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Review: Dell Inspiron 13 7000 series (2-in-1 laptop)

By Leigh D. Stark | 4:35 pm 21/05/2015

Need a computer with a decent keyboard and aren’t sure if you want it to be a tablet or a laptop? Dell hopes it has the answer with the Inspiron 7000, a 13 inch laptop that also works as a tablet, too.

Features

Dell is no stranger to playing with computer form-factors, and the Inspiron 7000 series takes the 360 degree hinge seen on many a laptop and applies it to a fresh thin and light machine in an attempt to bridge the middle ground.

As such, you’ll find a 13.3 display on this laptop featuring the Full HD resolution of 1920×1080. The display relies on In-Plane Switching technology (IPS) and features a touch panel underneath, though a version of the Inspiron 7000 series 13 inch can be found with a standard HD 1366×768 touchscreen IPS panel.

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Under the screen, you’ll find a computer with modern innards, as Dell goes for Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, offering a choice of either in the series, and as much as 8GB RAM.

Storage on the computer is set to 500GB with a conventional hard drive, or 256GB with a solid-state drive, with Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 installed on the computer out of the box.

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Connection options are pretty standard for a computer these days, though some might see them as high end, with Dell opting to include 802.11ac wireless connectivity (WiFi), backwards compatible with standards such as 802.11a/b/g/n, with Bluetooth 4.0 also included.

Wired connection options and ports are also found in this machine, with two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, an HDMI port, full-size SD card slot, and a 3.5mm headset jack.

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Also included is a passive stylus built into a recess in the body, with a spring-loaded eject mechanism.

Keyboard and mouse are included, too, the former with spill-resistant keys and backlighting, and the latter supporting gestures.

Several options of the Inspiron 13 inch 7000 series are available, but the review model was spec’d with a 13.3 inch Full HD touchscreen, Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB solid-state drive.

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Performance

These days, computer buyers are pretty lucky because these days, when you buy a computer, you don’t just have to settle with one style.

Laptop. Tablet. Laptop. Tablet. These days, when you buy a computer, often, you’re getting both.

That can certainly be said of the computer we’re looking at in this review, the Dell Inspiron 7000 series 13 inch laptop, a notebook that takes the same perpendicular style you’ve seen in laptops for years and applies it to a mid-range computer with enough guts for most people, and a decently sized Full HD display.

While this technically feels like an Ultrabook, Dell isn’t calling it one, instead sticking with the “2-in-1″ moniker and throwing in a set of specs that it believes matters, such as the Intel Core processors, between 4 and 8GB RAM, and the choice of a proper hard drive or a speedy solid state drive.

We’ll tackle performance soon, but the look is worth commenting on because it’s both a mixture of plain yet simple and easy on the eyes.

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Silver is the name of the game here, and while silver typically means metal for many a company, for Dell’s Inspiron 7000, silver is just another way of saying silver coloured plastic, because that’s what you’re given here.

That said, despite it being plastic only, it’s a soft touch plastic that is comfortable on the wrist and easy to hold when you pick the machine up, with enough firmness and strength in the body so as to not feel that you’re holding a toy, because you are most certainly not.

We even like the curved edges at the front of the laptop, which make the laptop feel like they’re softened for your body and aren’t trying to cut your limbs as you leave them resting on the laptop, a feeling we’ve had from other computers in the past.

You’ll also find a large display aimed at you, and it’s here you’ll find the 13.3 inch Full HD display. Switch the computer on with the small sliver of a power button on the right edge and the machine will come to life.

When it does, you’ll be greeted with one of the best parts of the laptop.

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Anyone who has read our laptop reviews in the past is probably aware of how much we like screens, and it’s one of our favourite areas to talk about because — in fairness — it’s also one of the areas manufacturers tend to cheap out on.

Fortunately, that’s not the case with the Dell Inspiron 7000 13 inch laptop, and for this computer, the company has applied a clear and sufficiently bright 13 inch panel that shows colours nicely, and is sharp enough for most people to be happy with.

It is so much better than the standard HD 1366×768 13.3 inch screens we’ve seen on computers for the past few years, and while it’s a fair way off the Retina suggestion of 227 pixels per inch and only offers closer to 165 pixels per inch, the screen is still much more comfortable to set your eyes upon than so many other 13 inch laptops that pass through here.

Screen angles are also decent, which is particularly handy given you shouldn’t have to have one specific view for any display, just make sure to not have too much light behind you, because it is one super reflective display.

In the input department, though it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

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You see, Dell has thrown in what appears to be a full-size keyboard, and while it’s very springy, it’s still surprisingly comfortable. That’s the good side of things, and the more we played with the keyboard on the Inspiron 7000, the more we liked it, with a decent amount of travel, the right sort of click, and pretty much zero typing error or lag as we punched down the keys.

This is a very good keyboard, Dell. Keep them like this from now on.

But then there’s the mouse, and it just lacks the quality the keyboard oozes. Offering a slightly coarse texture to the top with a button that works but feels a little basic and plasticy, the mouse comes off feeling cheap while the keyboard offers an experience that begs to have text typed in.

It does offer multi-touch gestures, mind you, and is particularly fast at responding to them, but where the keyboard feels like Dell has paid plenty of attention, the mouse is just a little short.

Thankfully, you’re not forced to use the trackpad if you don’t want to.

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Remember that the 13 inch screen is also a touchscreen, and to help with this part, the keyboard hides a little slot for a push-to-eject stylus. Granted, it’s not one of those neato magnetic ones Samsung’s tablets and (at one point in time) laptops used, but rather a simple broad-tipped passive stylus.

That means there’s no mouse button here, so if you want to do anything more than simple double tapping — right clicking, for instance — you’re going to have to go back to that ho-hum trackpad under the keyboard.

But it’s at least an inclusion, and a positive one at that.

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And it’s an inclusion that will lead you to the Dell Inspiron 7000’s hidden secret.

Actually, it doesn’t really hide it, more like it just assumes you know what it can do, provided you’ve read the feature list when buying it, the box, and even taken a gander at the sticker on the wrist wrest.

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This not-quite-so-secretive feature is a multi-mode hinge, which is a slightly more complicated way of saying 360 degree hinge, allowing the Dell 7000 series laptop to fold its screen all the way back and work as a 13 inch tablet.

We’ve seen this style from Dell before, and we’ve even seen it from other manufacturers, and it has many names, but the premise is this: why have just a tablet when you can have a laptop that works in very much the same way, and even stands up when you decide to use it as an entertainment solution.

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Those are just some of the options in what Dell calls a 2-in-1, and if you want to, you can fold the keyboard underneath the laptop and turn it into a tablet. We’re not sure why you’d want to type on a 13 inch tablet when you have an excellent physical keyboard at your disposal, but the option is there, and the 13 inch Full HD display is also available to you.

But no matter how you use it — tablet or laptop — you’ll find a pretty ordinary battery life waiting for you.

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We suppose it had to happen this way; there is an Intel Core i7 lurking underneath, and it can get a wee bit toasty, but that warm processor can speed its way to a 5 to 6 hour battery life, and that’s while doing something as simple as being productive and writing, and being less productive and surfing the web.

A battery life of 5 to 6 tells us how well the system will perform when there’s something intensive going on, and the results aren’t super amazing, so if you’re going to load up Photoshop or something else processor intensive, make sure to keep your battery charger nearby, because you are going to need it.

You might also hear the fan spin up every so often, and it’s a little high pitched, but not overly loud, and for the most part, we didn’t hear it at all during our time with it, except during one small play with a Full HD video. Again, not very loud, just something we heard.

This is an awkward tablet to carry around, but at least when you do, the keyboard switches off.

This is an awkward tablet to carry around, but at least when you do, the keyboard switches off.

It’s a shame, too, because the performance is pretty good. Hardly surprising given the Core i7 underneath, but we found little to no lag as we wrote on the machine and relied on it for general use.

Push it hard and you may find it pushes back, but overall, we found the Core i7 and 8GB RAM handled itself about as well as any other Ultrabook we’ve tested here.

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Conclusion

If you’re looking for something and have a reasonable amount to spend, Dell’s 7000 series Inspiron handles itself well and is spec’d closely to other machines in the $1600-2000 class.

That said, we’re curious about its lack of high-grade materials, because with this set of specs and a $1700 price for the model we checked out, Dell is competing against models which aren’t far off the dollar mark and yet include better looking and more solid hinges (Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro) or aluminium as the chassis material (HP Spectre 13, 2015 edition).

Dell, on the other hand, relies on plastic. Plastic isn’t bad, but it’s still plastic, and granted, it’s a nice feeling machine, but it lacks the premium feel and deluxe finish the others are going for, and yet targets similar money, leaving us a little uneasy in the value department.

If that doesn’t bother you, though, and you’re happy with Dell’s design, you’ll find something to like in the Inspiron 7000 series 13 inch.

Price (RRP)

$1299 (starting price); Review model was $1699;

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Surprisingly well spec'd for a machine this size; Decent Full HD display; Comfortable keyboard; Soft plastic exterior is very easy to grip and hold; Passive stylus included in the package, with a slot for the pen;

Product Cons

Chassis could do with more premium materials... or any, even; Very, very reflective screen; Overly plastic trackpad could do with some more work; Fairly ordinary battery life; 

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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