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Dell's Revamped Inspiron 13 Feels Like the Perfect College Laptop

Dell's reimagined Inspiron 13 5000 might just change your mind about the company's mid-range laptops. Unveiled today at Computex, the new ultrabook feels like a major improvement over the uninspired Inspiron laptops we've reviewed in the past.

The Inspiron 13 5000 will be available in two versions, with a new LTE-compatible model joining the ranks for true mobile computing.

The Wi-Fi-only Inspiron 13 5000 will start at $579, while the LTE version will go for $729. These notebooks are already available in most markets and will be "coming soon" to the U.S., according to Dell.

Dell Inspiron 13 5000 price and specs

Dell Inspiron 13 5000
Starting Price$579 (Wi-Fi); $729 (LTE)
Display13.3 inches, 1080p non-touch (Wi-Fi) 13.3-inches, 1080p touch (LTE)
CPUUp to 8th Gen Intel Core i5 (Wi-Fi) Up to 8th Gen Intel Core i7 (LTE)
RAMUp to 8GB
StorageUp to 512GB SSD
PortsHDMI, USB-C, USB 3.1 (Type-A), microSD card, headphone
Size12.1 x 8.1 x 0.7 inches
Weight2.6 pounds (Wi-Fi); 2.7 pounds (LTE)

The Dell Inspiron 13 5000 will start at $579 for the base Wi-Fi model, which comes with an Intel Core i5 CPU and 8GB of RAM. The LTE version starts at $729, and can be upgraded with up to an Intel Core i7 CPU and a 512GB SSD. 

Design and keyboard: Plastic meets metal

The new Inspiron 13 5000 made me forget about the plastic monstrosities we've come to associate with the Inspiron series. Dell smartly used a combination of plastic and metal elements to elevate the design of the Inspiron 13 5000. Finally, this mid-range laptop feels like a premium machine, if still a marked step down from the XPS 13.

The "Iced Lilac" color variant, which has a subtle purple tone, in particular, looks great. And simple additions like diamond-cut edges around the touchpad and a fingerprint integrated into the power button go a long way.  

MORE: Best Ultrabooks: Lightweight and Travel Laptops

The Inspiron also has what Dell is calling a drop-hinge. Similar to Asus' Ergolyft hinge, this mechanism lifts the back of the laptop off a table to improve air circulation and offer a more comfortable typing experience.

Speaking of which, the backlit keyboard had a nice clickiness and the keys were large and easy to type on despite the laptop's compact chassis.

Dell had to make a few design changes to the broadband version to accommodate LTE antennas. Those adjustments ultimately make the pricier model feel less premium than the base edition. One major difference is that the non-LTE version has thin bezels around all four sides of the display whereas the LTE model has a slightly chunkier (but still narrow) top bezel.

There are also some slight differences in the material Dell used for the two versions. The LTE model trades the standard Inspiron 13 5000's metal lid for plastic to avoid wireless interference.

As a result, the LTE version is also slightly heavier and larger, at 0.66 inches and 2.74 pounds, while the standard version is 0.59 inches thick and weighs 2.6 pounds.

Display: Two different flavors

Another difference between the two Inspiron 13 5000s is that the LTE model comes standard with a touch screen while the Wi-Fi edition is non-touch only.

And while both versions have 13.3-inch, 1080p panels, the WWAN model's is anti-glare (matte), while the other is glossy. I only got to briefly gaze at the glossy panel on the standard Inspiron 13 5000, but was generally pleased with its display quality. Colors popped and the screen seemed relatively bright.

Performance: Fast CPUs, discrete GPU

Armed with 8th Gen Intel Core i5 CPUs, up to 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB of PCIe SSD storage, the Inspiron 13 5000 (WWAN version) should provide enough performance for everyday productivity.

We typically recommend this configuration to a college student because it offers a good mix of performance and value. If you need a bit more power, the standard Inspiron 13 5000 can be configured with up to an Intel Core i7 CPU.

Casual gamers can configure either model with a GeForce MX250 GPU.

Outlook

With a sleek design, premium materials and optional LTE connectivity, the Inspiron 13 5000 is shaping up to be a major improvement over its predecessors. We'll get a better idea of how this notebook performs when we get it in for review, but I'm impressed by what I've seen.

Phillip Tracy is a senior writer at Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag, where he reviews laptops and covers the latest industry news. After graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Phillip became a tech reporter at the Daily Dot. There, he wrote reviews for a range of gadgets and covered everything from social media trends to cybersecurity. Prior to that, he wrote for RCR Wireless News and NewBay Media. When he's not tinkering with devices, you can find Phillip playing video games, reading, listening to indie music or watching soccer.