Review Dell Inspiron 15-7537 Notebook

Till Schönborn (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 11/04/2013

Long-lasting all-rounder. An economic Core i7 processor and a dedicated Nvidia GPU topped with a lot of storage and wrapped up in an elegant aluminum casing - this is the recipe for a versatile and high-performance multimedia laptop. But is it enough to justify the ambitious price of almost 1200 Euros (~$1619)?

For the original German review, see here.

There's a new family member in Dell's laptop lineup. With the new Inspiron 15 7000 series, the manufacturer follows the latest industrial design trend: making laptops increasingly thinner even outside of the ultrabook category.

This drastic treatment does not mean that the user has to accept compromises in configuration or performance. Apart from the omitted optical drive, the Inspiron 15-7537 excels with almost all features that are expected from a modern, high-end laptop: A swift Intel Core i7-4500U from the Haswell generation supplies appealing performance, while a lush 16 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD cover storage needs. Even gaming fans are satisfied and can enjoy up to date titles on a 15.6-inch Full HD touchscreen owing to the dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 750M.

In view of this hardware power, it is not surprising that the purchase price does not fit into tight budgets. Approximately 1200 Euros (~$1619) plus shipping is currently demanded for the described top configuration. However, buyers can also opt for one of the two lower priced models that are offered for prices starting at 799 Euros (~$1078) and 979 Euros (~$1321). On the whole, the new series competes with other premium multimedia laptops, such as the Samsung ATIV Book 8 or Acer Aspire V7-582PG.

Processor Core i5-4200U Core i7-4500U Core i7-4500U
RAM 6 GB DDR3-1600 8 GB DDR3L-1600 16 GB DDR3L-1600
Storage Device 500 GB HDD 1000 GB HDD 256 GB SSD
Graphics Card GeForce GT 750M GeForce GT 750M GeForce GT 750M
Display 1366x768 pixels 1920x1080 pixels 1920x1080 pixels
Price 799 Euros (~$1078) 979 Euros (~$1321) 1199 Euros (~$1619)

Case

Solid aluminum casing
Solid aluminum casing

The Inspiron's solid aluminum chassis makes it look bulkier than it actually is. Except for the base plate, almost the entire laptop is made of this light metal. Its matte surface supplies a high-end feel. The screen's black frame adds the matching contrast to the mostly silver color. The screen itself is covered with particularly resistant Corning Gorilla Glass that protects it from scratches.

Although the casing's height is just a bit over 2.2 centimeters, the laptop's weight of approx. 2.6 kilograms is comparatively high. The focus was obviously placed on stability and quality rather than portability. Both the base unit and the screen defy even stronger force without visible distortions or annoying creaking noises. The stiffness is also at a very high standard.

The long display hinge is almost pulled too tight and the user will have to use both hands to open it. Dell promises that the hinge will work impeccably even after closing the display 20000 times - we naturally cannot verify this in the course of the test, but the entire laptop makes a subjectively extremely rigid and durable impression. Alongside the virtually immaculate build quality, even in details, the Inspiron outshines some contenders.

Connectivity

The user is given many options for connecting additional peripherals owing to four USB ports that all correspond to the current USB 3.0 standard. Unfortunately, the laptop does not have any other noteworthy highlights apart from that. Almost all contenders offer a card reader (SD/MMC/MS), a headset jack and/or Gbit LAN. We would have, for example, appreciated a (mini-) DisplayPort since the HDMI out is only suitable for very high-definition monitors to a certain degree. It would also have been great if Dell had placed frequently used interfaces a bit further front on the casing.

Front: No interfaces
Front: No interfaces
Left: Kensington lock, power socket, 2x USB 3.0
Left: Kensington lock, power socket, 2x USB 3.0
Rear: No interfaces
Rear: No interfaces
Right: Card reader, headset jack, 2x USB 3.0, HDMI, Gbit LAN
Right: Card reader, headset jack, 2x USB 3.0, HDMI, Gbit LAN

Communication

Contrary to the information on Dell's online shop, where an 802.11 ac capable Wi-Fi adapter is sometimes specified, our review sample "only" sports an Intel Wireless-N 7260 module. This model only supports the IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n standards besides Bluetooth 4.0. However, it transmits in both the 2.4 and 5 GHz networks owing to dual band support. This enables gross data rates of up to 300 Mbit/s (dual-stream, 2x2) providing a suitable router is available.

Regrettably, the solid metal casing seems to have a negative impact on the connection quality and range. The transmission rates slightly lag behind other laptops in medium and larger distances. Users who rely on good Wi-Fi reception might need an additional range extender.

The 1.0 megapixel webcam is also a slight disappointment. Like most contenders, the image quality is at most suitable for communication purposes even in good lighting conditions. Pictures and videos are characterized by a visible noise and lack in detail. The array microphone's very loud and clear transmission does a better job.

Accessories

The manufacturer does not add any extras and only includes a matching 90 watt power supply for the laptop. The preinstalled Windows 8 operating system (64-bit) is just as lean. Apart from some superfluous adware - we have seen much worse things in other devices - and the compulsory virus scanner (trial version of McAfee), the system is almost bare.

Maintenance

Screw-fastened maintenance cover
Screw-fastened maintenance cover

After removing four screws, the device's underside can be opened to a large extent. Both memory banks and the 2.5-inch slot are unfortunately filled ex-factory, just like the sole mini-PCIe slot. Consequently, upgrading would only be possible by removing the existing components.

However, the manufacturer has to be praised for the fact that the heat sink and fan can be cleaned without disassembling the laptop even more. This should be done regularly to prevent increasing hardware temperatures and thus a higher risk of failure depending on the surroundings.

Warranty

As typical for Dell, the Inspiron 15 comes with a short 12 month warranty (collect and return service). Of course, the service package can be upgraded but the demanded prices are quite steep - this should also be considered when comparing with the competition. A dizzying 129 Euros (~$174) is charged for an upgrade to two years on-site service and even more is demanded for three or four years (189/249 Euros, ~$255/$336).

Input Devices

Keyboard

The silver-gray chiclet keyboard resembles that of other models from the Inspiron series but is not completely identical. The layout had to be compressed a bit because of the fairly wide lateral frame and some keys, like Enter, are very small. However, the letter keys are still 15 x 15 millimeters in size and the convenient number pad is also installed. Another handy extra is the two-level backlight that submerges the keyboard in a gentle white light.

The typing feel only convinced us to an extent. The agreeably firm stroke is affected by a slight recoiling and short drop. It needs a bit of time to get used to this peculiarity. The noise development is pleasantly restrained. Activity is only noticed by a quiet clacking noise even when typing fast.

Touchpad

Like many other manufacturers, Dell more and more uses touchpads in the so-called ClickPad design. It is enough to press the corresponding side of the here generous 10.5 x 8 centimeter input surface to trigger a mouse click. The short and crisp pressure point compensates for the omitted dedicated keys.

The pad's lightly textured surface provides the finger with a certain resistance which enables a better feedback. Other advantages are the support of various multi-touch gestures with up to 4 fingers and the extremely accurate implementation of all input commands.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Touchpad
Touchpad

Touchscreen

Although the Inspiron 15 is not an ultrabook and therefore does not imperatively need a touchscreen, it belongs to the standard configuration of all models offered in Germany. The accuracy and responsiveness are excellent and facilitate using the new Windows 8 user interface. Nevertheless, some users would likely appreciate a matte screen without touch function, which would also reduce the device's weight and production costs.

Display

Depending on the Inspiron model, the 15.6-inch screen has a resolution of either 1366x768 (WXGA) or 1920x1080 pixels (Full HD). The latter screen is installed in our review sample and reaches a pixel density of 141 dpi. Even if some laptop screens are now quickly closing in on 300 dpi, we deem this resolution to be a sensible compromise between price, screen size and focus. Also, it is more likely that interpolation is unnecessary in games.

The screen does not quite achieve the 300 cd/m² that Dell promises, but the 267 cd/m² we ascertained is a good rate. The brightness, which is also consistently maintained in battery mode, is distributed quite homogeneously over the entire screen. The slight decrease at the upper edge is virtually imperceptible to the human eye.

249
cd/m²
245
cd/m²
250
cd/m²
270
cd/m²
271
cd/m²
277
cd/m²
268
cd/m²
284
cd/m²
293
cd/m²
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 293 cd/m²
Average: 267.4 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 84 %
Center on Battery: 278 cd/m²
Black: 0.25 cd/m²
Contrast: 1084:1
Distribution of brightness

The screen from the manufacturer LG Philips is based on IPS technology and offers a range of advantages compared with a TN screen. The particularly high black value of 0.25 cd/m² results in an extremely high contrast ratio of 1084:1. This places the Inspiron 15 before Samsung's ATIV Book 8 (1017:1) and Acer's Aspire V7-582PG (674:1). The image also subjectively convinces with a rich and vivid reproduction that especially enhances games and movies noticeably.

However, the laptop is not quite suitable for applications from the photo and image editing field. Although the average deviations of colors and grayscale are lower (DeltaE 6.2/6.7) than in many other consumer devices, the requirements of a professional user cannot be fulfilled. The limited color gamut that clearly fails the vital standards, such as sRGB and AdobeRGB, adds to that.

Inspiron 15 vs. AdobeRGB (t)
Inspiron 15 vs. AdobeRGB (t)
Inspiron 15 vs. sRGB (t)
Inspiron 15 vs. sRGB (t)
Inspiron 15 vs. Aspire V7-582PG (t)
Inspiron 15 vs. Aspire V7-582PG (t)
ColorChecker (uncalibrated)
ColorChecker (uncalibrated)
Saturation Sweeps (uncalibrated)
Saturation Sweeps (uncalibrated)
Grayscale (uncalibrated)
Grayscale (uncalibrated)
Outdoors
Outdoors

The strong backlight is useful outdoors but this advantage is partly reversed due to the screen's glossy surface. Intense reflections, particularly in direct sunlight, are a serious problem and again make us want a matte screen. However, this is equally true for the competition from Acer that relies on a glare-type touchscreen. Samsung leaves the choice up to the user.

Viewing angles: Dell Inspiron 15-7537
Viewing angles: Dell Inspiron 15-7537

As appropriate for a high-quality IPS screen, the content largely remains true and well-legible even in extremely slanted viewing angles. However, the rather intense brightness decrease as soon as an angle of approximately 30 to 40 degrees is surpassed is striking. Nevertheless, TN-based screens like many manufacturers still install even in higher price ranges do a much worse job here.

Performance

3.0 GHz maximum Turbo speed
3.0 GHz maximum Turbo speed

Gone are the times when energy-efficient ULV processors were exclusively reserved for compact ultrabooks or subnotebooks. Full-blown multimedia machines now also use these CPUs more frequently because they allow a particularly thin build. Another reason is the rapid performance increase: The Core i7-4500U has two cores with a clock rate of 1.8 to 3.0 GHz, which ensures an outstanding performance despite its low TDP of 15 watts. Of course, the Haswell CPU also supports Hyper Threading and the new AVX2 extension; more details about this and other features can be found in our database.

No matter whether entry-level or top model, all configurations of the new Inspiron 15 not only feature the processor-integrated HD Graphics 4400 but also sport a dedicated GeForce GT 750M. This accelerator is located in the upper midfield and should easily cope with most current games - but more about that later. Nvidia's Optimus technology selects the most suitable GPU for the situation completely automatically so that the energy-hungry GeForce card is only enabled in demanding 3D applications.

The manufacturer is very generous in terms of memory and treats the laptop to an awesome 16 GB of RAM alongside a 256 GB SSD. The working memory is distributed over two 8 GB modules in the efficient DDR3L-1600 standard.

System information: Dell Inspiron 15-7537

Processor

CPU clock in default settings...
CPU clock in default settings...
...and with amended TDP (15 watts)
...and with amended TDP (15 watts)

Right after starting a benchmark, the Core i7-4500U behaved as expected at first and easily reached its maximum Turbo of 2.7 GHz in multi-threading and 3.0 GHz in single-threading depending on the load. However, this changed after about 30 seconds of load. We observed a clock rate drop to 1.8 up to 1.9 GHz although the temperatures were not critical (single-thread test: 2.5 to 2.6 GHz). This naturally affects the score negatively. The Turbo was only maxed out partially in other benchmarks as well.

The reason for this problem that occurs in both AC and battery mode will presumably be found in the BIOS. According to Intel's Extreme Tuning Utility, the CPU's TDP has apparently been incorrectly set to 10.5 watts, which would be a logical explanation for this behavior. The clock rate and performance climbed to roughly the expected level after we manually set the correct 15 watts (Cinebench R11.5: 1.32/2.71 points).

We have contacted Dell, where our problem could not be explained. Our review sample is possibly a single case but we currently cannot confirm this with certainty. We will keep our readers updated. Despite the performance loss of up to 25%, the Inspiron still provides enough power reserves for most applications. Only the surcharge for the swift Core i7 CPU seems a bit wasted.

Cinebench R11.5
CPU Multi 64Bit
Dell Inspiron 15-7537
GeForce GT 750M, 4500U, Samsung SSD SM841 256GB MZ7PD256HAFV
2.12 Points ∼18%
Acer Aspire V7-582PG-74508G52tkk
GeForce GT 750M, 4500U, Toshiba MQ01ABF050
2.63 Points ∼22% +24%
Acer Aspire V7-582P-6673
HD Graphics 4400, 4200U, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT012-9WS142 + 20 GB SSD Cache
2.46 Points ∼21% +16%
Samsung ATIV Book 8 Touch 880Z5E X01
Radeon HD 8870M, 3635QM, Toshiba MQ01ABD100
6.46 Points ∼54% +205%
CPU Single 64Bit
Dell Inspiron 15-7537
GeForce GT 750M, 4500U, Samsung SSD SM841 256GB MZ7PD256HAFV
1.09 Points ∼59%
Acer Aspire V7-582PG-74508G52tkk
GeForce GT 750M, 4500U, Toshiba MQ01ABF050
1.31 Points ∼71% +20%
Acer Aspire V7-582P-6673
HD Graphics 4400, 4200U, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT012-9WS142 + 20 GB SSD Cache
1.11 Points ∼60% +2%
Samsung ATIV Book 8 Touch 880Z5E X01
Radeon HD 8870M, 3635QM, Toshiba MQ01ABD100
1.38 Points ∼75% +27%
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
5284 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
6726 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
8643 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
6699
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
6843
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
3923
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
43.95 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
2.12 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.09 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
105 Points
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
99.6 %
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
59.73 fps
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
195 Points
Help

Storage Devices

AS SSD benchmark
AS SSD benchmark

The 2.5-inch drive called SSD SM841 is no other than an OEM version of the well-known Samsung SSD 840 Pro. It is known for its excellent performance and exceptionally high reliability because the Pro-series uses the durable MLC rather than the lower-priced TLC storage.

After the in-depth review of the more or less identical sister model, we do not have to say much about the performance. No matter whether sequential transfer rates or the speed in accessing small 4K files, the storage device is at the very top of current flash memories in all subdivisions. Solely its capacity of just 256 GB is tight, as typical for SSDs.

Samsung SSD SM841 256GB MZ7PD256HAFV
Transfer Rate Minimum: 322.6 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 439.7 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 424.2 MB/s
Access Time: 0.1 ms
Burst Rate: 180.2 MB/s
CPU Usage: 10.6 %

System Performance

Despite the CPU's limited Turbo, the Inspiron 15 stands out with an excellent system performance. Virtually the entire competition is outclassed with 5454 points in PCMark 7. However, this comparison is not really fair because only Dell's laptop features a full-fledged SSD.

This is often worth more than a swift quad-core processor in routine use. Many start and loading processes are limited by the storage device's speed, which is much lower with a conventional hard drive. Of course, there are applications that benefit from a stronger processor. A ULV CPU will not satisfy users who edit large images or videos on a regular basis and they should preferably look at Samsung's ATIV Book 8 or Asus' N550JV.

PCMark 7 - Score
Dell Inspiron 15-7537
GeForce GT 750M, 4500U, Samsung SSD SM841 256GB MZ7PD256HAFV
5454 Points ∼82%
Acer Aspire V7-582PG-74508G52tkk
GeForce GT 750M, 4500U, Toshiba MQ01ABF050
4255 Points ∼64% -22%
Samsung ATIV Book 8 Touch 880Z5E X01
Radeon HD 8870M, 3635QM, Toshiba MQ01ABD100
3290 Points ∼50% -40%
Asus N550JV-CN201H
GeForce GT 750M, 4700HQ, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
3395 Points ∼51% -38%
6.5
Windows 8 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
7.2
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
7.6
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
6.5
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
6.5
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
8.2
PC Mark
PCMark Vantage14608 points
PCMark 75454 points
PCMark 8 Home2871 points
PCMark 8 Creative3026 points
PCMark 8 Work4423 points
Help

Graphics Card

Nvidia's GeForce GT 750M is based on the same GK107 chip as the GT 650M, which has been available for a while, but is clocked a bit higher. In this case, the core frequency is 940 to 1058 MHz (Turbo), while the large 2 GB memory connected to a 128-bit interface runs with 1000 MHz (effectively: 4000 MHz). Dell has earned special praise for deciding to install the faster GDDR5 version of the GT 750M. With 64 GB/s, it has more than twice the memory bandwidth of the DDR3 model, which primarily speeds up the performance in high resolutions and quality settings.

Depending on the benchmark, the GeForce GT 750M even outperforms the GTX 660M and comes very close to the Radeon HD 8870M. The requirements for a strong gaming performance should thus be fulfilled.

3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance GPU
Dell Inspiron 15-7537
GeForce GT 750M, 4500U, Samsung SSD SM841 256GB MZ7PD256HAFV
2650 Points ∼17%
Acer Aspire V7-582PG-74508G52tkk
GeForce GT 750M, 4500U, Toshiba MQ01ABF050
2351 Points ∼15% -11%
Samsung ATIV Book 8 Touch 880Z5E X01
Radeon HD 8870M, 3635QM, Toshiba MQ01ABD100
2980 Points ∼19% +12%
Schenker XMG A522
GeForce GTX 660M, 3610QM, Samsung SSD 830 Series MZ7PC128HAFU
2412 Points ∼15% -9%
3DMark (2013) - 1920x1080 Fire Strike Standard Graphics
Dell Inspiron 15-7537
GeForce GT 750M, 4500U, Samsung SSD SM841 256GB MZ7PD256HAFV
1877 Points ∼16%
Acer Aspire V7-582PG-74508G52tkk
GeForce GT 750M, 4500U, Toshiba MQ01ABF050
1483 Points ∼12% -21%
Samsung ATIV Book 8 Touch 880Z5E X01
Radeon HD 8870M, 3635QM, Toshiba MQ01ABD100
2346 Points ∼20% +25%
3D Mark
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
11398 points
3DMark Vantage9229 points
3DMark 112632 points
3DMark Ice Storm36107 points
3DMark Cloud Gate5766 points
3DMark Fire Strike1756 points
3DMark Fire Strike Extreme874 points
Help

Gaming Performance

Saints Row IV
Saints Row IV

We put it to the test: Apart from a slight lapse in low settings - the processor occasionally slows things down here - the Inspiron is absolutely top notch. Again, the GT 750M is within reach of the Radeon HD 8870M, although it fluctuates massively from game to game, and clearly surpasses its DDR3 version.

Nevertheless, the performance is usually not enough to render the screen's native resolution of 1920x1080 pixels smoothly, at least not in high details. High settings and 1366x768 pixels, which are interpolated quite decently, are possible without limitations in most cases. Users who want a laptop with considerably higher gaming power will have to take a bulky gaming machine with a GeForce GTX 765M or higher.

Dell Inspiron 15-7537
Intel Core i7-4500U, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Samsung SSD SM841 256GB MZ7PD256HAFV
Samsung ATIV Book 8 Touch 880Z5E X01
Intel Core i7-3635QM, AMD Radeon HD 8870M, Toshiba MQ01ABD100
Acer Aspire V7-582PG-74508G52tkk
Intel Core i7-4500U, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Toshiba MQ01ABF050
Tomb Raider
6%
-30%
1366x768 Normal Preset AA:FX AF:4x81.784
3%
61.6
-25%
1366x768 High Preset AA:FX AF:8x5758.4
2%
36.6
-36%
1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:FX AF:16x23.926.7
12%
16.8
-30%
Metro: Last Light
41%
-7%
1024x768 Low (DX10) AF:4x3653.4
48%
38
6%
1366x768 Medium (DX10) AF:4x31.447.4
51%
29.9
-5%
1366x768 High (DX11) AF:16x2430.1
25%
18.5
-23%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
24% / 24%
-19% / -19%
low med.high ultra
Anno 2070 (2011) 100.470.747.223fps
Diablo III (2012) 121105.8103.170.4fps
Tomb Raider (2013) 121.881.75723.9fps
BioShock Infinite (2013) 91.964.156.421.4fps
Metro: Last Light (2013) 3631.42413.9fps
Dota 2 (2013) 63.245.334.1fps
Saints Row IV (2013) 46.639.327.318.3fps
Total War: Rome II (2013) 89.46749.59.4fps

Emissions

System Noise

The user will have to listen closely to hear the Inspiron's fan that spins with at most 32.4 dB(A) in idle. The cooling sometimes even stops completely, which results in an absolutely silent total system alongside the SSD hard drive. The laptop remains very quiet in many routine applications, such as office, browsing, or videos.

In unrealistic extreme situations simulating heavy load, the noise level increases up to 42.5 dB(A). The laptop produces an audible but not distracting noise in 3D games and comparably demanding software, which seems acceptable in view of the hardware's power. However, we have to deduct points for the power supply because it buzzes quietly in some cases.

Noise Level

Idle 29.5 / 30.6 / 32.4 dB(A)