Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming Laptop Review

Laptops in general, but especially gaming laptops, are inherently more expensive than their desk-confined counterparts. Portability comes at a price. And yet even among gaming laptop seekers, the hunt for value is typically a primary consideration, which subsequently narrows the search to less powerful systems. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. When Nvidia announced the availability of mobile GTX 1050s and GTX 1050 Tis back in January, that triggered the release of a number of value-oriented gaming laptops that still pack a punch.

Today we’re testing the Dell Inspiron 15 7000, the first laptop we’ve tested with a GTX 1050 Ti.

Specifications

Packaging

The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 arrives in a standard shipping box with the company’s logo stamped in the middle. The laptop, warranty information, and user manual are secured with two pieces of cardboard padding. A separate compartment is squared off in the shipping box for the power adapter. A rubber strap is attached to the adapter for easy cable management. The adapter’s DC power connector glows blue when connected to a power source.

Exterior

Dell wrapped the top of the Inspiron 15 7000’s chassis with a red rubberized plastic surface. The company’s logo is engraved dead-center with a glossy black finish. The design is simple and unobtrusive, which is rare for a gaming laptop, while the vibrant red gives it some character. The rubberized finish prevents smudges and fingerprints from appearing, a problem we find often on laptops with metal finishes. The rubberized plastic wraps around the sides of the Inspiron, creating red accents on the corners of the laptop when the lid is open. If you find the red to be too ostentatious, Dell also offers models with a black rubberized finish and a red logo.

The inner workspace features a normal black plastic finish with a smooth surface. The plastic surface will attract blemishes over time, albeit not at the same rate as a metal finish would. There are subtle red accents, such as the keyboard’s lettering and the trackpad’s left/right click divider, and these decorate the otherwise minimalist interior. The Inspiron 15 7000’s power button is located at the top right and is illuminated in white when the system is powered. Finally, the Dell logo is stamped just below the display in matte silver.

The rear lip adopts a bit more character, departing from the simple and minimalist design of the lid and interior. It consists of a gray plastic shroud covering the two rear exhaust fins. The exhaust grilles have a criss-cross design which, while bolder than the rest of the Inspiron’s aesthetics, aren’t as extravagant as designs we’ve seen in the past. Just past the grilles you can see the heat fins painted in red.

The bottom end of the Inspiron 15 7000 reverts back to a simple design. There are two air intake grilles with elaborate triangular cutouts. An additional grille for the subwoofer can be found on the top left corner of the panel. Two long rubber feet span the length of the bottom panel and on the exhaust shroud at the back. Inspiron branding is engraved in the center of the bottom panel. Overall, the Inspiron 15 7000 has an incredibly sturdy build. There are few, if any, flex points, which is impressive for a completely plastic chassis, and a $900 one at that.

Dell hides the Inspiron’s speakers very inconspicuously behind the front lip. You’ll notice a triangular cutout design with a layer of red mesh under it. The mesh hides two holes through which sound can escape the chassis. This is an admittedly clever way of masking the speakers, but an upward-firing placement would have much better served the audio experience.

The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 has a standard hinge range of about 135°. The hinge is a bit stiff, but you can rest assured that the display won’t swing or shake with slight bumps.

The Inspiron’s I/O consists only of the absolute essentials. Starting from the right you’ll find a Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45 port, an HDMI 2.0 port, 2 USB 3.0 ports, and a combo headphone/microphone jack. On the left you’ll find an SD card reader, another USB 3.0 port, the DC power jack, and a Noble lock slot.

Display


The Inspiron 15 7000 features a 1920×1080 display with a matte finish. Unfortunately, this particular model doesn’t have an IPS display, so viewing angles aren’t on par with the laptops we’ve tested in the past. Dell offers models with FHD IPS touch displays as well as UHD IPS displays for an additional cost. The HDMI 2.0 port allows users to connect an additional display.

Input Devices

The Inspiron features a scissor-switch keyboard with a number pad. Everyone’s hands are different, so key spacing and actuation distance preferences will be subjective. We found the spacing between the keys a little too wide and the actuation distance a bit shallow. The keys feature red backlighting, adding some gamer flare to the Dell’s simple design. At $900, expect no extravagant RGB lights and typing effects.

We’re glad to find that the Inspiron 15’s trackpad has a nice, uniform actuation. We shouldn’t be surprised, but we are, considering that a good trackpad is hard to come by on gaming laptops. The matte surface is comfortable to use and multi-touch functions work seamlessly. Our only gripe with this trackpad is that fine movements can be jerky. It’s still advisable to use your own mouse, especially while gaming, but for situations where a mouse isn’t necessary, the trackpad will serve you just fine.  

Interior

Accessing the internal components couldn’t be easier on the Inspiron. The bottom panel is secured to the chassis with just one screw. Removing the bottom panel reveals a streamlined internal layout giving easy access to the upgradeable components. The two DDR4 memory slots are located in the middle, the 2.5″ SATA slot is located on the top right corner, and the M.2 SSD slot is located just below it. Left of the M.2 slot is an Intel Dual-Band Wireless AC 3165 for wireless networking. Finally, the 74Wh battery is located at the top. A gray plastic skeleton covers the cooling solution, which consists of two larger heat pipes, the CPU and GPU heatsinks, and two exhaust fans on the left and right.

Software

The Inspiron 15 7000 is relatively barebones as far as software goes. You won’t find a comprehensive software suite with advanced overclocking options or keyboard backlighting controls. Instead, Dell pre-loads SupportAssist, which will perform system checkup scans and download drivers.

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Samsung SmartCam SNH-P6410NB

Samsung’s indoor IP camera is often used in conjunction with the company’s SmartThings smart home system, where it can be triggered by a window lock for example, but it also serves very well as a standalone security camera for an office or commercial premises. 

Offering Full HD resolution images, two-way audio and a fully articulated mounting bracket, the SmartCam SNH-P6410NB – which retails at £130 (around $160, AU$210) – can be instantly installed to remotely monitor your house or office, sending alerts to your phone when it senses any sound or motion.

Using a decent CMOS sensor, this camera is able to record fairly smooth, clear and natural-looking images in 1080p, or two lower resolutions if you’re worried about your bandwidth. We found that our heavily loaded home network did drop out a few times during testing when in Full HD mode.

Motion sensors will trigger a recording, if you specify that, storing them locally on a microSD card, or storing your footage in the cloud for a fee.

The companion app, called SmartCam, allows you to set up push notifications and gives you a live view of your room (which you can zoom into).

A built-in speaker and microphone enable communication, in case you need to scare off any actual burglars. Alternatively, you can play them one of three tunes, including a lullaby. Okay, this last one isn’t a security feature, it’s in case you want to use the camera as a baby monitor.

Spec Sheet

Here are the full specs of the SmartCam SNH-P6410NB:

Type: IP camera

Location: Indoor 

Mounting: Wall/ceiling bracket included  

Connectivity: Wi-Fi/Ethernet 

Resolution: 1080p

Night Vision: IR LED 

Motion sensor: Yes

Audio: Two-way sound

Battery: No

Local video storage: microSD (up to 64GB)

App support: Android/iOS 

Subscription: Free 

Size/Weight: 90 x 135 x 40mm (W x H x D); 117g 

Design

The simple circular design and glossy white finish makes this compact security camera blend into the background, especially when mounted on a white ceiling. 

It feels rather lightweight and plasticky, as though it wouldn’t take much to snap the stand, so we’d recommend installing it out of harm’s way. You will only need to accommodate the power cable if you choose to connect via Wi-Fi instead of the bundled Ethernet cable. 

The twisting and rotating bracket means you can have every angle covered, while the wide angle of the camera lens generally puts the whole room in view anyway.

Installation and use

This camera is especially easy to set up, thanks to the inclusion of an Ethernet port and cable, which means you don’t need to establish a Wi-Fi connection. However, connecting wirelessly is also made simple by Samsung’s SmartCam app. Download this free app onto your Apple or Android device, sign up to Samsung’s free service and it will walk you through the process of connecting the camera to your Wi-Fi network.

We found that the camera quite often lost its connection with the wireless router, even though they were in the same room, which of course means you lose the feed and the recording, so we would advise making a hardwired Ethernet connection if possible. 

The app will also let you specify when you want to be alerted by phone to either movement or noise at the camera’s location. You can also connect it to your Google account to receive emails, or to Picasa if you want to have images automatically uploaded there.

The software isn’t quite as slick and intuitive as the Nest or Netatmo apps, and there’s no ‘timeline view’, but it is fairly easy to navigate. Instead of a scrollable timeline of events, recordings appear in a basic list, or a calendar view for checking back on monthly happenings.

The hardest thing to achieve, via the settings, is how to set up recording schedules and zones of motion activity, which are buried deep in the menu system.

More annoying is the camera’s tendency to lose its wireless connection, as mentioned, and also the constant demand for passwords. You need a password to adjust the app and another to address the camera every time you view it. If you’re signed into your phone, we think that should be enough to check your own camera.

Performance

The video quality available here is quite impressive. Set to 1080p resolution, both live view and recorded clips are clear and bright. The quality drops as you zoom in of course, but it’s still good enough to recognise faces as they pass below the camera. There’s no actual face recognition software here, mind you. That remains the preserve of more sophisticated cameras like the Netatmo Welcome.

What is useful is the way your recordings can be saved onto your phone, or directly onto a microSD card. So instead of paying a monthly fee for storage on Samsung’s cloud servers, footage is held locally, which also feels more secure. The slot can take a 64GB microSD card, although you don’t get a card bundled. 

The integration of two-way audio adds some useful functionality, especially if you happen to need a baby monitor, but don’t expect hi-fi quality from the speaker. What you can do, rather surprisingly, is add your own speaker to boost the sound output by using the available mini-jack port. This is a bonus feature that we think few people will actually use.

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[Daily Deal] Save 56% on the ShowTop 10000mAh Power Bank

The ShowTop Power Bank can charge any smartphone, tablet or USB powered device. It packs a 10000mAh Li-ion battery with dual-port USB charger. This power bank also supports over-charging, over-voltage, over-current, and short circuit. It can charge an Apple iPhone 6 almost 4 times, an iPad mini or a Samsung Galaxy S6 almost 3 times. Featuring an ultra-slim design and a hard plastic and aluminium alloy construction, the ShowTop Power Bank is on offer today. Save 56% and get it for £11.89. You can also qualify for free delivery in the UK when your order is over £20. This lightning deal is only valid for 3 hours.

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The Nintendo Switch, Hands On

People will continue to buzz about the Nintendo Switch for the foreseeable future. Based on our time with the console, its Pro Controller, and the flagship Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, that’s because Nintendo made some good decisions, some bad ones, and more than a few befuddling errors.

Switch was built to make it so people don’t have to choose between a home console and a handheld device, and you feel that concept of compromise in nearly every aspect of the device.

Hardware

Switch is larger than most handheld devices, thanks to its 6.2” display and the Joy-Con controllers attached to its side, but smaller than the PlayStation 4. It doesn’t fold in half like the 3DS, nor does it sit horizontally like the Xbox One. It’s truly unique in the modern console market.

Also unlike the various iterations of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, which use custom 8-core CPUs based on AMD’s Jaguar microarchitecture, the Switch uses a custom Tegra processor from Nvidia. It also has just 32GB of onboard storage, versus the 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB options from Sony and Microsoft. The Switch has more in common with smartphones than with other consoles.

Product Name Nintendo Switch (Console)
Size 102 x 239 x 13.9mm (with Joy-Con attached)

Please note: 28.4mm at the thickest, from the tips of the analog sticks to the ZL/ZR Button protrusions.

Weight Approx. 297g

(With Joy-Con controllers attached: 398g)

Screen Capacitive touch screen

6.2 inch LCD

1280×720 resolution

CPU / GPU
Nvidia customized Tegra processor
System Storage 32 GB

Please note: a portion of this internal memory is reserved for use by the system.

Communication Features Wireless LAN (IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac compliant)

Bluetooth 4.1 (TV mode only. A wired LAN connection is possible through the use of a commercially available wired LAN adapter.)

Video Output Maximum resolution: 1920×1080, 60 fps

Please note: output via HDMI cable in TV mode. In tabletop mode and handheld mode, the maximum resolution is 1280×720, which matches the screen resolution.

Audio Output Supports linear PCM 5.1ch
Please note: output via HDMI cable in TV mode.
Speakers
USB Terminal USB Type-C terminal
Used for charging or for connecting to the Nintendo Switch dock.
Headphone Mic. Jack
Stereo output
Game Card Slot
Exclusively for Nintendo Switch game cards.
microSD Card Slot Compatible with microSD, microSDHC, and microSDXC memory cards.

Please note: an update via an internet connection is required to use microSDXC memory cards.

Sensors Accelerometer

Gyroscope

Brightness sensor

Operating Environment Temperature: 5-35°C

Humidity: 20-80%

Internal Battery Lithium ion battery / battery capacity 4310mAh

Please note: the internal battery cannot be removed. If the battery needs to be replaced, we plan to offer paid replacement via Nintendo Customer Support.

Battery Life Battery life can last for more than six hours, but will vary depending on the software and usage conditions.

For example, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild can be played for roughly three hours on a single charge.

Charging Time 3 hours approx.

Please note: this is the time taken to charge while the console is in sleep mode.

That novelty extends to where you can use Switch. Nintendo wants you to use the device in three different modes—handheld, tabletop, and TV—instead of limiting it to one aspect of your life. That’s the console’s primary appeal: giving you the chance to play with Switch on the bus, prop it up on a friend’s coffee table, or connect it to a TV back at home, all without interruption.

We’ve spent a while with the console in all three modes—one less than the others, for reasons that will become clear.

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First full-scale Hyperloop system is almost ready for takeoff

Hyperloop One is well on its way to developing the world’s first fully operational Hyperloop transportation system. The company revealed its progress on Tuesday at the Middle East Rail conference in Dubai, sharing pictures and footage of its Nevada development site dubbed “DevLoop.” 

Taking Elon Musk’s Hyperloop concept of a levitating pod in a low-pressure tube, Hyperloop One has developed what is so far the only full-scale, full-system Hyperloop test site. In May, the company successfully tested its propulsion system and said it plans to test the entire apparatus this year. If successful, the first commercial application for the transportation system would be linking Dubai to Abu Duabi, a one-and-a-half-hour trip that would be reduced to just 12 minutes. 

Hyperloop One DevLoopHyperloop One

Hyperloop One’s DevLoop test structure spans 500 meters along the Nevada desert. 

On it’s website, Hyperloop One said that it hopes to be transporting cargo by 2020 and passengers by 2021. 

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D-Link DCS-2530L review

D-Link has been making IP security cameras for years, and the current range is larger than most manufacturers’. The DCS-2530L is the latest and has an ulta-wide-angle lens that gives you a full 180-degree view, so there’s no need for a motorised pan and tilt mechanism.

D-Link DCS-2530L review: Price

You can buy the DCS-2530L from D-Link’s website for £166.

As it’s brand new, that would be a pre-order: it goes on sale 22 March.

This is relatively expensive for a camera that offers no bundled  cloud storage. The Y-Cam Evo, for example, is £130 and gives you a week’s rolling cloud storage for free.

D-Link DCS-2530L review: Features and design

With its plastic body and stand, you don’t get the same feeling of reassurance from the DCS-2530 that you do with the Nest Cam.

However, given that this is an indoor camera designed to sit on a shelf, it’s not a big issue. The circular camera rotates within the body of the stand, so it can be mounted at any angle: there are slots in the base which can be hooked onto screws.

DCS-2530L review

DCS-2530L review

Placing the camera could be an issue, though, as the power supply has a 1.5m cable – noticeably shorter than most. It has a micro-USB connector for power though, so you could use a spare phone charger with a USB extension cable.

As well as a 180-degree lens the camera has a 1080p sensor and recordings are stored on a microSD card, which slots into the side. Up to 128GB cards are supported, but none is included.

Features are pretty much what you’d expect: you can view a live feed from the camera via an app for Android or iOS, plus through D-Link’s website. You can opt to set recording triggers for motion or sound, and everything is configurable.

There’s no speaker, so no two-way audio, but the microphone does allow you to hear what’s going on.

Infrared LEDs automatically turn on when it’s dark for a better night view in extremely low light.

D-Link DCS-2530L review: Setup and operation

We set up the camera using an iPad. You have to download the free mydlink lite app, which walks you through the process of either using WPS to get the camera onto your Wi-Fi network, or connecting to the camera’s own Wi-Fi and then entering your network password.

It’s an easy process, and it sensibly asks you to set a password to prevent unauthorised access to the camera feed.

Creating a mydlink account is optional, but if you don’t you won’t be able to view the video remotely, nor change any settings or get push notifications when you’re not connected to the same local Wi-Fi network.

We couldn’t create an account on the iPad due to a strange error, but it was no problem doing so on D-Link’s website.

Once that’s done you have to tap the button to the right of the camera to enable it in your D-Clink cloud account.

Recording clips to the cloud is a separate service (and app), but can you record on demand by using the button from the live view (this and snapshots are saved to your camera roll), and you can browse the recordings on the SD card when you’re out and about.

Overall, the app feels clunky and in need of some bug fixes and interface changes. For example, you can set the sensitivity of motion detection, but in the iOS app we mainly tested with, you can only select – but not de-select – boxes in the grid.

D-Link DCS-2530L review

D-Link DCS-2530L review

Selecting a box means you want to watch for motion in that area, but the 5×5 grid is too coarse and doesn’t allow the precise control you’d want.

If you dig deep into the advanced settings available in the online portal, you’ll find a much finer grid, but here it appears you can select only 15 or so tiny boxes.

The other gripe concerns the way the app is split into ‘local’ and ‘remote’ sections. You have to tap on the relevant one depending on whether you’re at home connected to Wi-Fi or away and ‘remote’. This is unnecessary and confusing.

When you are at home, you can choose to view a 480p, 720p or the full 1080p feed, and there’s very minimal delay. You can also pinch to zoom in on the image and drag it around to simulate panning. This works well, and is far better than the sluggish, frustrating mechanism of the SpotCam Eva, which is a real pan / tilt camera.

Image quality is very good, too, but do be aware that the wide-angle lens means objects appear much smaller than on a camera with a ‘normal’ lens. So when you zoom in, you won’t see any more detail. The benefit here is that you can see a huge area, whereas on a ‘normal’ camera without pan and tilt, you cannot.

Here’s a 1080p ‘photo’ taken within the app, unedited. It’s compressed more highly than we’d have expected, amounting to only 200KB in 720p mode, and 350KB in 1080p. 

D-Link DCS-2530L sample

D-Link DCS-2530L sample

Returning to the web portal for a second, you have to install a plugin in Chrome in order to see the camera feed. This has to be done for each computer you use, but only once. The downside is that there’s no way to pan around the image when you’ve zoomed in, so full-screen viewing is the only way to see the detail in the image, unless you just want to look at the centre.

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Como Audio Duetto radio review: Retro done right

One could easily mistake the Como Audio Duetto as a vestige of the Rat Pack era. The half-inch walls of its cabinet are sheathed in a furniture-quality wood veneer rarely seen these days. There are six radio preset push buttons above the display, and three old-fashioned knobs below it. But that nostalgic feeling evaporates as soon as you push the leftmost knob to turn the radio on, and an analog clock face changes to a grid of icons that includes the Spotify logo.

The 3.2-inch display doesn’t boast a high resolution, and it’s not a touchscreen, but it hardly matters. Most speakers in this class don’t include a display at all. And if you must have a touchscreen, download the Como Audio app to your smartphone (there are Android and iOS versions). Don’t want to use your phone? There’s an infrared remote, too.

Music sources

However you choose to control the Duetto, you’ll be able to access music from just about any source you have, whether it be online (Spotify Connect, internet radio); on your network (from a DLNA media server running on a NAS box); on your smartphone (connected via Bluetooth, with NFC for easy pairing and aptX codec support for near-CD audio quality); a USB drive (the Duetto can enumerate and decode everything from AAC to FLAC, MP3, WMA, and WAV files); or terrestrial FM radio (DAB/DAB+ in the areas of the world where that standard is available).

Duetto io Michael Brown

The Duetto covers all the bases in terms of audio inputs and outputs.

One of the few ways you can’t feed it music is by “casting,” at least not natively. You can power a Chromecast Audio dongle (or even an Amazon Echo Dot) from the Duetto’s USB port and plug a 3.5mm cable into its aux input. Need even more flexibility? There’s a Toslink digital optical input and a 3.5mm headphone jack, too, though it would be more convenient to have the latter mounted in front.

I streamed music from a variety of sources, including Spotify, internet radio, a WD My Cloud Mirror NAS box on my network, Bluetooth from my phone, and finally from a USB flash drive and then a USB hard drive. The chief benefit of the Duetto’s support for Spotify Connect is that the music streams over Wi-Fi versus from your phone via Bluetooth. The music will never be interrupted by a phone call.

Playing music from a storage device is convenient if a friend comes over with a thumb or hard drive with his own collection of music, or if connecting to your Wi-Fi network just isn’t an option. (The Duetto has an 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter onboard, but there is no option for hardwired ethernet.)

Duetto display Michael Brown

Having Spotify Connect onboard is much preferred to streaming Spotify from your phone (provided you’re a Spotify subscriber, of course).

The radio had no problem spinning up newer-vintage mechanical drives, but it couldn’t provide enough juice to spin up an old 250GB Seagate FreeAgent Go that I found in my closet. No great loss on that score, as far as I’m concerned. I typically play music from the NAS box or stream Spotify or Tidal when I want to hear tracks I don’t already own. Come to think of it, Tidal would be a nice addition to the Duetto’s repertoire.

Amplifier, drivers, and performance

The Duetto has a 30-watt-per-channel (RMS) Class D amplifier driving a pair of 19mm soft dome tweeters and two 3-inch long-throw woofers. A rear bass port helps with the reproduction low of frequencies, and the radio benefits tremendously from having a wall or other vertical surface behind it to reflect those sound waves.