AptX on Dell Inspiron 15 7559

Since I got the MDR-1000X, I’ve been trying to find a way to stream high quality sound over Bluetooth into it. It supports AptX and Sony’s proprietary LDAC which both are not supported by my Oneplus One.

Today while trying to look for a new phone that supports AptX or LDAC using my Dell laptop, suddenly it hit me. Can this laptop supports AptX instead? By default it doesn’t because even by playing back songs from Spotify, I sounded muddy over Bluetooth.

A quick Google search led me to Notebook Review Forum whereby someone mentioned that there’s some Intel Bluetooth drivers unlocked AptX for him. So and I went and try those driver. The installation is pretty simple, already detailed by the site.

I tried the first driver for Intel 7265/3165/7260/3160 Bluetooth. Installation went smoothly, and a notification pop up after I’ve connected to my Sony headphone, stating that AptX is active. I got really excited! I fired up Spotify and confirmed it sound much nicer now but there is one major flaw. The sound would skip as if there isn’t enough bandwidth. I was disappointed, thinking maybe the Bluetooth module in my laptop doesn’t supports it.

There is a second driver for Intel 8260 Bluetooth. I downloaded it just to give it a try since the installation is so simple. This time the driver works flawlessly, I am able to listen to much better quality sound over Bluetooth without any skipping.

If you have AptX supported audio device and wanting to try playback better quality music over Bluetooth on your laptop. I would highly recommend you give these drivers a try.

Edit: What do you know, I also managed to unlock AptX on my Oneplus One by downloading a zip file done by dr_root from XDA Forum. Now I can continue using my OPO till it die!

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AptX on Dell Inspiron 15 7559

Quick take on Dell Inspiron 15 7559

Some compliment for the Dell delivery team:
My order is originally stated on Dell’s website to arrive on 29th December. On 22nd December I got an SMS saying my laptop will be delivered on 28th instead. I phoned them to find out if I can collect it earlier as I have done so in the past with the Dell U2711 monitor. They say they only received the device on 23rd, and since it is public holiday on 24 and 25th, I can only collect it on 26th. After Christmas day. So I tell them that I will collect it on 26th. On the 24th morning, a guy called me asking if I wanted my laptop to be delivered today instead. I happily agreed and so the guy came well ahead of my Christmas eve Mass in the evening. Enough time for me to set the thing up.

The Build

Dell Inspiron 15 7559 is really big. Sorry I can’t help to compare it to my Apple Macbook Air 11″ (MBA). I know it is an unfair comparison, but I just want to say out what I felt. Obviously it is also heavier. This new Dell is wider than my brother’s old Dell Inspiron 15, but it is shorter and and slightly thinner. A problem with being wider is that it wouldn’t fit into a lot of bags that is able to fit a Apple Macbook Pro 15.

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Dell Inspiron 15: Old vs New

The design of the laptop is more towards grown-up businessman and less teenager geeks, and I really like it. Its look can even convince your non-gaming spouse that you got yourself a laptop for work. And in a country where laptop theft is a problem, this Dell really wouldn’t attract much attention compared to any Apple laptop, or that Alienware.

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The new Dell is wider.

The build is fully plastic and isn’t as stiff as the MBA. Although I don’t mind the screen flexes a bit, but the lid mechanism just isn’t as smooth as on the MBA. Although it have never happen to me, but I’ve seen other people’s older Dell screen hinge got so loose after many open-close cycle that the thing simply broke and lost tension.

First Boot

The first disappointment came on first start that it failed to load into Windows Boot Manager. Switching to legacy boot doesn’t help, it only shows PXE unable to find boot drive. For some odd reason I managed to boot into Windows by selecting Windows Boot Manager using the F12 key instead of pressing F2 key for setting default boot devices.

Everything seems to load so slow, which is expected with the 1TB mechanical hard disk. Since I’m using SSD on my desktop, the loading time is pretty unbearable for me. I initially plan to just use the laptop with just the HDD but looks like I need to ditch that plan.

Storage Devices

The second best thing with this laptop is how easy to access from the bottom and upgrade the storage drive and memory. Although it is not completely tool-less, only by releasing one screw, I can open up the whole under-panel.

 

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The internal.

What’s the best thing you asked? Well they have an empty M.2 slot that actually works. I can just pop in a M.2 SSD, albeit the slower SATA instead of the super expensive PCI-E NVMe ones. That is a good thing since I really will not invest something so expensive on a budget laptop. I can keep the 1TB HDD in there and put all my space hungry files there, exactly like what I am doing on a desktop PC, only this is a laptop with two different type of storage device!

Keyboard & Touch-pad

The keyboard is okay, but I prefer the feel of my MBA ones because those feel less mushy. The arrow-keys on the keyboard are as small as the MBA ones and really isn’t good for playing games. But it does comes with numb-pad which can be used as arrow keys. However I prefer 10-keyless with big arrow keys since this laptop is market to be a budget gaming laptop.

The keyboard are back-lit and I can see what I’m typing

The touch-pad is just terrible. Not as bad as my old 2008 Dell Vostro 1400 ones which suggest that things does improve, but it still light-year behind the MBA. I heard the more premium XPS series have better touch-pad which I think Dell could have just make it standard on all their laptops and not corners on this.

While reading on the some others’ review at Amazon, I stumbled on a guide to improve the responsiveness of the touch-pad. I’ve updated the touch-pad driver with ELAN obtained here. It has since became much more responsive, so I’ll be keeping the driver.

15.6″ FHD IPS Screen

The full HD 15.6″ IPS screen is pretty okay. It is obviously not as bright and as nice as my Acer XB270HU, but it is better than the MBA’s TN panel. The panel I got is a LG one, which reportedly better than those supplied by BOE that many Americans are getting. So although they get a 256GB SSD with the USD $800 package, I prefer getting a better panel which cannot be upgraded.

I’m glad I didn’t opt for the 4k panel because I find the DPI on this 15.6″ is just nice without scaling. I’m not a fan of scaling on Windows 10 even though there is some improvement from Windows 7, but it is still not as good as on OSX. I did wish it has G-SYNC but this is a non-perfect world that I can’t use it if I were to use the iGPU during non-gaming operation for much longer battery life.

Battery Life

And speaking of battery life, if I were just use the laptop for typing, I probably get 9 hours out of it. Light browsing on the net will bring the number down to around 6 hours, which is still pretty good since this laptop as got a dGPU inside. I wish it can go up to 10 hours like the latest Macbook Pro/Air. I didn’t bother to see how long it will last playing games on battery, but people has reported around 1-2.5 hours. This thing will definitely be plug-in when I’m gaming with it.

Gaming

I always wanted that laptop with Nvidia 970m but it is just so expensive. I decided that I might as well use the money to buy a 980 Ti for my desktop and save up the rest. Well, here’s where I spend the rest, on a 960m laptop for light gaming. I recently started to play Starcraft 2 and it is a game that requires a lot of practice to be able to play ranked MP without losing each and every match. So the 960m is perfect for playing SC2.

Battlefield 4 is another game that I’ve spent a lot of time on. I am quite surprised that graphic settings set on High works. I am able to play very smoothly on multiplayer.The two fans do have to work extra hard when running BF4, so do the extra noise from the fans. That’s not a problem for me because I’ll be definitely be on headset when playing BF4.

Some says that using a laptop pad with fan can make the Dell runs cooler. I haven’t go out and buy a pad because I only use it for casual gaming. I’ll definitely get one if I’m using it 24/7. Speaking of cooling, with the Dell I have to be mindful on how to place it on my lap so that I do not fully block the fan intake vent.

Other than 960M GPU, the 4 cores i5 6300HQ plays a big part on performance, especially on BF4 multiplayer. This is one of the main reason I got this laptop too, having a 4 cores i5 instead of spending more on an i7 chip. The included 4GB RAM is borderline for gaming, and no room for multitasking. I have to add more RAM real soon, and installing them is easy.

Screen

15.6″ is also a better size to play BF4 compared to the 13.3″ GeChic. Still, the best experience is on a 27″ screen, and I think I’ll get an better experience with the newly released Acer X34 monitor which I couldn’t afford. Screen size isn’t that significant when playing SC2 though. There’s no G-Sync, screen tearing is there but the effect is less distracting since it’s a smaller screen.

Input lag is noticeably less than gaming on the GeChic + Desktop combo that I can actually hit something in BF4. I feel that the screen is slightly darker than my MBA. It’s perfectly fine for web browsing but it is a problem when playing games with dark environments in both Battlefield 4 and Starcraft 2. I can offset a bit of the problem by increase the brightness in-game. There is also no auto-brightness adjust by an ambient sensor like on MBA. No biggie for me since I’ve disable that on my MBA anyway.

Windows 10 recommended 125% scaling for the screen, which I disagree. It took away too much screen space with that setting. Although MBA and Dell 7559 has similar DPI (135 vs 141) words does look smaller on the Dell because the screen is slightly further away from my eye due to the size of the laptop. If I use an external mechanical keyboard, the screen is going to be even smaller as I am sitting even further away.

There is an option for 4k resolution screen which I had seriously considered it for future proof. I’m glad I didn’t get that as I’m fully satisfied with 1080p at 15.6″. Windows 10 scaling isn’t as good as on OSX yet, I can’t game on 4k resolution on this light hardware, and 4k video on such small screen is pretty pointless. This is from a guy who haven’t had a 4k screen yet.

Sound

The on-board speaker is adequate. It is louder and better than my MBA, and I don’t have any other laptop to compare. It is a laptop, and I expect it to fare terribly when compared to my AE Aego M 2.1 speakers.

I’m usually on my headphone, so let’s talk about the sound quality. Good news is that the quality is pretty good for listening to music if you’re using an average headphone like my Creative Fatality. I prefer to listen to music without any of the enhancement from the pre-installed Dell Audio software.

I tested with my Sony MDR-1 headphone and the sound quality can still be improved with a USB sound card like the Asus Xonar U3, in which I can hear some more details in the music. However the difference is quite small if I weren’t paying attention to it. The Asus Xonar U7 will be much better, but it is not really that portable.

Gaming wise, MAXX Audio Pro in Dell Audio software is able to simulate some surround sound. The effect is just okay and nothing to shout about. It can’t beat the 7.1 simulation through headphone from USB sound card or a real 5.1 set-up.

The microphone is terrible. I try to use it for Teamspeak, but it’s pretty unusable as it picked up too much background noise. After a lot of tweaking, I manage to make it slightly usable, but the sound quality from it is still pretty bad. My headphone has got mic, so that solve the problem.

Connectivity

3 USB3 ports, which is more than enough for me since my MBA only has 2. It has a SD card slot, and a HDMI port. Oh and it has a LAN cable port which a lot of ultrabook do not include. If I had a choice, I would be playing multiplayer games through LAN cables, not WiFi.

The WiFi is good even though they have been many review out there saying the signal kept dropping and requires a restart to solve the problem. I’m guessing the latest firmware has fixed the issue.

What this laptop is lacking for a Skylake system, is a USB Type-C port. Those are pretty rare and only available on high-end desktop motherboards for now. Even then, most of those are only USB 3.1 and does not have Thunderbolt 3 pass through. The gaming laptop of 2016 are starting to have Thunderbolt 3 ports that they are able to connect to external GPU enclosure for desktop class graphic performance and cheaper upgrades down the line.

Conclusion

The Dell Inspiron 15 7559 is a great budget gaming laptop, spend a bit more on adding RAM and SSD, it’ll become a very good gaming laptop as long you’re not planning to play at Ultra graphic settings on the 2014/15 titles. Dell did cut some corners to keep the price low, on things like the build quality, touch-pad, sound system and a little on the screen. However Dell seems to know the target audience will be using headset and mouse during gaming session.

For general purpose usage, this laptop will still going to perform well, if not really good, for the next four to five years. As for gaming wise, I will really need to turn down the graphic settings for future titles for smooth frame rates at 1080p. Thankfully it won’t be that noticeable at 15.6″ and I am lucky enough to have a desktop gaming rig for more heavy gaming.

The gaming laptop of 2016 is going to be even more interesting with USB Type-C external GPU enclosure setup. If the ultrabook and external GPU is something you would be interested in, then I would advice you to wait. If you want to be playing games a lot outside home, then a traditional laptop is still the way to go.

Quick take on Dell Inspiron 15 7559