Dell Inspiron 14 7000 Series (2014) review: Very good looks and value, not a lot of choice

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The Good The Dell Inspiron 14 7000 series provides very good performance and nearly 8 hours of battery life in an attractive, thin aluminum body. It's well-priced for what you're getting, particularly the highest-end configuration.

The Bad The $800 entry version does not have a full-HD screen and it will cost you $200 more to get a configuration that does. It has a lean port and connection assortment and older 802.11n Wi-Fi instead of 802.11ac.

The Bottom Line While the entry model is less of a bargain than it used to be and configurations are limited, the thin, aluminum-clad Dell Inspiron 14 7000 remains an attractive option for its looks, performance, and price.

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7.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7.5
  • Performance 7.5
  • Battery 8
  • Support 7

Dell unveiled the Inspiron 14 7000 series laptop (and the 15 and 17 7000 series) in September of last year, billing it as its thinnest and strongest Inspiron to date.

That statement is probably more impressive to you if the Inspiron name conjures up images of thick, plastic, somewhat generic-looking laptops that "got the job done" but not much else.

For those who just know it as a mainstream line of Dell laptops, the current Inspiron 7000 series is still somewhat generic-looking, but it's attractive, made from aluminum, thin at 0.6-inch, and priced well for what you can get.

Features and design

Sarah Tew/CNET

At the moment, the 14 7000 series is available in three fixed configurations starting at $800 (£599, AU $1,300; configurations vary by region ). That's $50 less than the entry model we tested last year , but Dell used a 1,366x768-pixel resolution touch display this time around instead of the 1,920x1,080 display we got last time.

The base model also has a newer Intel Core i5-4210U processo, 6GB of memory, integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400, and a 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive. Pony up $200 more and get the full HD touch display, 2GB more of RAM, and a dual-core Core i7-4510U CPU. Throw in another $50 on top of that and Dell puts in a 32GB mSATA SSD to accompany the 500GB hard drive (which is the model tested here).

These are all good prices for what you're getting. However, you can't adjust the configurations at all. So if you wanted to pay a little extra for just the 1080p screen, or a faster processor, or more memory you can't: you'll have to get them all for an additional $200.

PC Geekbox

Dell Inspiron 14 7000 Series Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Series Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Price as reviewed $1,049 $1,149 $1,679
Display size/resolution 14-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 touchscreen 15-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 screen 14-inch,2,560 x 1,440 touchscreen
PC CPU 1.8GHz Intel Core i7 4500U 1.8GHz Intel Core i7 4500U 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 4200U
PC Memory 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz
Graphics 1,792MB shared Intel HD Graphics 4400 4GB Nvidia GeForce GT 750M 1,792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4400
Storage 32GB SSD 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive 128GB SSD hard drive
Optical drive None None None
Networking 802.11a/c wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 802.11a/c wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 8.1 (64-bit) Windows 8.1 (64-bit) Windows 8.1 (64-bit)

The configurations may have changed some, but the rest of the laptop remains the same. Again, it's barely more than half an inch thick (15.2mm) and measures 13.6 inches wide by 9.4 inches deep (34.5 x 23.9cm), making it small and thin enough to quickly slip into a shoulder bag. However, while it's not exactly heavy, at 4.1 pounds or 4.7 pounds with its power adapter (1.9kg or 2.1kg with its power adapter), you won't exactly forget you have it with you, either.

Lift the lid and you'll see a backlit, chiclet-style keyboard and a reasonably large clickpad. With the laptop being so thin, there's minimal key travel, so if you tend to hammer hard on your keys, you might find typing uncomfortable. Also, while the keys aren't overly small, there's so much room on the keyboard deck both above and to the sides of the keyboard that it seems like the keys could be larger, or at least moved up some to allow for a bigger clickpad. It does, however, keep it looking simple and clean.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Media controls as well as screen and keyboard brightness are mapped to the function keys and are set to work without the Fn key being held down. The keyboard has two levels of brightness or can be shut off entirely.

The clickpad is responsive and has a subtle texture to it that adds just enough drag. There is support for multitouch gestures, however gestures for three and four fingers are shut off by default. I also didn't experience any cursor jumpiness from dragging palms across it while typing, but you can always raise the palm-check setting if you do.

The side-firing stereo speakers sound thin for both movies and music. They can get quite loud without distortion, but you'll probably want to hook up a pair of speakers or headphones for more enjoyable listening.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The 14-inch, 1,920x1,080-pixel-resolution screen is overall nice, and off-angle viewing is good, with just some loss in brightness off to the sides and none of the inverted colors I've seen on other similarly priced laptops.