X

Dell Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 (2016) review: The king of budget laptops has arrived

Dell's new 13- and 15-inch backflipping PCs bring premium features down to an affordable price -- and make them standard.

seanhollister.jpg
Sean Hollister
seanhollister.jpg

Sean Hollister

Senior Editor / Reviews

When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.

See full bio
5 min read

I'm going to save you a lot of time. Do you like how this laptop looks? Does it meet your tight budget? Then buy it. Buy it and never look back.

inspiron-7000-2-in-1-2016-4106-030.jpg
8.5

Dell Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 (2016)

The Good

The Dell Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 comes with all the trimmings -- a slim metal chassis, backflipping touchscreen, speedy solid state drive and accurate touchpad -- for hundreds less than you'd expect. A face-recognizing camera, rare for any laptop, is icing on the cake.

The Bad

The glossy touchscreen creates distracting reflections, and a poorly-placed power button is easy to press by accident. Uninspired design, heavier than competing laptops and battery life is slightly below average.

The Bottom Line

Whether you need a 13-inch portable or a 15-inch workhorse, the Dell Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 offers unheard-of value for money. You can invest in an external battery pack to extend its battery life.

I've never said that about a laptop before, but the Dell Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 series is truly exceptional. For just $750, these 13- and 15-inch laptops don't merely punch above their price bracket, they do it without removing any of the features you'd want and expect from a PC in 2016.

Update, September 2016: Just don't buy the 17-inch model. The Dell Inspiron 17 7000 isn't nearly as good as its smaller 13 and 15-inch cousins.

inspiron-7000-2-in-1-2016-3936-002.jpg

The Dell Inspiron 7000 2-in-1, in 13- and 15-inch models.

Josh Miller/CNET


Where Dell excels

To reach a sub-$800 price, PC manufacturers typically cut a lot of corners. This Dell doesn't.

  • While manufacturers are usually happy to sell you a plastic laptop by adding a thin veneer of metal up top, this Dell is metal all the way around.
  • While some vendors stuff a crappy low-resolution LCD panel into their cheaper computers -- or maybe one with terrible viewing angles -- both the 13- and 15-inch Dell come standard with a crisp 1,920x1,080-pixel IPS touchscreen display that's completely competent.
  • While some cheaper laptops start with a slower Intel Core M processor, Dell goes tried and true here with a current-gen Core i5 chip.
  • While some of the very best laptops pretend to give you a deal by sticking you with a paltry 4GB of memory or 128GB of solid state storage and charge extra for more, this Dell comes standard with 8GB and 256GB modules that won't bog down your system.
  • While some laptop manufacturers forget about having a decent backlit keyboard and touchpad in their never-ending quest for thinness, the Dell is well above average on both counts. No issue with scrolling or pinch to zoom, which is rare for Windows laptops.
  • And while some laptops have drastically different specs, ports and prices if you opt for a version with a larger screen, the 13- and 15-inch Dell Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 are practically identical. (Only the 17-inch version is different -- we'll review it separately in the weeks to come.)

But Dell's new laptop isn't merely competent for less money, it goes above and beyond. This $750 computer is one of the very few with a Windows Hello face-recognizing camera, and it's one of my favorite new features in years.

inspiron-7000-2-in-1-2016-4143-034.jpg

This infrared camera lets you log into Windows with your face. Watch our video to see how.

Josh Miller/CNET

The camera lets you securely log into Windows with your face just by looking at the screen. Just train the computer to recognize your face (Start -> "Set up face sign-in") and there'll be no need to type passwords when you log into Windows. Because the infrared camera can see in 3D, it can't easily be fooled by a picture of a face: Only the real deal.

It's a shame the camera's a little sluggish to start up -- way slower than the one we tested in Toshiba's pricier Radius 12 late last year -- but it's still faster than typing a password. I use it constantly.

The only notable flaws

The Dell Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 has two weak points. The first is the terribly-placed power button on the front right edge of the machine. I'm still trying to train myself not to accidentally put the computer to sleep when I pick up this PC.

The second is battery life. I only saw about 6 hours from the 13- and 15-inch models in our standard video streaming playback test, and roughly 4-5 hours of real work. That's not great for a thin-and-light laptop -- in our tests, the best usually muster 8-10 hours of streaming video playback on a charge.

But when it comes to battery, Dell has a killer trick up its sleeve: An optional $100 (AU$180, £110) external battery that plugs right into its USB-C port to keep the laptop running.

inspiron-7000-2-in-1-2016-4041-020.jpg

This optional USB-C external battery can take the Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 from completely dead to 80 percent charged.

Josh Miller/CNET

I don't have words to describe how much I adore this battery. Not only did it charge up these Dell laptops to 80 percent of their full capacity (an additional 3-4 hours of use), it's got enough amperage that you can fully drain a laptop, plug it into this battery and immediately resume working.

You can even charge the laptop and the external battery at the same time with a single power cord. And when the battery isn't charging a laptop, its two USB ports can top up a pair of tablets or phones.

(You may be able to use a cheaper third-party USB-C battery instead, but I didn't test those.)

Other notes

There are a few other things you should probably know about the Dell Inspiron 7000 2-in-1, even though they don't sway my buying recommendation either way.

  • The brushed metal finish (fine grooves) looks and feels a little cheaper than the anodized finish (smooth, pebble-like) you've probably come to expect from aluminum-bodied machines. My unit had a couple rough seams, too.
  • The touchpad click feels way better (solid, bouncy) than on many laptops this thin.
  • The hinges on the 15-inch model could use a bit more torsion as the screen can wiggle a tad, particularly on a moving train.
  • The glass screen cover definitely throws off a lot of glare, but it's the price you pay for touch.
  • While viewing angles are definitely wide enough to share a movie on the couch, you do lose quite a bit of brightness at off-angles.
  • These laptops are a bit heavier than you might expect: 3.86 lb (1.75kg) and 5.84lb (2.65kg), respectively. That makes it hard to use them like tablets.
  • Other than the USB-C socket, it's a pretty standard array of ports: Two USB 3.0, one HDMI-out, one 3.5mm audio jack, and an SD card slot.
  • There's an optional $60 USB-C adapter that adds a USB port, Ethernet and an additional monitor (VGA or HDMI) all at the same time.
  • While the Core i5 chip is plenty potent for multitasking -- my traditional dozen Chrome tabs, auto-refreshing email, multiple monitors etc. ran great -- you shouldn't expect to play any intensive games on these portable PCs.
inspiron-7000-2-in-1-2016-4106-030.jpg

The 13-inch Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1.

Josh Miller/CNET


Verdict: Buy

For years, I've been asking laptop manufacturers to make important features standard -- like solid state drives and 1,920x1,080-pixel screens -- instead of confusing and annoying their customers by charging more to secure the performance they already expect.

Dell is the first company to actually do it, and the result is amazing. It's a laptop I can recommend to practically anyone, sight unseen, without fussing over which specific components they should pick.

A laptop that, for $750, has everything you need.

Multitasking Multimedia Test 3.0

HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2016) 494HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, 2016) 496Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 517Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 518Microsoft Surface Pro 4 519Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2016) 702
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 3 Multi-Core

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 6775Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 6470HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, 2016) 6439HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2016) 6256Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2016) 5879Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 5413
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming Video Playback Battery Drain test

Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2016) 633HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, 2016) 483HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2016) 480Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 375Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 356Microsoft Surface Pro 4 298
Note: longer bars indicate better performance

System Configurations

Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit) 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SanDisk M.2 SSD
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit) 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB Toshiba SATA600 SSD
HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2016) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit) 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD
HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, 2016) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit) 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit) 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD
Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2016) Apple El Capitan OSX 10.11.4; 1.2GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1866MHz; 1536MB Intel HD Graphics 515; 512GB SSD
inspiron-7000-2-in-1-2016-4106-030.jpg
8.5

Dell Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 (2016)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 9Battery 6
laptop
Get the best price on everything
Shop your favorite products and we’ll find the best deal with a single click. Designed to make shopping easier.
Add CNET Shopping