If you're looking for an affordable laptop for the kids or a secondary computer for yourself, Dell's Inspiron 14 3000 could be right up your alley. Starting at $200 ($280 as tested), this 14-inch Windows 10 laptop packs solid performance and booming audio into a plain, but sturdy chassis. Though the laptop's display is a bit dim and its keyboard is too shallow, the Inspiron 14 3000 provides plenty of plenty of value for budget-conscious consumers.
The Dell Inspiron 14 3000's black plastic chassis may look inexpensive, with its glossy sides and matte lid, but it felt sturdy in my hands. This is also one of the few consumer laptops on the market with a removable battery, a feature we wish were more common.
Measuring 13.58 x 9.57 x 0.84 inches, the Inspiron 14 3000 has an average footprint for an inexpensive 14-inch laptop. The Inspiron weighs 3.8 pounds, which is heavier than the 14-inch Lenovo Ideapad 100 (3.2 pounds) and Acer Aspire One Cloudbook (3.53 pounds), but lighter than the 15.6-inch Asus F555LA (4.6 pounds).
The Inspiron 14 3000's keys feel stiff and have a shallow 1.14 millimeters of travel (1.5 to 2mm are typical). They require a reasonable 60 grams of force to actuate, but that didn't prevent me from "bottoming out" or hitting the base with a lot of force. On the 10FastFingers.com typing test, I click-clacked my way to 76 words per minute with 99 percent accuracy, which is below my average of 80 wpm and 99 percent.
Dell's given the Inspiron 14 3000 a 4.1 x 2.5-inch, buttonless touchpad that accurately recognized my fingers as I navigated around the desktop. Gestures such as three-finger swipe and pinch-to-zoom worked flawlessly.
Before I could watch the trailer for Captain America: Civil War on the Inspiron 14's 1366 x 768 display, I had to adjust the lid to avoid getting glaring reflections on-screen. Once I found an angle that didn't overlay my shirt's pattern onto the video, I noticed a lack of detail and inaccurate color in the display. Not only did the reds of Iron Man's armor and Captain America's shield appear muted, but also healthy skin tones registered with a sickly blue hue.
When we measured the Inspiron 14 with our colorimeter, we discovered that its display can produce only 68.5 percent of the sRGB color spectrum. That's less than the Asus F555LA (70.4 percent) and the category average (83.15 percent), but better than the Acer Aspire One (53 percent).
Our tests also revealed that this display is far from accurate, as it scored a 4.4 on the Delta-E test (closer to zero is better). That's worse than the category average (3.2) and the Aspire One (3.8), but better than the Asus F555LA (6.3).
The Inspiron 14's display panel can produce only 188 nits of brightness, which is less than the category average (243 nits), Lenovo Ideapad 100 (260 nits), Aspire One Cloudbook (244 nits) and Asus F555LA (198 nits). With such a dim screen, it's not surprising that the display is so reflective and has such limited viewing angles, with color deteriorating at just 30 degrees to the left or right.
The Dell Inspiron 14 3000 filled a large conference room with the high notes of David Bowie and Queen's live performance of "Under Pressure" and the crisp drum cymbals and piano keys of Fiona Apple's "Not About Love." Bass-heavy songs didn't sound as sweet, with the speakers muffling the synths in Giorgio Moroder's cover of "Tom's Diner."
The Dell Audio utility includes audio-enhancement presets that are supposed give this budget notebook "studio-quality sound." These presets include Music, Movies, Voice and Gaming, which are supposed to optimize audio to those settings. The Inspiron 14 comes with the MaxxSense preset turned on, and you should keep it enabled to avoid rendering the highs and mids as distant as the bass.
With an Intel Pentium N3700 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive, our review configuration of the Inspiron 14 3000 provided enough performance for moderate multitasking. When I split the screen between a streaming 1080p video and a dozen Chrome tabs (including TweetDeck and a Google Doc), I could switch among sites without any problems. However, I experienced lag when I added more tabs, as Chrome paused to open already-loaded pages.
The Inspiron 14 3000 performed well for its price, scoring 3,413 on Geekbench 3, a general performance test. That beats the Celeron-powered Ideapad 100 (2,446) and Aspire One (1,646), as well as the Core i3-powered Asus F555LA (2,080). The Inspiron's score is still lower than the thin-and-light laptop category average (6,229), which includes scores from nonbudget laptops.
The Inspiron 14's 500GB 5,400 rpm drive took 3 minutes to complete the Laptop File Transfer Test, which involves copying 4.97GB of mixed-media files. That's a speed of 27.9 MBps, which is slower than the average thin-and-light notebook (118.5 MBps), the 32GB eMMC drive in the Aspire One (48 MBps) and the 500GB 5,400rpm drives in the Asus F555LA (32.2 MBps) and Ideapad 100 (34.4 MBps).
The Inspiron 14 3000 did not fare well in our OpenOffice test, which matches 20,000 names with addresses, finishing in a slow time of 13 minutes and 33 seconds. That's longer than the average thin-and-light notebook (5:33) and the Asus F555LA (6:31), but faster than the Aspire One (15:08) and the Ideapad 100 (18:06).
Dell placed an SD memory reader, an HDMI port and a USB 3.0 port on the left side of the Inspiron 14 3000. Two USB 2.0 ports, a headphone jack and a security lock slot sit on the notebook's right side.
The Inspiron 14 3000's 0.9-megapixel camera shot noisy selfies of me in our well-lit office. The reds of my shirt and the Purch Media wall looked accurate, but the blues in my shirt appeared washed out.
The Inspiron 14 3000 lasted a respectable 6 hours and 33 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous Web surfing at 100 nits. That's longer than the Asus F555LA (5:44) and the Lenovo Ideapad 100 (4:45), but shorter than the average thin-and-light notebook (8:14) and far from the Aspire One (14:43).
Armed with only integrated Intel graphics, the Inspiron 14 3000 is unable to play games that are more demanding than the preinstalled Candy Crush Soda Saga and the casual racer Asphalt 8.
The Inspiron 14 3000 was not a high achiever in the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test either, earning a score of 24,777. The average thin-and-light notebook (55,545) and the Asus F555LA (46,285) earned better scores, though the Aspire One (18,065) and Ideapad 100 (15,481) did worse.
The Inspiron 14 3000 stays pleasantly cool on its top surface, but it may be a little warm in your lap. After we streamed 15 minutes of HD video, the notebook's touchpad and keyboard hit just 86 degrees Fahrenheit, but the underside broke our 95-degree comfort threshold, with a measurement of 96 degrees.
Surprisingly -- and most welcome -- for a budget laptop, the Inspiron 14 3000 comes with a mostly pristine installation of Windows 10, with Dell tacking on only its proprietary utility apps: Power Manager Lite offers Advanced Charge settings that Dell claims will prolong the battery's usable lifetime, and SupportAssist combines a system-scan utility with information about your laptop that customer service will need in the case of a call.
The Inspiron 14 3000 comes with Dell's standard one-year limited warranty.
The entry-level Inspiron 14 3000 costs $200 and has an Intel Celeron N3050 processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of eMMC storage, and you can upgrade it to include a touch screen for $80. Our test model has a Pentium N3700 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 5,400 rpm hard drive, a nontouch screen and a $280 price tag.
If you're looking for a sub-$300 notebook with reasonable performance, solid battery life and capable audio, the Inspiron 14 3000 delivers. Unfortunately, the laptop makes some compromises in the form of a dim display and shallow keyboard.
The Acer Aspire One Cloudbook offers a brighter screen and longer battery life for $30 less, but it has a tiny, 32GB storage drive and an Intel Atom processor that offers less-than-mainstream performance. Overall, if you want to get acceptable performance on a very tight budget, the Dell Inspiron 14 3000 is a good option.
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Affordable price; Modest performance; Powerful speakers
Dim, limited display; Shallow keyboard
For under $300, the Dell Inspiron 14 3000 offers capable performance and loud audio in a plain but solid chassis
|CPU||Intel Pentium Processor N3700 (2M Cache, up to 2.40 GHz)|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home|
|Hard Drive Size||500GB|