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Dell Inspiron 15: NVIDIA GPU Brings The Game
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Date: May 19, 2014
Section:Mobile
Author: Joshua Gulick
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Introduction and Specifications
As one of the top-shelf systems in the company's mainstream line-up, the Inspiron 15 7537 is in an interesting position in Dell’s extensive family of laptops and ultrabooks. This laptop is too pricey to be considered affordable by most consumers, and yet it’s not quite in the same class as and doesn't have the luxury features of Dell’s XPS systems.

Understandably, Dell’s premium XPS line gets a lot of attention in the press. We recently checked out the XPS 13 ultrabook and XPS 15 laptop and pegged them quality products for serious users. The Inspiron series is more likely to be overlooked by power users because the Inspiron 3000 and 5000 are Dell’s value and mainstream Inspiron lines. The 7000 represents the best of the Inspirons, however, and the specs and design quality make it worth a look for serious buyers who are turned off by the high price points of the XPS models. 



Dell Inspiron 15 7537
Specifications & Features
 Display  15.6-inch WLED Full HD Touch Screen (1920 x 1080), 270-nit brightness
 Processor
 Intel Core i7-4500U 1.8GHz (up to 3.0GHz)
 Graphics
 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 750M
 Memory
 16GB DDR3L 1600MHz (2x8GB)
 Storage
 1 TB 5400 RPM SATA Hybrid Hard Drive
 Network  Intel 7260BGN + Bluetooth 4.0, Gigabit Ethernet
 I/O Ports  Multi-Card Reader (including SD), 4x USB 3.0 ports (1 PowerShare), Ethernet, HDMI 1.4a, Headphone/Mic, Kensington Lock
 Battery  58 WHr, 4-Cell Battery
 Software  Dell Checkup, Dell Recovery, McAfee LiveSafe Trial, Wyse PocketCloud 
 Operating System
 Windows 8.1 64-bit
 Size and Weight  14.9 x 0.8 x 10 inches (Width x Height x Depth); 5.7 pounds
 Warranty  1 Year In-Home Service, 90 Days Phone Support
 Price  $1,149.90 as tested, Wide Price Range @ Amazon.Com

One of the most important features of the Dell Inspiron 15 7537 is its discrete graphics processor, which sets this system apart from most ultrabooks right out of the gate. The Nvidia GeForce GT 750M gives the 7537 a noteworthy performance advantage in a variety of tasks, as our benchmark results show on the following pages. Dell paired the graphics processor with an Intel Core i7-4500U dual-core processor, which has a base clock speed of 1.8GHz and a maximum Turbo speed of 3GHz.

The 15.6-inch WLED display offers full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution and Dell’s TrueLife technology, which is an alternative to anti-glare coatings that is meant to improve the contrast ratio. The 7537’s Corning Gorilla Glass NBT display is also a touch screen.

The 7537 is in good shape for system memory, with two 8GB DIMMs at 1600MHz. There’s also plenty of storage, and it’s reasonably speedy, too, thanks to the design of the drive. The Seagate ST1000LM014 is a SSHD; a hybrid solid-state/hard drive that gives you faster (than a hard drive) Window boot times and 1TB of storage space without the price of a true SSD. Although it’s a relatively large laptop, the 7537 doesn’t have an optical drive.

The laptop has Gigabit Ethernet and Intel 7260BGN wireless connectivity, as well as Bluetooth 4.0. The Wireless-N chip offers dual streams, but not the 2.4Ghz/5GHz dual bands that higher-end versions of the 7260 series offer.


The Dell Inspiron 7537 has a price tag of $1,149.99, less than half the price of Dell’s XPS 15 Touch, so it’s bound to be appealing to shoppers with tighter budgets.
 
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Design and Software
The aluminum body, rounded corners, and beveled edges make the Dell Inspiron 15 7537 a classy laptop, slim (0.8 inches) laptop. It’s a mostly sturdy machine that hardly flexed when we lifted it (something we can’t say for all laptops), but it doesn’t have quite the rock-solid feel of the XPS line.



As we mentioned, the 7537’s 15.6-inch display is protected by Gorilla Glass, which has a good reputation for scratch and even smudge resistance. We had no trouble tapping and swiping through Windows 8.1’s tiles and apps.

We found darks to be somewhat inky when the laptop played movies like Bram Stoker’s Dracula. That said, the screen offers good viewing angles – 160 degrees, according to Dell – even without IPS. And the speakers, which benefit from Waves MaxxAudio processing, provided loud, clear sound. Overall, the display provides a solid (but not stunning) movie-watching experience.

There is a lot to like about the 7537’s keyboard – particularly if you feel cramped when using typical laptop or ultrabook keyboards. For one thing, the 7537 has a full keyboard layout, including a number pad. For another, the keys are spaced so that even larger fingers have plenty of room. The keyboard has a white backlight, which is a small, but important feature for many of us.





As for the touchpad, it’s very responsive (and yet didn’t register random touches from our palms while typing). Push-clicking the left and right bottom corners of the touchpad is easy, but we sometimes had a trouble clicking when our fingertips were higher up on the pad. Of course, if you tap to click generally, that’s not an issue.

All of the ports are on the sides of the 7537, which makes for clean front and back panels. In fact, front is bare except for power and hard drive status LEDs. The right side features an SD card slot, a mic/headset jack, two USB ports, an HDMI port, and a Gigabit Ethernet port. Two more USB ports are on the left side, along with the power port and a Kensington lock port.





The Dell Inspiron 15 7537 arrives with a tolerable amount of pre-installed software. A 30-day trial of McAfee LiveSafe is onboard, providing the usual security features. You can access it as an app or on the Desktop. Another trial is PocketCloud, which has remote desktop and content sharing capabilities.


Dell Inspiron 15 7537 Apps


Dell Checkup


McAfee LiveSafe

Dell added a few of its own programs, too. Dell Checkup gives you quick access to diagnostics and information you’ll want to have on hand if you need to call customer support. Dell Recovery has some backup tools and gives you the lowdown on Dell’s cloud backup service, which is a paid subscription.
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SiSoft SANDRA and Cinebench
One of the most interesting comparisons in this review is the Dell XPS 13 vs. the Dell Inspiron 15 7537. Both systems have the Intel Core i7-4500, but the XPS relies on the processor’s integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400 technology, whereas the 7537 is sporting the Nvidia GeForce GT 750M. Differences in other hardware mean that it’s not a true apples-to-apples comparison, but it’s interesting, nonetheless, particularly if you’re wondering whether discrete graphics is worth the price bump.

SiSoft SANDRA
Synthetic Benchmarks
SiSoft SANDRA has a variety of tests that stress specific components or simulate certain tasks. We put the Aspire S7 through the CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia, Memory Bandwidth, and Physical Disks tests. SANDRA receives frequent updates, so if you use the benchmark, check to make sure you have the latest version.



SANDRA CPU and Multimedia Benchmarks




SANDRA Memory and File System Benchmarks

The 7537's graphics power isn't on display in these tests as much as it will be in the 3D benchmarks. Also, keep in mind that while the hybrid drive is not as fast as SSDs, it offers more capacity for a lower price.

Cinebench R11.5 64-bit

Based on Maxon Cinema 4D software, this test uses a 3D scene and polygon and texture manipulation to assess GPU and CPU performance. The Main Processor Performance (CPU) test builds a still scene containing about 2,000 objects for a total polygon count above 300,000. The Graphics Card Performance (OpenGL) scene uses nearly 1 million polygons and various lighting and environment scenarios to measure graphics performance. Cinebench displays results for the CPU test in points and the OpenGL (GPU) test in frames per second.




Cinebench R15

We expected the 7537 to score well in the OpenGL test, and it did, putting Dell’s laptop well ahead of the pack. But Intel’s Core i7-4500U held its own, too, with the best results in the CPU test. We're also including the system's scores in the latest version of Cinebench.
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PCMark 7 and PCMark 8
Over the years, Futuremark has made a name for itself with comprehensive benchmarks that provide consistent results for comparing granular and big-picture performance. We put the Dell Inspiron 15 7537 through PCMark 7, which has been around for a while, and PCMark 8, which is the latest benchmark in the series. With PCMark 7 we've provided overall scores, while PCMark 8 tests are broken out into three key modules.

Futuremark PCMark 7
Simulated Application Performance
PCMark 7 runs through the types of tasks your ultrabook is likely to encounter during ordinary home and office use. It tests the system’s graphics capabilities as part of the process, but you should think of PCMark 7 as an indicator of system’s general usage performance. We’ll get to the gaming-oriented benchmarks on the next page. 


The 7537 surprised us a bit in PCMark7, scoring only 4191. We didn't expect the discrete graphics to make much of an impact in this test, but given the performance of the XPS 13 (which has the same processor), the 7537's score is disappointing. The hybrid hard drive may be part of the issue here, as it's not a true SSD.

Futuremark PCMark 8
Simulated Application Performance
Futuremark recently launched PCMark 8, which has several separate benchmarks. The Home test measures a system's ability to handle basic tasks: video chatting, web browsing, photo editing, and similar day-to-day activities. The test is designed to be run on just about any Windows 7 or 8 computer. The Creative test offers some of the same types of tasks, but puts more stress on the system and is meant for mid-range and higher-end systems. The Work test simulates the workflow of a typical office user. And the Storage test - you guessed it - benchmark's your system’s data storage performance.


The hybrid drive gives the 7537 lots of storage without spiking the system’s price, but it means the laptop suffers a little (compared to systems with SSDs) in storage heavy tests. It handled the Home Accelerated and Work Accelerated tests very well, though. 
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Gaming Benchmarks
Although integrated graphics have come a long way, a discrete graphics processor is still the best way to get your game on. We’ve benchmarked a few systems with discrete cards already, so it will be interesting to see how the Dell Inspiron 7537 compares. Given that it has the news Nvidia mobile graphics we’ve tested, it had better come out on top.

Futuremark 3DMark 11
Simulated Gaming Performance
Although Futuremark’s 3DMark 11 has been around for several years, it still provides a good look at a system’s gaming capabilities. It's also handy tool for benchmarking machines that still run Windows 7. We ran this benchmark on the Performance preset, at 1280 x 720 resolution. If you download the free version of this benchmark, make sure you're using the Performance preset to avoid comparing scores that were run with different test configurations.


Discrete graphics are going to blow integrated graphics out of the water, and that certainly happened in this benchmark. Whether this matters you depends on whether you game; the Intel HD 4400 gives typical users all they need, even for casual gaming.

Futuremark 3DMark Cloud Gate
Simulated Gaming Performance
The flagship benchmark in Futuremark’s catalog, 3DMark is a popular choice for testing everything from gaming PCs to mobile devices. Of course, the technology differences between a game machine and a smartphone are significant, so 3DMark has a separate test suite for each device category. The Cloud Gate test is aimed at entry-level PCs and laptops, and has two subtests: a processor- intensive physics test and two graphics tests. We run the test suite at its default 1280 x 720 resolution and at default rendering quality settings. Keep in mind that 3DMark Cloud Gate scores aren’t comparable to scores from say, 3DMark Fire Strike (gaming PCs) or Ice Storm (smartphones and tablets).

Again, the Dell Inspiron 15 7537's discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 750M pounds the systems with integrated graphics.

Ubisoft Far Cry 2
DX10 Gaming Performance
When it comes to lush vegetation in a steaming, sinister jungle, no one pulls it off quite like Ubisoft does in its Far Cry series. Far Cry 2 uses high-quality textures, complex shaders, and dynamic lighting to create a realistic environment. The game’s built-in benchmark gives us a good look at a system’s performance with DirectX 10.


Although this game is a little long in the tooth, it's a good way to test laptops and ultrabooks, which typically struggle with the latest DX11 titles. The 7537, however, is clearly ready to take on newer games.
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Battery Life
Poor battery life can be a deal breaker for a mobile device. Unfortunately, it’s also somewhat hard to assess: how fast you burn through a laptop’s battery depends not only on its quality, but the tasks you’re running and what features are enabled (think Wi-Fi). Still, benchmarks can give you a general picture of what to expect from your new laptop’s battery.

We run two tests. Battery Eater Pro puts the system through its paces and wears down the battery in a few hours. The Web browsing test is just what it sounds like: the laptop refreshes a webpage regularly until the battery is exhausted.




We like the Dell Inspiron 15 7537’s BatteryEater Pro time of two hours and 42 minutes, which puts it near the top of the pack. It held out for eight hours and 50 minutes in our browsing test. That’s a reasonable performance, but if having the system last you for most of your workday on one charge is important to you, keep in mind that doing more than casual Web surfing is going to tax that battery even faster. 
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Performance Summary and Conclusion
As we mentioned at the beginning of this review, the Dell Inspiron 15 7537 walks a very fine line between mainstream and high-end system. It costs way too much to not provide a great experience, but it’s also not expensive enough to have all the bells and whistles of a flagship machine. Overall, the Dell Inspiron 15 7537 succeeds – but it’s not going to be a fit for all users.


Find the Dell Inspiron 15 @ Amazon.Com

We like the Dell Inspiron 15 7537’s design for its comfort as much as its looks. Sure, the aluminum frame looks sharp, but it’s the comfortable keyboard and large trackpad that you’ll really appreciate after hours of use. The display responds well to touch and it’s reasonably bright and sharp enough for a typical user. The 7537 comes off as a laptop that is both comfortable to use and tough enough to handle the bumps and bangs that your day-to-day system is likely to encounter.

And, the 7537 is a powerful laptop. The Intel Core-i7 4500U and Nvidia GeForce GT 750M are a formidable team and provide more than enough power for typical tasks. Whether the discrete graphics are really necessary probably comes down whether you play video games on your laptop. If you don’t, the 750M may well be overkill. But if you do (or you want to), this laptop is going make you happy. Either way, the Inspiron 15 7537 is worth a look.

  • Discrete graphics provide a good mobile gaming experience
  • Aluminum body looks great and is sturdy
  • Strong performance and battery life
  • The price tag will put this system out of reach for some shoppers
  • The display, while good, can't compete with top-shelf displays. If that's important to you, the XPS line might serve you better.


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