Hands-on with Dell's premium-looking Inspiron 7000 series

A high-end Inspiron makeover combines aluminum bodies, touch screens, and new CPUs.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
2 min read

Dell's Inspiron line of laptops runs the gamut from very inexpensive plastic boxes to highly configurable slim laptops with premium parts and excellent designs. Previously, that wide range was represented, in part, by the use of different names, such as Inspiron, Inspiron R, and Inspiron Z.

With this fall refresh, those designations have been replaced with three tiers of products: the Inspiron 3000, 5000, and 7000 series. We got a chance to get our hands on a few 7000-series laptops, which will be available in 14-, 15-, and 17-inch versions.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Rather than the plastic bodies of most previous Inspirons, the Inspiron 7000 is aluminum, and certainly looks like an upper midrange mainstream laptop. The screens have edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass touch panels, with resolutions ranging from 1,366x768 to 1,920x1,080 pixels.

These new systems are noticeably thinner than the ones they replace. The 14-inch is 15.3mm; the 15-inch is 22.1mm; and the 17-inch is 27.7mm. The 15-inch includes a separate number pad, and the 17-inch includes an optical drive.

More importantly, these are some of the first Dell laptops to feature Intel's latest fourth-generation Core i-series processors, also known by the code name Haswell. There's a modest performance improvement to be expected, but the real benefit comes from the battery life gains we've seen in other Haswell-generation laptops, and Dell says the 14-inch Core i5 Inspiron 7000 can run up to nearly 9 hours. The 15- and 17-inch versions will have optional Nvidia GeForce graphics, as well.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

When available, the Inspiron 14 7000 starts at $849, the 15-inch at $699, and the 17-inch at $849, although configuration options such as high-res screens, upgraded processors, and discrete graphics will no doubt push prices up significantly.