One of our favourite laptops of 2022 gets a refresh, but loses some sparkle in the process. It’s still good, but no longer great
- Great battery life
- Optional discrete graphics
- 3K display bests the opposition
- Very loud speakers
- Now only one SSD and one SODIMM mount
- Numeric keypad has gone
- DC power adapter is an optional extra
Dell’s 7610-series Inspiron Plus 16 was one of my favourite laptops of 2022. For a combination of value, performance and quality, it took some beating. Now we have a revised model that features Intel’s Alder Lake silicon. Chipset aside, Dell hasn’t messed with the basic recipe. As such, you still get a 16in, 3,072 x 1,920 IPS non-touchscreen and the option of Nvidia discrete graphics, all for a perfectly reasonable price.
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Dell Inspiron Plus 16 review: What you need to know
Dell’s Inspiron range of laptops has expanded into a bewildering array of machines since I bought a bog-standard 15.6in Inspiron back in 2008. Back then I seem to recall that your only choice was over the pattern on the lid. Now the range includes the Inspiron 14, 15 and 16 basic laptops, the 14 2-in-1 and 16 2-in-1 touchscreen convertibles, and the 14 Plus and 16 Plus models that come with higher-resolution displays and the option of discrete Nvidia graphics. Then you have the various AMD and Intel options, too.
It’s the Plus machines we’re concerning ourselves with here, specifically the new 16 Plus – which is the omnicompetent Inspiron for those who don’t want a touchscreen. This is Dell’s semi-affordable do-it-all with a powerful chipset, optional Nvidia graphics, and a large, considerably better than Full HD display. It’s a machine that has the unenviable task of being all things to all users, a role the now-discontinued 7610 model performed with aplomb.
Dell Inspiron 16 2-in-1 review: Price and competition
Configuration tested: Intel Core i7-12700H CPU, Intel Iris Xe GPU, 16GB quad-channel RAM, 512GB SSD, 16in 3,072 x 1,920 IPS; Price: £1,099
Prices for the new Inspiron 16 Plus range now start at £999, for which you get a Core i5-12500H chip and a 512GB SSD. Bump that to the i7-12700H chip and you’ll be paying £1,099. Adding an Nvidia RTX 3050 GPU into the mix boosts the price by £50, while the 60W RTX 3060 adds another ton but also gets you a 1TB SSD. This means the most you can spend is £1,249 – and, in my evaluation, makes the fully loaded model the best value for money.
Of course, there are other ways to spend your hard-earned cash. One of my favourite 16in laptops is the Huawei MateBook 16s. Currently, you can pick up the i7 model for £1,100 and the i9 for £1,500, which is pretty good value in my book. Both come with a 2,520 × 1,680, 189dpi touchscreen and a 1TB SSD, although you can’t specify a discrete GPU as you can with Dell. The sound system is one of the best in any slimline laptop.
If you want to travel light then LG’s Gram 16 could be the answer to your prayers. At 1.2kg, it comes close to weighing half the new Dell model, yet features a 16in, 2.5k screen. It’s a bit more wobbly than the Dell or Huawei machines, as a result of the magnesium and plastic construction, but still boasts a MIL-810-STD resistance to particle ingress and vibration. You can currently pick one up for £1,297.
Acer’s Swift X 16 has a bright 16in, 2.5k screen, discrete Intel graphics in the form of the Arc A370M, a usefully wide range of I/O ports, and a blazingly fast 1TB SSD. Right now, you can pick it up for £1,100, which makes it a real bargain even if the Intel dGPU – like all the new Arc GPUs – is rather a disappointment.
Dell Inspiron 16 Plus review: Design and build quality
Visually, the new 16 Plus looks similar to the old model; but the changes, subtle as they are, are a step back in my opinion. Most obviously, the chrome-cut edges that surrounded the deck and touchpad have vanished, giving the new model a more sombre but also less premium look.
It’s still a well-made laptop thanks to its largely all-aluminium construction, and it demonstrates little give or bend, no matter where or how hard you twist or poke it. It’s considerably more solid than the likes of the LG Gram 16, but then at 2.1kg, the Dell weighs almost twice as much. At 357 x 252 x 20mm, it’s exactly the size you would expect a 16in laptop to be.
Take a stroll around the new 16 Plus and you will find HDMI 2.0, Thunderbolt 4 and USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 connectors on the left, and another Type-A, an SD card slot and a 3.5mm audio jack on the right. That’s a decent, if unexceptional, selection. Oddly, the new 7620 still has a 4.5mm barrel DC-in, despite Dell shipping it with a Type-C charger. To free up the Thunderbolt 4 port while charging, you’ll need to buy the Dell charger that came with the old 7610 model. Surely replacing the DC-in with a second Thunderbolt port would have made more sense?
Remove the back panel – not the easiest job, as a result of some tenacious plastic clips – and you’ll find Dell has taken rather than given. The old 7610 model featured space for a PCI-Express Gen 4 2280 and a PCI-Express Gen 3 2242 SSD, but the new model just has one dual-format SSD mount. And while the 7610 had two SODIMM slots, the new machine has just one, with 8GB of memory soldered directly to the motherboard. This means the maximum you can upgrade to is 40GB, rather than 64GB.
Wireless duties are handled with typical effectiveness by an Intel AX211 card that supports 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2.
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Dell Inspiron 16 Plus review: Keyboard, touchpad and webcam
The keyboard – or rather, what keyboard there is – is a good effort. You see, the old one had a numeric keypad, while the new one doesn’t. What remains works well enough, with a slick and positive 1.5mm key travel and nicely tactile keycaps. The two-stage backlighting is perfectly calibrated, and as a whole, delivers clarity – no matter what the lighting conditions.
The touchpad is a bit smaller here, measuring 115 x 90mm rather than 135 x 90mm. Minus the funky chrome edging, the new touchpad loses its upper edge, too. The new design is similar to that featured in the Inspiron 2-in-1, with the sides and bottom cut out of the Mylar sheet that runs the full width of the keyboard deck running seamlessly into the deck at the top. The Mylar surface is lovely to touch and the click action at the bottom of the pad is super-precise, making it a joy to use, despite the lessened real estate.
The previous 16 Plus had a pretty grim 720p webcam, but the 1080p unit fitted to the new model is a major step forward, delivering much-improved picture quality. It still can’t match the Huawei Matebook 16s’ camera, which is significantly sharper and performs better in low light. In fact, Huawei’s “AI Camera” hardware and software is starting to make some of the competition look a little basic by comparison, and I’m rather surprised that Dell hasn’t made more of an effort to catch up.
Dell Inspiron 16 Plus review: Display and audio
With no OLED or touch options, it’s just as well that the new Dell’s 3,072 x 1,920 IPS panel is a solid performer. Maximum brightness isn’t quite as high as I’d like at 318cd/m² (although that’s still better than the 7610’s 285cd/m²), but the contrast ratio is an excellent 1,501:1, thanks in part to an impressively low back luminescence of just 0.22cd/m².
The basic gamut coverage is a solid 96.2% of sRGB (the wider Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 gamuts scored only 69.2% and 71.1% respectively, but that’s par for the course with a standard laptop display), while the Delta E colour variance was a very impressive 1.33 against sRGB, which means colour registration appears perfect to the naked eye. Dell hasn’t seen fit to bestow the Inspiron Plus with a fancy-pants high refresh rate, so you’re stuck with either 60Hz or 48Hz, if you’re trying to eke out the battery life.
As is becoming increasingly common in all but the cheapest laptops, the new Dell carries a TÜV Rheinland low blue light certification to ease eye strain during prolonged use.
The stereo speakers do a superb job. To start, there are four of them, each with a 2W output; this means there’s a lot of volume. Measuring against a pink noise source at a 1m distance, my sound level meter measured 83dB(A) – which is even better than the acoustically impressive Inspiron 16 2-in-1. Some distortion can be heard if the volume is turned all the way up but, in everyday use, I doubt anyone will need to crank it up past the 75% mark.
Dell Inspiron 16 Plus review: Performance and battery life
In a graphic (no pun intended) demonstration of the power of the latest Alder Lake i7 processors, the new Inspiron 16 Plus scored 244 points in our 4K media benchmark – a mere 10 points behind the old Core i7-11800H model we tested with an Nvidia RTX 3050 GPU fitted. The Dell can’t quite match the Huawei MateBook 16s’ score of 286 points using the same chipset, but the fact still stands that even without a discrete GPU the new Inspiron is a very powerful machine.
The Geekbench 5 results tell a similar tale. The new Dell can’t match the multicore performance of the Huawei, but it absolutely pulverises the old Inspiron 16 Plus.
My 7620 review model clearly won’t be able to compete with the 7610, because the latter came fitted with an Nvidia RTX 3050 GPU. To give an idea of the difference that makes, the new machine ran the SPECviewperf 3dsmax 3D modelling test at 15.1fs, while the old model ran it at 50.6fs.
The Iris Xe graphics processor doesn’t disgrace itself in tests; it managed to run the Metro: Last Light Redux benchmark at 1,920 x 1,200 and 58.8fs. However, if you plan to run graphically demanding programmes, or will be using your Inspiron Plus for serious gaming, then you’ll obviously need to buy one of the Nvidia-equipped models.
The 512GB Western Digital SN740 SSD proved to be a middle-of-the-road performer, outstripping the old Inspiron Plus and the MateBook 16s, but unable to match the LG Gram or the Acer Swift X in terms of sequential write speed. However, the Huawei did claw back some ground in the sequential write test, where it has the legs on the new Dell.
The six-cell 86Wh battery inside the Inspiron is one of the more capacious you’ll find in a laptop in this class, so it isn’t surprising that it did very well in our battery test, which involves looping an SD video in VLC with the screen brightness set at 170cd/m² and in Flight mode. The new Dell lasted for 13hrs 9mins, which is very solid considering the i7-12700H chip isn’t a byword for efficiency. The same battery did better inside the new Inspiron 2-in-1, but that has fewer pixels to light up and a less demanding i7-1260P processor, so it’s to be expected.
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Dell Inspiron 16 Plus review: Verdict
Most of the core strengths of the 7610 model are still present and correct. The 3K display remains a cracker, the sound system can wake the dead, and it’s great to have three GPU options. The 16 Plus is still good value, too, with both the optional Nvidia GPUs being notably cheap upgrades. On the other hand, the numeric keyboard has vanished, you can’t add a second SSD or upgrade both RAM cards, and the barrel power jack should surely have been replaced by a second Type-C port – especially since Dell doesn’t bundle a DC charger. Shorn of its chrome highlights, the new model looks a bit dowdy compared to the old model, too. As such, the Dell Inspiron 16 Plus is still good, but not quite as good.