The least expensive gaming notebooks with the latest technology start at around $750. When we use the term gaming notebook, we’re not referring to a notebook that’s merely capable of playing games. If that were the case, then we could classify the many notebooks with integrated (non-dedicated) Intel HD graphics as gaming notebooks. Instead, we’re referring to notebooks that can play today’s demanding AAA games with at least medium to medium-high settings and resolution. That’s something a notebook with integrated graphics can’t yet accomplish.
The two main gaming notebook contenders in the sub-$1,000 range are the Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 (15)and the Dell Inspiron 15-7559. You might want to hit up the review links to get a full rundown on each model. In this article, we’ll focus on the main comparison points only.
Comparing the Specs, Dollar for Dollar
We priced out the Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 and Dell Inspiron 15-7559 notebooks as closely as possible as of the publishing of this article, taking all available discounts on the manufacturer’s websites into account.
Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 (15)
Dell Inspiron 15-7559
15.6-inch (1,920×1,080) IPS anti-glare
Windows 10 Home
Intel Core i7-6700HQ quad-core
Nvidia GTX 960M (2GB)
Nvidia GTX 960M (4GB)
1TB 5400RPM hard drive
Price as Configured
They’re exactly $50 apart as configured. The only upgraded component on the models we’re comparing is the processor. A Core i5-6300HQ quad-core processor is standard equipment on both. The Core i7-6700HQ quad-core is a significant upgrade in brute processing power, though that won’t necessarily translate into significantly higher framerates for gaming. The processor isn’t upgradeable in either notebook, so we’d say the Core i7-6700HQ is worth a little extra.
Besides $50, the only notable difference between these notebooks as equipped is the graphics card memory. The Lenovo has 2GB on its GTX 960M, while the Dell has double that at 4GB. Some newer games like Square Enix’s Rise of the Tomb Raider recommend a 4GB graphics card for playing at top settings. The reality of the situation is, however, that the GTX 960M isn’t powerful enough to play at those settings where 4GB of graphics card memory would be useful. Therefore, whether the GTX 960M is equipped with 2GB or 4GB of memory makes little practical difference.
Neither notebook includes an SSD at this price. Their 1TB 5400RPM hard drives will have relatively slow access times, the upside being they have plenty of storage capacity. Both Dell and Lenovo offered SSD-equipped models for around $1,000 as of writing. Keep in mind you can upgrade to an SSD aftermarket later on, if you desire.
Design and Build Quality
One of our complaints about the Dell Inspiron 15-7559 was its all-plastic build. It didn’t feel as solid as we hoped, and suffered from a bit of flex as well. The Lenovo IdeaPad Y700, on the other hand, has a brushed aluminum exterior. It has impressive strength and a more edgy look than the Dell. The Dell has the advantage of being offered in three different colors – gray, black with red accents, or red with black accents, whereas the Lenovo is only offered in black. Both notebooks share almost the same physical dimensions, including a one-inch thickness and 5.7 pound carry weight. Because of its superior strength, we overall give the edge to the Lenovo.
Keyboard, Touchpad, and Ports
We unfortunately had complaints about the keyboards on both of these notebooks. They exhibited too little tactile feel for an engaging experience. Nonetheless, the keyboards on either had backlighting – the Dell Inspiron 15-7559’s in white, and the Lenovo IdeaPad Y700’s in red – and a separate number pad. We prefer the Dell’s keyboard overall because it includes full-size number pad keys. The Lenovo’s number pad has two-thirds size keys, which can take some adjustment.
On the contrary, we preferred the Lenovo’s buttonless clickpad over the Dell’s. It had a better anti-glare surface, and more accurate clicks. We found the Dell’s clickpad was a bit vague when it came to the difference between a right and a left click.
These notebooks share the same general collection of ports: three USB, one HDMI, and a media card reader. The Dell has a slight advantage in the fact it has three USB 3.0 ports, as opposed to the Lenovo’s two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0.
Screen and Speakers
The screen is a tie. Both the Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 and the Dell Inspiron 15-7559 offer 15.6-inch displays with full HD resolutions (1,920×1,080 pixels), and IPS panels as standard equipment. We found the color accuracy, contrast, viewing angles, and brightness to be satisfactory on both notebooks displays. The screens are advertised as anti-glare, though we found the Dell had more of a true anti-glare finish.
We thought the Dell had good audio quality for a notebook, but it’s bested by the Lenovo’s twin JBL speaker setup. The Lenovo has superior clarity and volume.
Gaming performance is largely determined by the graphics card. The Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 and the Dell Inspiron 15-7559 feature the same graphics processor, Nvidia’s mid-grade GeForce GTX 960M. As noted earlier, the Lenovo’s card features 2GB of dedicated memory, while the Dell’s has 4GB. This should make little to no practical difference in today’s AAA games in the context of the performance offered by these notebooks. The settings at which 4GB of graphics memory would be necessary are generally going to be too demanding for the GTX 960M to handle.
Here’s a comparison of the benchmark scores for the Lenovo and the Dell from our reviews of each model. Note our Dell Inspiron 15-7559 review unit featured the lesser Core i5-6300HQ processor, as opposed to the Core i7-6700HQ processor in our Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 review unit.
Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 (15)
Dell Inspiron 15-7559
3DMark Fire Strike
It’s odd that the Dell did better in 3DMark 11. The 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark is the more demanding of these two, however, and the Lenovo has an unquestionable lead there. Again, a sizable portion of this difference be attributable to the processor differences in our review samples. On paper, as we configured for this comparison, the scores should be more or less identical.
Practically speaking, what can you expect from a Core i5-6300HQ or a Core i7-6700HQ, paired with an Nvidia GTX 960M when it comes to today’s demanding AAA games? The scores we achieved in our benchmarks indicate that such a combo is capable of playing them at medium-high settings at a 1,600×900 resolution. Smooth performance at a full HD (1,920×1,080) resolution will likely be out of the question unless the quality is lowered to medium, though it largely depends on the game. The lesser GeForce GTX 950M and GT 940M found in more budget-oriented models like the Acer Aspire E15aren’t going to be able to muster more than low to medium-low settings in most AAA games, and then, only at a low 720p (1,366×768) resolution. In essence, the GTX 960M is the least-cost gaming-grade graphics card available in a notebook that will allow you to play the latest AAA titles with reasonable detail settings.
At the same time, note that the next rung up the ladder, the enthusiast-grade GTX 970M, offers a substantial performance boost over the GTX 960M. The Gigabyte P57Wis one example of a notebook with a GTX 970M. In our benchmarks, it typically shows a 35 to 50 percent performance advantage. A notebook with this card will undoubtedly cost more, but will allow you to game at significantly better quality settings.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 and the Dell Inspiron 15-7559 both use a dual cooling fan array, pushing air out the backside of the notebook. We found the Dell ran a bit cooler than the Lenovo, at least judging from the chassis temperatures. The Lenovo’s aluminum chassis tended to hold more of the heat, unlike the Dell’s plastic chassis. The noise level from either notebook was about the same.
The good news is that the Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 and the Dell Inspiron 15-7559 offer excellent battery life for 15.6-inch gaming notebooks. Of the two, the Dell has the edge. It managed 4:09 in our demanding Powermark battery life rundown test, as opposed to the Lenovo’s 3:42. That’s a difference of about ten percent, which is noticeable. With reduced screen brightness and less intense activity, you can expect either notebook to last for between five and six hours unplugged. The Dell nonetheless has the advantage.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 (15) and the Dell Inspiron 15-7559 are closely matched in nearly every area, including performance and price. Configured as closely as possible, they fall within $50 of each other as of publishing. But when we have to declare a winner, we give our nod to the Lenovo IdeaPad Y700. It’s the same weight and thinness as the Dell, yet offers a substantially stronger aluminum chassis. The Lenovo also has an edgier-looking design, and its JBL sound system surpasses the Dell’s. The Dell, on the other hand, has an improved number pad layout, and enjoys about a ½ hour advantage in our battery life rundown. It was also $50 less than the Lenovo at the time of writing, but the prices tend to see-saw weekly.
In terms of value, the Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 and Dell Inspiron 15-7559 are still the kings. They’re close enough in almost all areas that we think it’s impossible to make the wrong choice.
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