortcuts, such as screen brightness and volume, used in conjunction with the Fn key.
For ports it has four USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI 1.4 output, an SD memory card reader, Ethernet and a 3.5mm audio in/out. While headphone-microphone combo jacks have become commonplace on this type of machine, we still would have preferred to see separate in and out jacks. There's also a DVD drive for watching movies or reinstalling Windows if needs be.
The wireless connectivity consists of Wi-Fi a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0. The Wi-Fi is stable with -47 dBm from 10 metres away and -50 dBm from 20 metres away.
The cooling system must be excellent, because our heat readings never exceeded 34.6°C, and that was where the processor unit is located. So, no risk of burning yourself on this one, which averages 25°C with a second peak at just 30.3°C around the keyboard. You can thank the low-consumption processor for this.
It's a shame to have only 1600 x 900 pixels on a 17-inch screen, but that's not all this display has wrong with it...
With an average colour temperature of 14,028 K, the image is ice-cold with heavy blue overtones. The highly irregular gamma, which averages at 1.8, shows a lack of fidelity in the greyscale. The astronomic average Delta E of 14.4 shows just as much infidelity in the colour spectrum, and to top it off, the contrast ratio is a comically low 217:1. The only okay figure in all of this is the brightness, which caps off at 237 cd/m². In sum, this is a terrible laptop screen.
It's too bad Dell didn't use the space provided by the large body to put bigger speakers in the front. The teeny tiny speakers are located on the underside of the chassis, on either side of the wrist support. That said, the sound quality isn't bad at all, pretty much standard as laptops go, with acceptably high volume.
Note: The model we were sent to review features an Intel Core i7-4500U processor, 8 GB of DDR3L RAM and a 1 TB SATA hard drive (5400 rpm). The comments above refer to all versions of the Dell Inspiron 17 7000 Series, whereas the sections below apply only to the model we tested. Available configurations may also vary depending on the country/region in which you live.
The Intel Core i7-4500U processor executed everything we subjected it to with relative ease. It performed just a smidgen less well than it did in the XPS 12 when we tested it, but on the whole it's just about the same performance. It works great for multimedia and amateur photo and video editing (although it would be in your best interest to use an external monitor, given what we've already mentioned about the screen).
With an Intel HD Graphics 4400 inside, we never expected much gaming out of the Inspiron 17 7000. With a 3DMark 2006 score of barely over 6000, you won't be playing Crysis 3 on this computer.
There are some games you can play, however, undemanding titles such as League Of Legends, World Of Tanks and World Of Warcraft. Indie games like Don't Starve, Risk Of Rain and the ever-popular Super Meat Boy will run perfectly. With the display's 1600 x 900 resolution, you will often have to lower the detail settings in order to obtain fluid gameplay.
MOBILITY / BATTERY LIFE
When one thinks of 17-inch laptops, huge battery life isn't usually what comes to mind. But the Inspiron 17 7000 is an exception that lasted 7 hours and 15 minutes in our test of continuous video playback in airplane mode with the keyboard backlighting turned off, the screen brightness at 100 cd/m² and headphones plugged in with the volume on medium.