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Dell Inspiron 15 7000 review: Powerful, affordable, and expandable

Laptops are nowhere near as upgradeable as they used to be. Whether it’s battery, memory, or storage, you’re stuck with whatever you buy.

There are some rare exceptions to this trend. One is Dell’s latest Inspiron 15 7000 model. Instead of being soldered on, this Inspiron has easily accessible RAM slots and additional connections for a second PCIe M.2 SSD and even a 2.5-inch drive.

It starts at just $800, though the 7591 model we reviewed was a bit more powerful. This specific $1,050 configuration features a Core i7-9750H, the GTX 1050, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB PCIe SSD, and a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) non-touch display. That’s a very attractive price for a 15-inch laptop with this much power.

Does this laptop’s upgradeability sets it apart from the very crowded field of excellent 15-inch laptops?

Upgradeable internals

The Inspiron 15 7000 is a “midrange” laptop, but that doesn’t mean it’s not well-built. The model I reviewed is crafted from stamped aluminum, which is a nice upgrade over the 7590 that uses magnesium alloy. That makes the 7591 solidly built for a laptop of this price, with no significant bending or flexing in the lid, keyboard deck, or chassis.

That’s important for a laptop you’re meant to open up. The ability to expand is not just a feature for tinkerers. You can save money upgrading it yourself, and you can even extend the life span — so long as you’re willing to dig in a bit.

Flip the laptop over, and you’ll find standard Phillips screws (no hex screws requiring special tools). Remove those (the rear three can just be loosened and remain in the chassis), and you can carefully snap off the cover and reveal the insides.

here, you’ll find two RAM slots, a second M.2 PCIe slot for an SSD, and a 2.5-inch bay for a third drive. When you have a single stick of RAM installed, you’re running in single-channel memory mode, and that has a significant impact on performance. Plug in a second matched module and you switch into dual-channel mode for significantly faster memory performance.

Add a second M.2 SSD and you can configure RAID 0 (striping) or RAID 1 (mirroring) for either better performance and more storage or redundancy and more reliability. Finally, you can add a third drive in the 2.5-inch format for additional storage.

s we mentioned already, that’s an unusual level of access and upgradeability for an ultrabook. You have to jump to an expensive premium laptop like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 to find a laptop that allows you to add a second SSD with RAID support. Some other laptops like the Dell XPS 15 let you swap out the RAM and (single) SSD, but the Inspiron is the only laptop in its class that lets you add up to two additional drives.

Surprisingly, even though the Inspiron 15 7000 is uniquely expandable, it’s not overly large or heavy. It comes in at 4.12 pounds, which is lighter than the XPS 15’s 4.5 pounds but heavier than the ThinkPad’s 3.76 pounds. At 0.78 inches thick, the Inspiron is a bit thicker than some of the more premium models, but not by much. You’re not stuck lugging around a bulky laptop just to gain some upgradeability.

Connectivity, which also impacts how well you can outfit a laptop, is very good. You get three USB-A ports, a USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support, a full-size HDMI 2.0 port, and a microSD card reader. Plug into a Thunderbolt 3 dock and you can connect to multiple 4K displays and a host of other peripherals. Wireless connectivity was a step behind, though, with just Wi-Fi 5 instead of the newer Wi-Fi 6 standard to go with Bluetooth 5.0.

Surprisingly, even though the Inspiron 15 7000 is uniquely expandable, it’s not overly large or heavy. It comes in at 4.12 pounds, which is lighter than the XPS 15’s 4.5 pounds but heavier than the ThinkPad’s 3.76 pounds. At 0.78 inches thick, the Inspiron is a bit thicker than some of the more premium models, but not by much. You’re not stuck lugging around a bulky laptop just to gain some upgradeability.

Connectivity, which also impacts how well you can outfit a laptop, is very good. You get three USB-A ports, a USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support, a full-size HDMI 2.0 port, and a microSD card reader. Plug into a Thunderbolt 3 dock and you can connect to multiple 4K displays and a host of other peripherals. Wireless connectivity was a step behind, though, with just Wi-Fi 5 instead of the newer Wi-Fi 6 standard to go with Bluetooth 5.0.

Performance

or example, before adding the extra RAM, the Inspiron scored 1,071 in Geekbench 5 in single-core mode and 3,864 in multi-core mode. After adding the RAM, those numbers moved to 1,124 and 4,695. Compare that to the Lenovo Yoga C940 15 with the same CPU and dual-channel RAM at 1,106 and 5,117.

The upgrade didn’t have as much impact on our more real-world testing. In Handbrake, I encoded a 420MB video to H.265 to test content creation performance. Prior to the upgrade, the Inspiron took a full 3 minutes to finish the test; afterward, it took two minutes and 50 seconds. The Lenovo C940 took 2 minutes and 17 seconds.

So, adding the second RAM module and switching to dual-channel mode increased performance in Geekbench by 12% and brought the laptop up to speed with its competition. The increase was only around 6% in the Handbrake test. The memory I purchased was by Crucial, a single stick of 8GB DDR4-2666MHz RAM that only cost around $30. That makes this one of the less expensive performance upgrades I’ve seen in a while.

Looking at SSD performance, I didn’t notice a difference with the RAM upgrade. The Western Digital PCIe offered up average performance that’s similar to the Intel Optane-equipped SSD in the Lenovo Yoga C940 and well behind the much faster SSDs in the XPS 15 and the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2.

The upgradeability is nice, but the Inspiron still needs to function well as a laptop. The good news is that in most regards, it’s a solid offering.

The keyboard is comfortable, with plenty of travel and a snappy mechanism. It’s not quite up to the level of the keyboard of ,ore expensive laptops like the XPS 15 and HP Spectre x360 15, or the new MacBook Pro 16‘s Magic Keyboard, but it’s good enough for fast typing.

The touchpad is also above average, with plenty of space for a Windows 10 touchpad (nothing like the massive version on the MacBook, though) and support for Microsoft Precision touchpad drivers. Windows 10 multitouch gestures work just fine, and it’s a pleasure to use.

Next up is the display. At 15.6 inches, Full HD is a little less sharp than I prefer. For me, 1440p or 4K is a much-preferred resolution for these larger panels. However, the screen that Dell selected for the Inspiron won’t bother you in daily usage. It’s plenty bright at 323 nits, though contrast only hit 820:1. That’s below the 1000:1 threshold we like to see.

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