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Dell Inspiron 13 7000 review: Premium and practical all in one

Dell Inspiron 13 7000 review: Premium and practical all in one
Valentina Palladino

Dell’s Inspiron line doesn’t make as many headlines as the XPS line does, but that could change quickly. Over the past year or so, Dell has taken premium features that come standard in XPS machines and translated them for the Inspiron line. The company knows it can’t rely on the XPS family alone to draw in customers that care about how their laptops look and feel—it needs more machines that feel as versatile as those XPSes.

The improved Inspiron line will offer a lot to these users: aluminum designs, 8th-gen Intel processors, 4K touchscreen support, optional Optane memory, inking abilities, and more. The new Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 Black Edition comes as close as the line gets to an XPS, but it has a convenient twist. In addition to all of the features previously listed, the new design includes a top-mounted webcam and IR camera along with a magnetic pen garage built into the hinge. While it can get expensive even for an Inspiron, it has a lot of things that are omitted in the XPS family—things some users will definitely want in their primary laptops.

Look and feel

Specs at a glance: Dell Inspiron 13 7000 Black Edition (as reviewed)
Screen 13.3-inch 4K (3840 x 2160) IPS touchscreen
OS Windows 10
CPU Intel Core i7-8565U
RAM 16GB LPDDR3
HDD 512GB PCIe SSD (32GB
Optane memory H10)
GPU Intel UHD Graphics 620
Networking 802.11ac 2×2 WiFi, Bluetooth
Ports 1 x USB-C 3.1 Gen 1, 1 x USB-A, 1 x HDMI port, 1 x microSD card, 1 x headphone/mic jack, 1 x power port
Size 12.7×8.8× 0.7 inches
Weight 3.8 pounds
Battery 52Whr 4C
Starting price $ 1,322.99
Price as reviewed $ 1,420.99

The Inspiron line contains the 3000, 5000, and 7000 families, and the latter is the most luxurious of them all. The new 13-inch Black Edition looks and feels just premium enough to justify its higher price tag, which starts above $ 1,000. If the XPS 13 lost its metallic accents and swelled up just a bit, as if it was stung by a bee, you’d have the Inspiron 13 7000 Black Edition. Measuring 12.7 x 8.8 x 0.7-inches and weighing 3.8 pounds, it feels more substantial in your hands but it’s not heavy by any means.

It’s also noticeably larger when placed side-by-side to the XPS 13, and it’s thicker where the lid meets the chassis thanks to the new pen garage. In addition to being home to an active pen, the extra thickness at the back edge allowed Dell to include one full-sized HDMI port and a USB-A port (both of which the XPS lacks), in addition to one USB-C port, one microSD card slot, one headphone jack, and one power port on the machine’s side edges.

Gone are the days when laptops were made chunky enough to fit a slew of connectivity options (the major exception being gaming laptops)—companies are trying to include as many ports as possible in these more affordable laptop families without adding extra heft. The Inspiron 13 7000 Black Edition may be about 0.3 inches thicker than the XPS 13 and nearly one pound heavier, but those are small sacrifices to make when you’re getting a machine that’s arguably just as elegant—just in a different way.

I’m not the type of person who cares what other people think about my tech, but it is a factor for some people. That’s why Dell, and most other PC OEMs, make premium lines that basically all put their own spin on a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro design. If you want those metallic finishes and fiber-glass palm rests, you’re going to go for the XPS regardless of its limitations. But the Black Edition is almost as sleek and certainly as professional looking as the XPS 13, making it a machine that you won’t mind working with in public.

While the regular Inspiron 13 2-in-1s have FHD and 4K display options, the Black Edition only comes with a 4K touchscreen. That’s most likely because it’s a special version of the Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 (which starts at $ 832.99), and it also comes standard with an active pen—a tool geared towards artists and others who place more value on a higher-quality display. The bezels surrounding the 13.3-inch screen aren’t as thin as those on the XPS, but they don’t take away from the stellar viewing experience that the screen has. The additional space on the top bezel allowed Dell to include an HD webcam as well as an IR camera for Windows Hello.

Keyboard, trackpad, and active pen

The keyboard layout is also similar to that of the XPS 13, but Dell moved the fingerprint reader and power button combo right above the Backspace key. Unlike the embedded circular button on the XPS 13, the Black Edition’s power button has a dedicated keycap that you press to turn the device on and off, and that lets you log in with your fingerprint. There isn’t a one-press power and sign on option, but otherwise the fingerprint reader works as designed. As a result of moving the power button to the left a bit, the top row of function keys are all slightly smaller and more square-shaped than those on the XPS 13.

The Precision trackpad looks and feels nearly identical to that on the XPS 13. It’s still a little small for my liking (I’m used to an expansive trackpad like that on the MacBook Pro), but it works as you’d expect it to.

There are plenty of reasons to love 2-in-1s, but those that love them for their versatility as digital notebooks will appreciate the Black Edition. Dell includes an active pen with every Inspiron 13 7000 Black Edition as it lives in a pen-shaped garage in the machine’s hinge. Not only does it magnetically stick to that garage, but it will stay in place regardless of which position the 2-in-1 is in.

This is one of the more elegant solutions to the active pen problem I’ve seen on a laptop. Some devices, like Acer’s Spin 3, have tiny scribblers that hide inside their chassis, and others simply have magnetic edges that the pen is supposed to stick to. I prefer the former solution to the latter, but those pens tend to be smaller and less adept as actual writing tools. Dell’s active pen, powered by a AAAA battery, mimics a real pen in its size, has two side buttons, and has a concave top portion (where the eraser would be) that makes it easier to remove from its garage.

It also helps that it’s a smooth writing and drawing tool. I saw very little latency when taking notes and sketching on the Black Edition’s screen. It’s one of the better active pens I’ve used, not only because of its low latency, but because it feels so similar to a real pen, pencil, or marker. I would have loved for it to have a rechargeable battery, like the active pens that are optional with the newest HP convertibles, but the AAAA solution is still standard.

Performance

Our review unit of the Inspiron 13 7000 Black Edition had specs similar to that XPS 13 we tested out earlier this year: Core i7-8565U CPU, integrated Intel graphics, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of PCIe SSD. This model also has 32GB of Intel Optane Memory H10. The Black Edition performed comparably to the XPS 13 on nearly all of our benchmark tests. Their scores were not far apart, and only a few times did the XPS 13 surpass the Black Edition in a significant way.

Like the XPS 13, the Black Edition’s fans made themselves known. Dell included adaptive thermals in the machine that use algorithms and accelerometers to know which mode it’s in: laptop, tent, tablet, etc. When in laptop mode, the mode that it assumes you’ll be doing the most intense work, the machine kicks up the power and increases airflow to accommodate that. This is when I heard the fans the most—while the Black Edition isn’t a distractingly loud machine, it’s certainly not silent.

It also gets a little hot on the bottom-middle portion of its chassis when it’s being put to work. While the air intake vents sit on the machine’s bottom, the air output vents are located on the hinge. You won’t feel hot are being blown on your legs when using the machine in laptop mode, but there’s a section of the chassis’ bottom that gets noticeably warmer after you use the machine for a couple hours.

Battery life

Despite being larger, the Inspiron 13 7000 Black Edition has a 52Whr battery like the XPS 13 has. The Black Edition lasted an average of 589 minutes, or just under 10 hours, on our Wi-Fi test, and an average of 447 minutes, or about 7.5 hours, on our WebGL test. The XPS 13 lasted nearly three hours more on our Wi-Fi test, but the Black Edition beat it on the graphics-intensive test by about two hours.

Real-world battery life will truly depend on how you’re using the Black Edition, and our tests results lead us to believe that it’s the better device if you’ll be working many hours on graphically laborious tasks such as video or photo editing. Dell also included its ExpressCharge feature on the convertible, which allows it to charge up about 35 percent in just 20 minutes.

Maximum value

An OEM’s most prestigious laptop families are not the only ones worthy of praise, and the new Inspiron 13 7000 Black Edition proves that for Dell. It may not have the razor-sharp edges or the super-slim profile of the XPS 13, but it’s still a great two-in-one that will probably suit more users’ needs than the XPS 13 laptop.

We still think the XPS 13 laptop is the best Windows ultrabook you can buy right now. That devices holds the title because it fits so well into the “ultrabook” definition and has the best combination of features that will appeal to those who desire the most premium, thin-and-light Windows notebook they can get. In comparison, the Inspiron 13 7000 Black Edition is a different kind of beast. It makes some design sacrifices to bring more practicality into the mix—thereby increasing its overall value for money.

When compared to the XPS 13 laptop that we tested a few months ago, the Inspiron 13 7000 Black Edition we tested had the same processor, RAM, and storage, allowing it to perform comparably on our benchmark tests. But the Black Edition also has support for Optane memory, it includes an IR camera for Windows Hello in addition to a fingerprint sensor, it has a built-in pen garage and an included active pen, and it has more connectivity options. This laptop may give up some thinness, overall design edge, and a bit of battery life to include those additional features, but we think what you get in return adds up. Just keep in mind that this is true for the new Black Edition 2-in-1—the Inspiron family has numerous other 13-inch and 15-inch convertibles that do not have the same exact design (no pen garage, for instance) but are even more customizable in terms of specs. Many start off more affordable, too.

That being said, affordability factors in with this machine as well: the Inspiron 13 7000 Black Edition that we tested ($ 1,420.99) comes in about $ 300 less than the XPS 13 laptop that we tested ($ 1,709.99). There will always be some people who want the top-of-the-line product, and the XPS remains at the head of Dell’s ultraportable lineup. However, that’s not the only option if you want a high-quality machine with a lot of power as well as a lot of capabilities that aren’t hindered by design or the latest laptop trends. Those looking for a great value for your money should consider the Inspiron 7000 series, especially the new Black Edition convertible.

The Good

  • Subtle yet professional design.
  • Included active pen in magnetic pen garage.
  • Windows Hello IR camera in addition to a fingerprint sensor.
  • Solid performance.
  • Optional Optane memory.

The Bad

  • Fans can get loud.
  • Gets a bit warm.
  • No webcam shutter.

The Ugly

  • Charges via 4.5mm barrel power port.

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Tech – Ars Technica

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