Want a very affordable 2-in-1? The Dell Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1 starts at just $450 ($630 as tested), which is a great price for a mainstream convertible, but it makes some compromises. For instance, you'll get a 500GB and 5,400-rpm HDD rather than a much-faster SSD, while the battery doesn't last long and the screen is dim and not particularly colorful. If you're looking for an inexpensive bend-back laptop to use around the house, the Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1 offers solid value, but if you plan to use your machine on the go, you'll want to look elsewhere.
Editor's Note: This version of the Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1 has been replaced by the 8th Gen Core version that came out in Fall 2017. See our review of the Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1 with 8th Gen Core.
The Inspiron's aesthetic is what I call "Best Buy chic" -- a gray hunk of plastic that looks like everything else on the market. The gunmetal-gray computer features Dell's logo in silver on the lid, but is otherwise a blank, empty slab. On the bright side, it's built solidly, and I had no second thoughts about tossing this machine in my backpack.
Lifting the lid reveals the 13.3-inch, 1080p display surrounded by a thick, black bezel, as well as an island-style keyboard and the touchpad. The Inspiron's 360-degree hinges let you use the 2-in-1 as a laptop, tablet, display (with the keyboard face down) and tent (an upside-down "V").
It's on the heavy side for a 13-inch 2-in-1, at 3.6 pounds and 12.8 x 8.9 x 0.8 inches. Both the Asus ZenBook Flip UX360CA (3 pounds, 12.7 x 8.7 x 0.6 inches) and 14-inch Lenovo Yoga 710 (3.4 pounds, 12.67 x 8.8 x 0.7) are slimmer and lighter.
The left side of the laptop is home to the HDMI port, a pair of USB 3.0 ports and the combination headphone/microphone jack. On the right side, you'll find a Noble lock slot, a USB 2.0 port and an SD card reader, as well as the power button and a volume toggle. Unfortunately, there's no USB Type-C port to future-proof your investment.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the Inspiron is nice and clicky, providing a responsive, comfortable typing experience. On the 10fastfinges.com typing test, I hit 107 words per minute (the low end of my average range), with my usual 2 percent error rate, all without ever bottoming out.
The 4.1 x 2.5-inch touchpad is smooth and works with Windows Precision gestures, like using three fingers to reveal all open windows, as well as common gestures, like two-finger scrolling.
The 13.3-inch, 1080p display on the Inspiron is dim and bland. When I watched the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Gamora's green skin was on the pale side, while Yondu's blue skin was a bit too dark. The panel is sharp, though, as I could make out every bit of Rocket Raccoon's fur.
The Inspiron 13 5000's screen covers just 71 percent of the sRGB color gamut, falling far below the ultraportable average of 99 percent, and the scores of the ZenBook (102 percent) and Yoga (96 percent).
Dell's touch screen has a Delta-E score of 1.3 (0 is ideal), which is less than the average (2.29) but higher than showings by both the ZenBook (0.7) and the Yoga (1.1).
The screen is a bit on the dim side, registering 223 nits on our light meter. The average is 303 nits, while the ZenBook and Yoga 710 measured 298 nits and 288 nits, respectively.
The speakers on the Inspiron are loud, but the music that pours from them is messy. When I listened to Green Day's, "Give Me Novacaine," it sounded hollow and the guitars, keys and vocals were indistinct.
I had minimal success playing with the playback settings in the preinstalled Waves MaxxAudio Pro, though these adjustments could never make the song completely clear.
With its 2.5-GHz Intel Core i5-7200U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB, 5,400-rpm HDD, the Inspiron is able to handle multiple tasks all at once. I had 30 tabs open in Google Chrome, one of which was streaming a 1080p episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and experienced just a split-second of noticeable lag when I switched between tabs.
The Inspiron earned a score of 6,759 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance benchmark. That falls short of the ultraportable average (7,121), but beat the ZenBook (5,082; Intel Core m3-6Y30).
It took the Inspiron 2 minutes and 37 seconds to transfer 4.97GB of files. That translates to a speed of 32.42MBps. The Inspiron's 5,400-rpm HDD proved to be far slower than its competitors' SSDs. The Yoga 710 reached 130.5MBps, and the ZenBook hit a speedy 169.6MBps.
The Inspiron finished our OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test in 4 minutes and 1 second, far faster than the ultraportable average (6:02) and the ZenBook (6:00), and half a minute faster than the Yoga 710 (4:31).
Don't expect to play any games on the Inspiron, though. It played Dirt 3 at only 20 frames per second, below our 30-fps playability threshold and the average of 34 fps. But on 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, the Inspiron earned a score of 62,604, beating the average (53,132) and the ZenBook's mark (52,374), but it wasn't as good as the Yoga 710 and its Nvidia GeForce 940MX GPU (80,223).
Anywhere you bring the Inspiron, you'll also want to bring the charger. It lasted a paltry 6 hours and 9 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which consists of continuously browsing the web over Wi-Fi.
The ultraportable category average is 8:10, while the Yoga (8:55) and ZenBook (9:58) lasted even longer.
The Inspiron got a little steamy during our heat test. After I streamed 15 minutes of HD video from YouTube, the bottom of the laptop measured 98 degrees Fahrenheit, which is higher than our 95-degree comfort threshold.
The keyboard hit 85.5 degrees, and the touchpad reached 77 degrees. In normal usage, either playing a video or browsing with a few tabs open, I found that the fans would turn on early and often.
The 720p camera on the Inspiron takes average photos for a laptop. They're kind of grainy, but serviceable enough for Skype calls. On the bright side, the colors are accurate, and it captured my bright red sweater when I took a photo at my desk, though the camera lost details in my face and beard.
Additionally, the webcam uses infrared technology to support facial recognition. I used this to log in to the laptop with Windows Hello. It's unusual to find facial recognition on laptops at this price range, so I was impressed to see this feature was standard on every Inspiron config.
Software and Warranty
Dell includes a fair amount of useful apps on the Inspiron. These include Dell's SupportAssist app, which helps you find the appropriate tech support if you have a problem, and Dell Update to keep your software and operating system up to date. Additionally, if you use the preinstalled Dropbox app, you'll get 20GB of free storage for a year.
There's also the usual bloat that comes with Windows, including Royal Revolt 2, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Twitter, Facebook, Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition, Houzz and Netflix.
The Inspiron I reviewed cost $630 and included a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i5-7200U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB and 5,400-rpm HDD. Of the four models Dell sells, this is the minimum configuration you should buy.
The $450 base model comes with an Intel Pentium Processor 4405U, while the $500 model uses a last-generation Intel Core i3-6100U CPU. Both come with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB, 5,400-rpm HDD. Both models use outdated Intel integrated HD graphics.
A $750 version is almost identical to the one I reviewed, except it uses a more powerful Intel Core i7-7500U processor.
The Dell Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1 is a competent budget convertible with a comfortable keyboard but a dim screen and poor battery life.
If you have the extra cash, go for the 14-inch Yoga 710. It's pricier, at $769.99, but you'll get great battery life, a vivid display and a compact chassis that makes this machine easily portable. It even has a discrete GPU for better productivity work.
However, if you're on a tight budget, the Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1 is a solid choice, as long as you get at least the Core i5 model.
Photo credits: Jeremy Lips/Tom's Guide