Dell Inspiron 13 5000 full review
The Dell Inspiron 13 5000 is a sign convertible laptops are now truly mainstream. Models like this and the Asus ZenBook UX360C have hints of high-end style and powerful components, matched with a practical approach that means they cost £700 rather than £1200. Laptops like this mark a bit of a renaissance for Windows laptops, once again seriously undercutting comparable Apple MacBooks, particularly now the Air series looks truly past-it. Also see: Best laptops 2016
Also see: Best Black Friday Laptop Deals
Dell Inspiron 13 5000 review: UK price
There are three main specs for the Dell Inspiron 13 5000. The most commonly-sold is the middle variant. It costs £649- to 699, and is probably the version we’d recommend most people look into. It has an Intel Core i5, a 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM.
At first glance the low-end £499 model is alluring, cutting down to a Core i3 CPU and 500GB hard drive. However, it also has a non-IPS screen. We’ve not seen it in person, but it likely uses a lower-quality panel whose viewing angles aren't well-suited to a hybrid like this.
The screen may look funny from the wrong angle, in other words.
The top-end Dell Inspiron 13 5000 we’re looking at costs £799, and upgrades the RAM to 16GB, the CPU to a Core i7. That’s several hundred pounds cheaper than you’d pay for such a spec list in a laptop with a high-end metal frame.
Dell Inspiron 13 5000 review: Design
Dell has pulled off a clever trick with the Dell Inspiron 13 5000. It has managed to create a plastic, mostly sensible-looking laptop that still has panache and the sort of lifestyle sensibility that makes MacBooks so attractive.
It has a 360-degree hinge, an ultrabook-influenced layout and little hints like curved edges around the front of the laptop that tell you this isn’t meant to just be a boring work machine. Even though among convertible laptops, it’s definitely the one with a biro in its shirt pocket.
This isn’t a case of Dell being unable to create a style laptop. Just look at the Dell XPS 13 for proof. It’s deliberate.
Dell wants to offer modern laptop sensibilities in a package much more affordable. A MacBook Pro with very similar specs to the £799 Dell Inspiron 13 5000 would cost you £1609, for example. Ouch (granted, the Core i7 CPU Apple uses is slightly higher-end).
In terms of build there are two main sacrifices for this attractive price. First, the entire shell is plastic. Laptops like this will often use aluminium for the lid of the keyboard surround for a higher-end feel, but not so here.
However, it is rigid, which is really more important. Recently we reviewed the Asus UX360C, a fairly similar device but one whose keyboard flexes far too much under moderate pressure. Not only does this make the typing experience worse, flexing can ruing the trackpad click too. The Dell’s keyboard is flex-free. See all laptop reviews.
The Dell Inspiron 13 5000 isn’t perfect, though. It has a pressure point to the bottom left of the keyboard surround that kills the trackpad click if, say, you rest your elbow on it too heavily. But it’s mostly very solid.
Its second somewhat budget-related compromise is weight. The Dell Inspiron 13 5000 weighs 1.6kg, a bit heavier than something like the Lenovo Yoga 900, which weighs just 1.3kg. It’s heavy enough that you won’t marvel at its lightness when you first pick it up, but still light enough to carry around all day with you. This is nothing like the archetype chunky Dell you may have been lumbered with at work before.
The hinge is more proof of its modern edge. Like other convertibles, it flips around to meet the back of the keyboard, and can stick at any angle. The hinge is one of the few metal parts, giving it the requisite strength.
It’s pragmatic, though. Truly design-led laptops make sure you can open the lid without holding the base in place. It’s a classy finishing touch. You’ll need to put a finger on the lower part here, because Dell’s main priority is making sure the hinge is stiff enough.
You may be familiar with these convertibles by now. The idea isn’t really to make the Dell Inspiron 13 5000 work as a tablet, at least not in the conventional sense. In its tent position or with the screen flipped so the laptop is resting on the keyboard, the touchscreen becomes the closest control method rather than the keyboard and trackpad.
It’s less an iPad-a-like tablet experience, more a touch-controlled PC.
The hinge may not revolutionise the way you use a laptop, but as the Dell Inspiron 13 5000 shows, you’re not paying an extra 50 per cent for the privilege. We’re seeing convertibles this size become accessible, where previously you’ve had to pay a lot for them.
Dell Inspiron 13 5000 review: Connectivity
If you need more proof of quite how wide and frankly ‘normal’ an audience Dell is aiming for, just look at the connections. The Dell Inspiron 13 5000 has two USB 3.0 ports, an extra USB 2.0 port and a full-size 1.4a HDMI.
Right now, this is a great low-maintenance array for a laptop like this. You can plug it into a monitor or your TV without a special cable, and the USBs are designed for today’s gadgets.
It’s just not as well-equipped for tomorrow — 2017/2018 and beyond. There’s no USB-C port, which is slowly, slowly taking over from full-size USB.
The Dell Inspiron 13 5000 also has a full-size SD card slot. It’s a very practical bunch of connectors, just make sure you’re not going to miss having a USB-C in 12-18 months. Don’t worry about your next phone, it’s more about ultra-fast peripherals like SSDs whose transfer speeds are faster than USB 3.0’s, and for attaching a hub that’ll connect loads of accessories to a single port. Also see: Best budget laptops 2016.
Dell Inspiron 13 5000 review: Keyboard and trackpad
There’s no major sense of compromise in the keyboard. It’s a standard chiclet design with light but crisp keys.
Typing on the Dell Inspiron 13 5000 is comfortable, although the character of the key travel could be a little mellower. This is a case of personal preference, though.
One great extra feature here is a keyboard backlight. There are two intensity settings, and it makes typing in dark rooms much easier. Asus UX-series rivals at the price do not offer keyboard backlights, although HP’s Envy models do.
The trackpad does feel a tiny bit cheap one respect, though. It’s not about the surface, the size or the reliability of the pad. All are fine. What we’re not totally convinced by is the high-pitch button click response.
This is a little like the laptop equivalent of describing how a wine tastes, but it did stick out on first using the Dell Inspiron 13 5000. Try it out in person if you can.
Dell Inspiron 13 5000 review: Screen
The Dell Inspiron 13 5000 has exactly the right kind of screen for a laptop of this type and price. It’s 13.3 inches across, uses an IPS LCD panel, a touch layer and resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.
It has the sharpness, the viewing angles and the general screen quality we’ve become accustomed to in a convertible laptop, roughly bridging the gap between a trad laptop screen and a modern tablet one. The screen looks slightly mottled from an angle, most likely an effect of the touch layer, but it’s only obvious when you look up-close.
We think it actually looks better to human eyes than our colorimeter, the device we used to benchmark screens. The colorimeter says the Dell Inspiron 13 5000’s colour is not much cop, covering just 61.6 per cent of the sRGB standard. However, in person this is mitigated by very solid contrast of 1086:1, a glossy finish and that the display has a slim construction that makes the most of that contrast.
For example, the recently-reviewed Asus UX360CA scores a much better 89 per cent of sRGB, but light-reflecting air gaps in its display layers makes its screen look washed out, spoiling the impact of those colours. The Dell’s display doesn’t look like the screen of a £1000-plus laptop, but does not have any glaring problems either.
There are a few things to consider, though. This is a glossy laptop. That helps with colour and is what you get on every touchscreen convertible like this, as the screen has a layer of glass on top.
This makes the Dell Inspiron 13 5000 screen quite reflective, and max brightness of 243cd/m is not really high enough to compete with lots of ambient light. Use it out in the park on a sunny day and it’ll look very dim. Also see: Best gaming laptops 2016.
Dell Inspiron 13 5000 review: Performance
Much like the shell of the laptop, the screen is design to be pretty portable but isn’t 100 per cent ideal for a road warrior. It’s a laptop best suited to mixed use: some at home, some on-the-go. The raw specs are primed for this sort of use too.
The Dell Inspiron 13 5000 we’re testing has an Intel Core i7-6500U CPU with 16GB RAM. It’s a dual-core CPU, but its cores are rather powerful. It scores 6992 in Geekbench 3, 3419 per core. The PC Mark 8 score is 2722.
This is a setup powerful enough to use as almost anyone’s main computer, more so than a skinnier-lighter Core M alternative. The only way to get a lot more power in a laptop is to head to a machine with an HQ-series quad-core CPU. But that will be larger, most likely more expensive, and have much worse battery life.
Windows 10 feels very slick day-to-day, but this is down to the use of an SSD rather than a Core i7 CPU. The £100-less Core i5 version should feel fairly similar to use until you start abusing the RAM by opening 700 browser windows or using quite demanding applications.
The Dell Inspiron 13 5000’s SSD isn’t actually that fast by SSD standards, though. We’ve tested laptops SSDs that can read at 1300MB/s, but this one reads at 533MB/s and writes at 284MB/s.
We see this sort of SSD performance a lot in mid-range laptops, because the extra performance of a higher-end SSD really isn’t going to mean all that much for your average high street laptop buyer. If that’s what it takes to get a laptop from £1200 to £700, we’re happy.
The Dell Inspiron 13 5000 can’t really handle games well either, but if you want a gaming laptop that’s thin and light, you’ll have to save up for the Microsoft Surface Book. That’s almost twice the price.
A few recent games will be playable if you really drop the resolution and visual quality down, though. At 720p with some of the graphics effects turned off, Alien: Isolation runs at an average 31.5fps. You may have to put up with some occasional frame rate chugging, but it’s playable.
At 1080p with the visual effects turned back up and the frame rate drops to 13fps: not playable. We tried 2013’s Thief with the same high and low settings applied and neither was fast enough to be fun. It’ll average 21.8fps at 720p, and a truly poor 6.2fps at 1080p.
These are fairly recent games, though. If you have a Steam library of oldies from, say 2005 and before, they’ll run just fine on the Dell Inspiron 13 5000.
As the Dell Inspiron 13 5000 has a Core i3/i5/i7 CPU rather than a Core M, the fans run most of the time, and we did notice a few moments where they seemed to rev up for no real reason. However, it’s not a loud laptop. Its fan outlets are on the very back of the underside, so just be careful not to block them or the fans will start revving. Also see: Windows 10 review.
Dell Inspiron 13 5000 review: Sound Quality
The speaker outlets are a little picky about how they’re treated too. They sit on the Dell Inspiron 13 5000’s underside at each end, seemingly firing down rather than being angled outwards.
This doesn’t help the higher frequencies reach your ears, making the top-end seem rather soft, but Dell has clearly put some work into making the laptop sound beefier than those with traditional laptop speakers.
The speakers loud, seem to extend beyond the laptop’s dimensions and have a nice and thick, if not hugely detailed, mid-range.
Some content causes a bit of mid-range resonance at higher volumes, and there’s no separated bass either. The Dell Inspiron 13 5000 doesn’t have the finer points of sound quality nailed down, but it does sound louder and warmer than we expected. We have criticisms, but the laptop is a lot louder than our reference MacBook Pro 13. Nice work, Dell.
Dell Inspiron 13 5000 review: Battery Life
Dell says the Dell Inspiron 13 5000 will last up to 10 hours of a charge. Right away we knew this was a bit optimistic for our review machine. That’s the sort of charge you get from laptops less powerful than this one.
Playing a looped MP4 720p file the Dell Inspiron 13 5000 lasts 385 minutes, or six hours 25 minutes. That’s not enough for a full day’s work unless you’re luckier then we are, but is respectable stamina.
Once again, we come back to the idea this is a portable laptop, but one that doesn’t value extreme portability over everything else. But maybe that’s OK.
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Dell Inspiron 13 5000: Specs
- 13.3in (1920 x 1080) 165dpi IPS LCD glossy touchscreen 2.5 GHz, up to 3.1 GHz Turbo Intel Core i7-6500U CPU, two cores, four threads Intel HD 520 GPU 8GB RAM DDR4-2133 256GB SSD No Ethernet 802.11b/g/n/ac 2x2 Bluetooth 4.0 2 USB 3.0 port 1 USB 2.0 port HDMI 1.4a SDXC card slot stereo speakers 0.9MP Webcam with Windows Hello single mic 3.5mm headset jack UK tiled keyboard 42Wh lithium-ion battery non-removable 324.8mm x 224.4mm x 20.4mm 1.62 kg
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