In our experience, 2-in-1 laptops tend to spend most of the time in one configuration or the other. The convertible aspect is diminished when the computer is primarily used as a laptop. The updated Dell 2-in-1 Inspiron, however, does such a fine job as both laptop and tablet, we found myself switching between modes all the time.
Still, we used the Inspiron 13-7000 series more often as a laptop, but its size and weight make the tablet mode a joy with leisurely applications. In some ways, it’s like a mullet: business up front, party in the rear, but without all the negative connotations of the world’s worst haircut.
Like its competitors, the Lenovo Yoga 900 and the Asus ZenBook Flip UX360, the Inspiron is clad in an eye-catching metal shell. In fact, other than the differing logos, all 3 look remarkably similar. The biggest difference is the Lenovo’s hinge is a fancy solution that borrows from the design of metallic watch bands. Both the ZenBook and Inspiron have standard hinges connecting the screen and body, whereas the Lenovo uses a single, device-spanning solution.
Nonetheless Dell’s 2-in-1 is contained in a very attractive aluminum casing. The bevel around the trackpad is milled to an angle that brings out the natural shine of the metal on an otherwise brushed-aluminum body. The outer rim of the laptop lid has the same chamfered edge around it, giving it just enough flash to make it pop.
The chiclet keyboard has a bluish-white backlight reminiscent of the LED headlights of modern cars. The travel on the keys is just a touch on the shallow side, but it still feels comfortable and satisfying to use for writing papers or long emails. The trackpad, too, is satisfyingly tactile, with just the right amount of “click.
Input-wise, the only place we really found the Inspiron lacking was in its touch interface – although that might have more to do with Windows 10 than quality of the screen.
Some of our hands are fairly big, and sometimes we would tap a backlink or open a program from the desktop and either miss entirely, or hit something nearby. Everyone knows close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes.
Another annoying issue that broadly affects Windows 10’s touch keyboard is the lack of autocorrect. In other words, if you’re used to typing on a smartphone, you’re probably going to make a lot of typos using the Windows touch keypad.
By default, it doesn’t auto-correct, or auto-complete, which is a problem for someone like me whose finesse is more akin to a bull in a china shop. Typically, if you’re typing away on a keyboard you can catch typos for the most part, but it’s too easy slide over multiple touchscreen keys and enter errant characters.
Gone from the updated Inspiron 2-in-1 is the built-in stylus, which would help with accuracy on the touch screen. Older models hid the stylus away in such as fashion as to make it look like a physical button. It would have been nice to at least have the option, but third-party solutions exist if you really need a digital pen in your life.
For getting work done, laptop mode is the clear winner. Typing on the Windows 10 on-screen keyboard is OK for entering URLs into search bars, but otherwise, not great. For fun stuff, like reading comics on Comixology, surfing the web, or watching movies, tablet mode is great. In fact, we’re seriously considering changing the orientation of our desktop monitors because reading on a vertical screen is kind of the best thing.
The Inspiron we tested weighs in at 1.75 kg, or 3.5 lbs. It’s downright husky up against both the svelte Lenovo Yoga 900 at 2.84 lbs./1.28 kg, and the 2.9 lbs./1.31 kg Asus Zenbook UX360.
The weight of the Inspiron 7000 series only goes up from there, with the heaviest models weighing in an astonishing 6.12 lbs./2.77 kg for the 17-inch entry model. At that point, a 2-in-1 just seems completely impractical, with comfort suffering measurably while in the tablet configuration.
The extra half-pound of weight is easily forgivable when you consider the price. The Inspiron 13-7000 starts at $799 or $1,698 (about £610), as opposed to the $1,199 (£999, AU$2,199) Yoga.
The Zenbook also retails for $799 (about £610, AU$1,060), but you downgrade from a base-model Intel Core i3-6100u to an Intel M3-6Y30 mobile processor. ASUS makes up for the processor with twice the storage and twice the RAM of the base Inspiron, which comes with a 256GB solid-state drive and 4GB DDR4 RAM.
- CPU: 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-6260U Processor (dual-core, 3MB cache, up to 2.9GHz with TurboBoost)
- Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 540
- RAM: 4 GB single-channel DDR4 2133 MHz
- Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1920×1080) Truelife LED-Backlit Touch Display
- Storage: 256 GB SSD
- Ports: HDMI 1.4a, USB Type-C (ThunderBolt 3.0), USB 3.0 with PowerShare, USB 2.0, SD card reader
- Connectivity: 802.11ac dual band Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.0
- Camera: 720p Infrared Webcam with Dual Digital Microphone Array
- Weight: 3.52 lbs (1.75 kg)
- Size: 12.69 x 8.82 x 0.76 inches (32.3 x 22.4.0 x 1.92mm: W x D x H)
Running multiple applications in the background while we watched a movie on HBO Go didn’t slow anything down. So while this 13-inch convertible isn’t a powerhouse, it gets the job done. That said, it definitely doesn’t hit the highs of a gaming laptop, but you wouldn’t have too much trouble playing indies or older games on it, if that’s your thing.
Really, a 2-in-1 computer is perfect to split between productivity and casual use, while the computing power on-hand strikes a good balance between affordability and utility. I never noticed any performance issues in my everyday use, although we know better than to try and play something like GTA 5 or edit multiple movie files in Adobe Premiere Pro.
Here’s how the Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
- 3DMark: Cloud Gate:5618; Sky Diver:3684; Fire Strike: 851
- Cinebench CPU: 282 points; Graphics: 43.7 fps
- GeekBench: 3119 (single-core); 6411 (multi-core)
- PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,794 points
- PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours and 15 minutes
The Inspiron ekes out a win on every test except battery, where it pales in comparison to the Yoga’s 5 hours and 6 minutes on the PCMark 8 Battery Life test. It also does quite a bit better than the ASUS ZenBook in every test…with the exception of battery.
Dell claims the configuration we tested gets 8 hours, 24 minutes of life from its integrated, 3-cell battery, but I came up short in my own experience.
That’s not to say battery life is a problem. Far from it: With Guardians of the Galaxy playing in full-screen, in HD and on repeat, we got 5 hours 25 minutes of life from the Inspiron. This was about the same usage we got over the course of a day, with Chrome and Firefox open, running some heavy work-related Ajax webpages in the background. We bounced back and forth between work and watching movies on HBO Go, and were satisfied with the battery life.
It could be longer, for sure, but it almost has enough juice to make it across the country on an older airplane without charging ports.
Looks Great, Sounds Bad
Dell proudly touts the Inspiron’s included Standard Waves MaxxAudio Pro audio software for an enhanced “multimedia experience with an impressive soundstage”.
Unfortunately, sound is a big disappointment. It’s passable when using the Inspiron in laptop mode, but any deviation in its configuration throws the sound into a garbage can. Or at least, it sounds like it does.