How casual is too casual? That’s what I tried figuring out while using Dell’s latest Inspiron 15 gaming laptop.
During a media presentation, Dell repeatedly emphasized how this large notebook isn’t for hardcore gamers. Strange, because that isn’t the impression you get when you first hold the bulky Inspiron 15.
Fortunately, I got to review one for a couple of weeks, and was able to answer a load of questions along the way.
What exactly is this?
The Dell Inspiron 15 we have here is a 15-inch gaming notebook for casual gamers. To be specific, this has a model number of 7566, and is the most affordable of Dell’s mobile gaming line at PhP 49,990 or about $1,000.
What’s it meant for?
Our unit has an Intel Core i5-6300HQ processor, 4GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960m. If these specs make sense to you, you already know what you’re in for. If not, rest assured this is good enough to play all the lightweight games you have, as well as handle light video editing.
But, how about more taxing games like The Witcher 3?
Trust me, I’ve thrown that and more at this laptop, but every single graphical setting must be turned down significantly to get acceptable gameplay. Playing at the screen’s native Full HD resolution is tough enough for the components; expecting mid- to high-level graphics is another issue altogether.
As an example, I managed to play The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with an average frame rate of 40 frames per second, and that came after fine-tuning most gameplay settings to Medium. Turning on stuff like hair and shadow details is out of the question. On the other hand, less heavy games like Life is Strange and The Witness weren’t as difficult to run, even on higher graphics settings.
Will it last long enough to finish a movie?
Surely, but don’t expect endurance as long as, say, a featherweight convertible or tablet. Those compact computers have much more energy-efficient Core M processors, and don’t rely on a separate graphics card to power the visuals (and sap the battery).
In my experience, I could get as many as seven hours of use on a single charge when I simply surfed the web and wrote this review. It also helps that the storage for the base model is 1TB, providing you with enough space to save large games and movies.
So, you can use this for something other than games?
Yes, it has more than enough horsepower for any non-gaming tasks, but there’s a downside: Weighing in at 2.6kg — which is quite heavy for a low-powered gaming laptop — you won’t enjoy keeping this on your lap for long periods. It’s also 38.4cm in length, 27.4cm in width, and has a thickness of 25mm, so good luck finding a bag that can accommodate this.
Do I at least get a headphone jack?
Yes, definitely, along with several other connectivity options: HDMI 2.0, Ethernet, SD card reader, three full-sized USB 3.0 ports, and a DVD drive. Dell also made its bottom easy to open up, so adding memory or storage takes a few simple steps.
Is there anything else I should know?
As expected of a non-IPS display, the viewing angles of the TN panel are pretty bad. You’ll enjoy looking at the screen straight on, but anyone in the vicinity will have to adjust to get a better view. And although Dell was generous enough to add a subwoofer underneath to complement the front-firing stereo speakers, it had difficulty handling explosions from intense movie scenes. This made it hard to set the perfect volume; it either sounded broken or far too quiet.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
It’s difficult to categorize this gaming notebook. It’s easily more powerful than those slim $500 to $900 laptops you find in shops, but you can barely call it a computer good enough for actual gaming.
I’d normally go straight to recommending the higher-end model — which has a faster Core i7 chipset, Ultra HD resolution, and a much more efficient 256GB SSD for the operating system — but it again settles for a GTX 960m graphics card. That’s still not enough to future-proof yourself for newer games, and it costs a lot more at PhP 69,990 or around $1,400.
This brings me back to an article I wrote highlighting the weaknesses of gaming notebooks. All those points apply here, but the opening line matters the most.
If you must have a Windows 10 gaming device during your travels and every cent counts, the Inspiron 15 is for you — just don’t expect much out of it when game requirements become hungrier a year later.
God of War’s New Game Plus mode is here
It’s time for another play through, boy!
A New Game Plus (NG+) mode for PlayStation 4’s God of War is here. This means whatever weapons, items, and armor you amassed during your first go round, you can take with you if you wish to go on another adventure with Kratos and Atreus.
The NG+ mode also lets you pick a different difficulty setting from the one you first played with. So whether you feel like taking on a tougher challenge or just breezing through the story mode, you can do so. The choice is yours.
Other new content include a new shield skin when you start a NG+ as well as new types of armor you can forge for the father and son duo. The additions also include new challenges like Realm Tears while on a time limit and a variety of new attack patterns for draugrs, witches, and other foes you’ll meet along the way.
Updates not just for God of War NG+ mode
If you’re still in the middle of your first run, don’t worry, the creators of God of War didn’t forget about us. There’s now a button that easily lets you transfer enchantments making it easier to go from one armor to another. There are also some bug fixes and quality-of-life improvements like keeping Kratos safe at all times during parry attacks and improved consistency with how enemy attacks can be parried.
If you’ve completed the game at least once, the update also lets you skip cinematic scenes whether you’re on NG+ or not.
God of War for the PS4 first came out in April 2018 and received glowing reviews from various media outlets. Many of whom even said it’s an early candidate for Game of the Year. It takes the franchise’s main character Kratos into Norse mythology years after he tore through the Greek gods.
NVIDIA launches the new RTX 2000 series
Promises movie-like quality for games
Throughout the years, video games have slowly edged closer to movie-like picture quality. As of late, cinematic video games — like The Last of Us — have begun their long renaissance. Now, NVIDIA has unveiled a new series of graphics cards that pushes that boundary even further.
The newly launched GeForce RTX 2000 series leaps miles apart from NVIDIA’s long-reigning GTX 1080 video card. Specifically, the series comes in three variants — the RTX 2070, RTX 2080, and RTX 2080 Ti.
Powered by the Turing architecture, the new series attempts to solve the industry’s problems. Most importantly, the RTX 2000 series highlights ray tracing, a feature missing from video cards before now.
Traditionally, video games have trouble rendering lighting. Usually, games fall into two categories: terribly drawn lighting which clashes haphazardly with stunning textures, or power-hungry graphics that tank your frames-per-second rate to single digits.
Ray tracing vastly improves how light interacts with surfaces. With the feature, the series brings professional-level graphics to a mass market. In terms of performance, the RTX 2000 cards promise six times the capabilities of the previous GTX 1080.
For starters, the RTX 2070 comes with 2304 CUDA cores and 8GB GDDR6 RAM. The midrange RTX 2080 offers 2944 CUDA cores and the same amount of RAM. Finally, the flagship RTX 2080 Ti boasts 4352 CUDA cores and 11GB GDDR6 RAM.
Already, the series promises support for upcoming games: Battlefield V, Metro Redux, Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
Upon launch, the RTX 2070 retails for US$ 499. The midrange RTX 2080 sells for US$ 699. Finally, the RTX 2080 Ti sells for US$ 999. All three cards will also come with Founders Edition variants selling for US$ 599, US$ 799, and US$ 1,199, respectively. The series will officially launch on September 20.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus S is the slimmest gaming laptop available today
But doesn’t compromise performance
Alongside the 17-inch ROG Scar II, ASUS has announced a new ROG device that they claim to be world’s slimmest gaming laptop. The ROG Zephyrus from last year was already thin by gaming laptop standards, but the new ROG Zephyrus S is 12 percent thinner with updated specs.
The ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) still has the look and feel of the original Zephyrus but it’s now only 14.95 to 15.75mm thick. Those numbers might not sound as sexy as other super-slim notebooks, but the Zephyrus S has desktop-grade gaming performance with either an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q or GTX 1060 GPU inside its chassis.
Powering the Zephyrus S is a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor with up to 16GB of DDR4 memory and storage option of up to a 512GB NVMe SSD.
The laptop’s display is a 15.6-inch 1080p panel with a 144Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time, and 100 percent sRGB coverage. It’s definitely not the sharpest laptop display, but it’s one of the fastest for smooth gameplay. The display has a thin-bezel design as well, so the footprint of the laptop is just a bit bigger than your typical 14-inch notebook.
ASUS uses their Active Aerodynamic System (same as with other Zephyrus laptops) which opens a vent at the bottom of the laptop when the lid is lifted, and the vent stretches across the entire back of the body. This improves airflow by 22 percent over a conventional design as per ASUS.
Another distinct trait of the Zephyrus S is the keyboard. It’s still on the front of the device, which helps with cooling, but it might not be everybody’s cup of tea. The keys have 1.2mm of travel, N-key rollover, and RGB lighting via Aura Sync over four zones.
As for I/O, it has two USB-C ports (Gen1 and Gen2), two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, HDMI 2.0 at the back, and a headphone jack.
The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) will become available starting September in the US and in October for the UK and Asia. Pricing starts at US$ 2,099 for the GTX 1060 model, while the higher-end GTX 1070 is priced at US$ 2,199.
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