The first 17-inch backflipping notebook is good, but it could have been great.
Bigger isn't always better. Last month, I reviewed the 13- and 15-inch Dell Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 . They're phenomenal for the price. My takeaway at the time: "The king of budget laptops has arrived."
The thing is, Dell also sells a larger 17-inch version of the same laptop -- only it's not nearly as nice.
I don't mean that Dell's 17-inch 360-degree hybrid is a bad laptop. Not at all.
Starting at $899 (£999, not sold in Australia), this Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 fits a capable backlit keyboard, responsive touchpad and high-quality 1,920 x 1,080 IPS backflipping touchscreen display into an attractive (if uninspired) aluminum body.
That's already an array of features you won't necessarily find on a laptop under $1,000. My favorite feature, an infrared camera that lets you sign into Windows with your face (it really works!) is hard to find on laptops at all.
Now super-size that screen to 17 inches, add a 10-key numpad for work and a discrete Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics chip for (limited) play, and one might think you'd have quite the portable PC.
Unfortunately, that entry-level $899 Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 is missing one key thing.
While its smaller $750 siblings come standard with a 256GB solid-state drive, the 17-inch model has to make do with a slow 5,400rpm spinning magnetic hard drive instead. While the hard drive is a lot larger -- 1TB of storage -- it dooms the Dell to slow load times and slow multitasking unless you add an SSD after the fact.
Of course, you can buy that SSD from Dell, but you'll have to spend $1,149 to get a measly 128GB. That's $400 more than Dell charges for its 13- and 15-inch versions, which have a larger SSD to begin with.
Though it's pretty neat to scroll through websites on a spacious 17-inch touchscreen, my dreams of using it as a tablet were quickly squashed by the Dell's 6.12-pound (2.77kg) frame. Even propping it up on a leg while sitting on the couch proved tiring.
And before you pick this Dell as a gaming laptop, know that the GeForce 940MX chip isn't all that powerful. I definitely played some Overwatch with this PC, but only at a fairly low 1,280x720-pixel resolution with graphics turned all the way down. Even older games like BioShock Infinite and 2013's Tomb Raider couldn't do better than 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution and low levels of detail.
Meanwhile, Dell's 17-inch version of the Inspiron 7000 has the worst battery life of any of Dell's new 7000-series laptops. It died after only 3 hours of real-world use -- much less than the 4-5 hours I got with Dell's 13- and 15-inch models.
And you can't just pull out an awesome USB-C battery pack to charge it like the 13- and 15-inch models, either: the increased electrical demands of the Nvidia chip means you'll need to carry the standard power brick wherever you go.
Unless you absolutely, positively must have a 17-inch touchscreen laptop that flips over backward, your choices are clear. If you like how this laptop looks, skip the 17-inch Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 and buy the 13- or 15-inch model instead.
Starting at just $750 in the United States, those smaller notebooks are more capable than the 17-inch version, even if you pay the full $1,150 to upgrade it. They're an easy recommendation, period.
But if you were attracted to Dell's 17-inch version because of the relatively low price for discrete Nvidia graphics, I've got a far better option for you there, too. For just $800 (£749, AU$1,699) the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 has more capable graphics, more battery life, and a solid-state drive for just $50 more.
Just know that better laptops with even better graphics are coming soon.
|Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit) 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce 940MX; 128GB Samsung CM871 M.2 SSD; 1TB Toshiba 5400rpm MQO2ABF100 HDD|
|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|