What's the most important element of a laptop? To me, it's not necessarily the speed, although that's important too. It's how using the laptop feels.
Starting at $850, AU$1,799 or £899, Dell's Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 isn't quite a budget laptop, but it's not priced like a premium one either. For that midrange cost, you'll get a machine that just feels right, thanks to its stellar trackpad and keyboard, which is an area some other hybrids skimp on.
But after using the laptop for a while, as in just a few hours, you run into a problem: battery life. The weak battery life of the Inspiron will be a real issue for people who do their work away from a power socket.
Still, there's a lot to be impressed by here, especially for a laptop that's a good chunk under $999.
That's not to say upgrades aren't available. You can get a model with an i7 processor and 16GB of RAM, which will set you back $1,049, AU$2,399 or £1,018, and there is a variant (the model we tested) with 512GB of storage for $1,100, AU$2,399 or £1,219. You'll want to go for either the base model or the smaller i7 variant, as for $1,200 you could instead opt for a similarly specced XPS 13.
Last year's Inspiron 13 7000 was a big hit at CNET, as it offered an impressive feature set for just $750. A quick recap: It had a speedy i5 processor (in the base model), Windows Hello facial recognition, a backlit keyboard and full-HD touchscreen display (that's 1,920x1,080 pixels), and of course its ability to be flipped over and converted into a tablet. All pleasant surprises in an inexpensive package. And yes, unlocking your laptop with your face is still the coolest thing ever, even if it can't turn your likeness into an emoji.
This model has all that, but it's not quite as much of a bargain -- and not just because it's more expensive.
First, the pros. Intel's new eighth-generation processors give the Inspiron a considerable power boost. Our i7-powered Inspiron scored almost double what last year's model did in some benchmarks, and is roughly as fast as many much-more pricey competitors, including Dell's own excellent XPS 13.
Plus, the Inspiron looks a little classier thanks to its brushed-aluminum Era Gray chassis. It's now a touch thinner and lighter, at 0.61 inches (15.5mm) and 3.2 pounds (1.45 kg), down from 0.76 inches (19.3mm) and 3.5 pounds (1.59 kg). It moves the power button from the front right edge, a woefully bad design choice, to a more standard spot next to the keyboard.
But all that comes with one big drawback in battery life. The 38-watt-hour battery is smaller than last year's model, so the laptop doesn't last as long. There are three power modes, but the device averaged 4 hours, 40 minutes in our battery tests, which is a couple hours weaker than average. On heavier power settings it lasted 20-40 minutes less. I got between three and four hours of real-world use out of it before a recharge was necessary, which is way too low.
|Price as reviewed||$1,249|
|Display size/resolution||13.3-inch 1,920x1,080-pixel touch display|
|CPU||1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U|
|aMemory||16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz|
|Graphics||128MB dedicated Intel UHD Graphics 620|
|Networking||802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.2, Dual Band 2.4 & 5 GHz, 2x2|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Home (64-bit)|
This is an issue, because the Inspiron, with its speed, touchscreen and comfort, is an otherwise excellent device for productivity. But battery life is a key factor for most people who use their computers for work. Your accessibility to power outlets is something to consider before buying.
While the grey chassis is an improvement over older versions, the Inspiron still doesn't do much to actually inspire. It looks industrial, and doesn't pull off the grey frame/black keyboard mix as well as Apple's MacBooks, from which it obviously drew inspiration.
But what the 2-in-1 lacks in style, it makes up for in substance -- battery notwithstanding. The responsive, smooth trackpad and spacious keyboard are a joy to use, making this a laptop well-suited for work.
That's not too much of a surprise, considering Dell's XPS laptops have similar strengths. Still, Windows laptops with such quality touchpads and keyboards are rare, especially ones that are under $999.
But not everything in the Inspiron feels as premium. The 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution display is vibrant and sharp, but has some noticeable glare. It's mostly forgivable in an office scenario, but is troublesome when watching videos, as a darker screen means more reflection.
A glossy screen is a common problem for touch displays, but it has a double whammy effect here. Since you always need the brightness turned all the way up to minimize glare, the battery life takes another hit.
The Dell Inspiron 2-in-1 is still a great package, and it certainly feels like it's worth more than its asking price -- but that's with a heavy asterisk. If you need a laptop that runs all day, this is not the one for you. It's a shame the Inspiron's battery doesn't give it the power it needs to be truly exceptional.
|Dell Inspiron 7373||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel UHD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD|
|Lenovo Yoga 920-13IKB||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD|
|HP Spectre 13||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD|
|Lenovo ThinkPad 13||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i3-7100U; 4GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 128GB SSD|
|Asus Pro B9440U||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD|
|LG gram (13-inch, 2017)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD|
|Acer Swift 3||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD|