Convertible laptops -- they're not just a gimmick anymore. Now that nearly all of the major laptop manufacturers have one or two convertible notebooks in their catalogs (most of which do the same four or five modes), your choice comes down to price and performance. Enter the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1, which offers solid performance, nearly 7 hours of battery life and an affordable entry price of $749. The convertible does have a few shortcomings -- namely, a mediocre display and a shallow keyboard. But considering competitors are charging upward of $1,100 for systems with similar specs, the Inspiron 15 7000 offers a lot of value for the money.
I'm a fan of Inspiron laptops in general, but they sometimes fall into the trap of mimicking the MacBook a little too closely. However, this iteration of the Inspiron 15 7000 does just enough to distinguish itself. I really like the subtle vertical striations along the dark-gray aluminum lid. It really plays up the glistening black Dell logo in the center and the rear-mounted hinges. The shiny, diamond-cut edge also adds a nice minimalist sparkle to the overall presentation.
The notebook's interior has more of that lovely, lightly brushed, dark-gray aluminum. The full-size keyboard sits in the center of the deck, embedded in the metal. With more than 2.25 inches of space on each side of the keyboard, it looks tiny, especially when you look at the rather large diamond-cut touchpad in the center of the palm rest.
You'll find a USB 2.0 port, an SD card reader and a Noble lock slot on the right side of the laptop. The power and volume buttons are squirreled away over there, instead of taking up room on the massive keyboard deck. On the left, you'll find a USB 3.0 port, a USB Type-C port, an HDMI port, and jacks for headset and power.
Weighing 4.8 pounds and measuring 14.9 x 9.9 x 0.74 inches, the Inspiron 15 7000 is noticeably heavier than both the HP Spectre x360 15t (4.2 pounds, 14.8 x 9.8 x 0.63 inches) and the Lenovo Yoga 700 (3.5 pounds, 13.2 x 9 x 0.72 inches).
Bend it, shape it, any way you want it -- the Inspiron 15 7000 can accommodate your convertible needs with four modes of use.
Relying on a pair of metallic 360-degree hinges that are remarkably similar to those on Lenovo's Yoga series, the Inspiron 15 7000 can transform from a traditional laptop into tent mode by being flipped over like an upside-down "V." Flip the keyboard toward the bottom to access the presentation-friendly stand mode. Fold the display on top of the laptop's undercarriage, and you get a 15-inch tablet.
I wanted to like the Inspiron 15 7000's glossy display, but it was plagued by dull color and dim lighting. As I watched the powerful trailer for The Birth of a Nation on the 1920 x 1080 panel, I couldn't help but notice how ashen the skin of many of the African-American actors looked, particularly among the darker-skinned characters. Details were clear enough that I could make out tufts of cotton as well as the tears that traced a hot path down Nat Turner's cheek. As a touch screen, the display was quick and responsive, which comes in handy when you're in tablet, tent and stand modes.
The display could reproduce only 62 percent of the sRGB gamut, which explained the lackluster color. That is well below the 89 percent mainstream average and the Spectre x360's 119 percent. The Yoga 700 managed to squeak out 64 percent.
We saw a better result when we tested for color accuracy. The Inspiron 15 hit 0.9 (0 is ideal) on the Delta-E benchmark, thrashing the 4.6 category average as well as the Spectre x360's 4.1. It wasn't enough, however, to beat the Yoga 700's 0.3.
The Inspiron 15 7000 just missed the 245-nit display brightness average, posting a result of 244 nits. The Spectre x360 did marginally better, at 246 nits, while the Yoga 700 produced a dim 197 nits.
They're loud, I'll give them that -- but the pair of bottom-mounted speakers on the Inspiron 15 didn't deliver the clearest of soundscapes. No matter which mode I placed the convertible in, I heard a collision of instruments and vocals. Gallant's sweet falsetto often fought for top billing against the keyboard and other synthesized instruments in "Bone & Tissue." It wasn't quite as bad when I switched to The Internet's "Girl," but the bass was submerged no matter which setting I used on the MaxxSense audio software.
Keyboard and Touchpad
I wish Dell had given the Inspiron 15 7000's keyboard more room to breathe. With all that excess space on the sides, it looks like it's being unnecessarily, painfully smooshed. Unfortunately, the island-style keys felt the way they look, bottoming out suddenly due to their 1.3 millimeters of key travel (1.5 mm is typical for notebooks). The 63 grams of force needed to depress the keys didn't help as I had to strike the keys hard just to register a keystroke. And would it have killed Dell to make the Backspace and Enter keys a bit larger?
I managed only 50 words per minute on the 10FastFingers typing test. That's significantly lower than my usual 60 wpm. The only bright spot is the backlighting, which is bright enough to see in a darkened area.
Usually, I'd be a fan of a large touchpad, but the Inspiron 15 7000's 4.2 x 3.1-inch monster takes away valuable space from the keyboard. Still, the pad delivered quick, fluid multitouch gestures, including two-finger scroll, and three- and four-finger tap. I found the bottom corners of the touchpad were mushy when I pressed down to activate a right or left click.
You're not going to animate a movie or run AutoCAD on this machine, but the Inspiron 15 7000's 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5-6200U processor with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and an Intel HD 520 GPU does a solid job of multitasking, transferring files and processing spreadsheets. The laptop ably streamed an episode of Voltron on Netflix with eight additional tabs open in Google Chrome, all while running a full system scan.
The Inspiron 15 did OK on the synthetic Geekbench 3 test, with a score of 6,499. That's below the 7,471 mainstream average but enough to beat the Spectre x360 (6,376) and the Yoga 700 5,855, both of which have the same CPU as the Dell.
During the File Transfer Test, the Inspiron 15 7000 delivered a rate of 122.6 MBps, which fell short of the 128 MBps category average. The Spectre x360 and the Yoga 700, which also have 256GB SSDs, were noticeably faster, scoring 150 MBps and 145 MBps, respectively.
On the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test, the Inspiron 15 7000 paired 20,000 names and addresses in 4 minutes and 47 seconds, beating the 5:14 average and the Yoga 700's time of 4:57. However, the Spectre x360 was just a bit faster, clocking in at 4:31.
Games such as World of Warcraft and BioShock Infinite will likely run on the Inspiron 15 7000, but more recent titles -- such as The Witcher 3, Doom or Fallout 4 -- are out of the question. When we tested the hybrid's graphics performance, it scored 64,067 on 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, which is short of the 72,229 mainstream average. Although the Yoga 700 and the Spectre x360 also have Intel HD Graphics 520 GPUs, the Yoga 700 notched 41,296, while the Spectre x360 obtained 64,632.
The Inspiron 15 7000's battery won't last through a full workday, but it ran our battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi) for 6 hours and 55 minutes, outlasting the 5:51 mainstream average. The Yoga 700 ran just a few minutes longer, at 7:03, while the Spectre x360 was ready to work overtime, lasting 8:27.
The Inspiron 15 7000 will fit nicely in your lap without getting too warm. The laptop measured a cool 83 degrees Fahrenheit after running a full-screen video on Hulu. The center of the keyboard hit 90 degrees, while the convertible's undercarriage registered 95 degrees, matching our comfort threshold.
The laptop's 1280 x 720 integrated camera is passable for videoconferencing or snapping a lackluster selfie or two. Test shots were filled with visual noise and lacked vividness, and my orange tank top looked a few shades lighter than it actually was.
My primarily black jacket looked like it had been through the wash one too many times, while only the faintest hints of my purple-dyed locks were captured. Despite the overall fuzziness, details were sharp enough that I could see the big white lettering on my jacket.
Dell employed a light touch when preloading software. Company-branded applications such as Power Manager Lite, Update, and Digital Delivery help to maintain battery settings and keep programs up-to-date. There's also some bloatware, including Twitter, Flipboard and Candy Crush Soda Saga. The company was even nice enough to include a one-year subscription of McAfee LiveSafe, as well as 20GB of Dropbox storage for a year.
For this review, I tested the $749 base model of the Inspiron 15 7000, which has a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5-6200U processor with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The $999 iteration bumps the specs up to a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, 12GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 is a jack of all trades and a master of some. The $749 convertible has a cornucopia of potential uses that can be accessed with a flip of the screen. Coupled with a solid Core i5 processor and integrated graphics, it's well suited for work, play and most things in between.
However, the Inspiron 15 7000's dim display and uncomfortable keyboard severely dampen the laptop's prospects as a top choice. If you're willing to shell out an additional $400, you can get the $1,149 HP Spectre x360 15t, which consistently outperforms the Inspiron 15 7000 at every juncture. However, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 is a good choice for consumers searching for an affordable laptop that can seamlessly transform from showing presentations to playing your favorite movie.