Dell sent a sample computer with a non-working trackpad. This meant we couldn’t do a full review. Here’s what we learned about the machine before Dell took it back for repair.
At a glance
For: Laptop, can work as a tablet. Keyboard.
Against: Heavy for a tablet. Some missing drivers. Touchpad on review model didn’t work.
Maybe: Performance. Display.
Verdict: Versatile, affordable compromise between tablet and laptop.
Price: From NZ$1200
Dell describes the Inspiron 13 5000 as a 2-in–1. That means it is a convertible touch-screen laptop with a dual hinge that lets you flip the screen over so it becomes like a tablet. The emphasis in that last sentence is on the word like.
In practice it is too heavy to use as a tablet except for short bursts. Buy an Inspiron 13 5000 if you want a touch-screen laptop that can do occasional tablet duty.
An old format
Inspiron’s 2-in–1 flip position echoes the first so-called Tablet PCs Microsoft introduced in the early 2000s.
Most users ignored them at the time. Today’s 2-in–1 models are better in every respect, but still imperfect. There’s a reason the early models never took off.
The best thing about modern 2-in–1s is they cost about 30 percent less than devices with similar specifications and detachable keyboards. Prices are not that different from standard laptops.
So you can save about NZ$300 if you’re prepared to put up with the shortcomings.
Because you can’t remove the Inspiron keyboard, you’re stuck with all the weight and bulk of a laptop when using it as a tablet.
The Inspiron 13 5000 is 20 mm deep and weighs 1.7 kg. That makes it heavy and thick even by laptop standards, let alone tablets.
In comparison the HP Elitebook Folio G1 is a shade under 1 kg. Apple’s MacBook Air weighs 1.35 kg. Keep in mind those computers cost twice as much.
The Inspiron is more than twice as thick as most tablets and three times as thick as an iPad Air.
Used as a handheld tablet it gets uncomfortable fast.
You need to be strong to hold it in one hand. The weight and the thickness combine to make the device unwieldy. Even if you had the strength to carry it in your hand, there’s too much heft to balance it.
It is more comfortable when you use it as a tablet on your lap. But still, it doesn’t compare with lighter, thinner alternatives.
Yet the Inspiron 13 5000 works fine as a tablet when resting on a flat surface. And the dual hinge arrangement means you can twist it to other useful positions. In a tent-like shape you can use it for desktop presentations.
Built to a price
If you’re in the market for a Inspiron 13 5000, it will be because you’re on a budget.
Dell gives you a lot of computer for the money. Inspiron 13 5000 models start at NZ$1200 for a computer with an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of memory and a hard drive.
At the top of the range is a NZ$2000 model with an Core i7 processor, 8 GB memory and 256 GB of solid state drive. The review machine has an Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB memory and a 256 GB solid state drive. It sells at $1700.
Inspiron is Dell’s consumer laptop brand. There are three levels. Low-end models are no frills laptops. Computer makers hate the word cheap but it’s appropriate. High-end Inspirons have top specifications and a metal finish.
Mid-range consumer laptop
The Inspiron 13 5000 sits between the two extremes. For the most part, the finish is matt grey plastic. It’s not ugly, but nor is it a work of art. Get rid of the sticker on the palm rest and it might look OK.
The plastic case is tough. In practice it can take a battering. There are screws underneath so you can upgrade components yourself if necessary.
Ports are going out of fashion with some laptop makers. Dell isn’t going there. The Inspiron 13 5000 has two USB 3.0 ports on the left along with a power inlet and a HDMI port. There’s a USB 2.0 on the right along with a SD card reader.
The 13.3-inch touch screen is responsive and accurate enough. It has a 1920 x 1080 pixel display and a high gloss finish. Resign yourself to smudges. The blacks are solid and images are sharp. Text is easy to read.
Movies look fine, but the sound gets tinny if you crank up the volume. The speakers are under the case and don’t distort until you push them. There’s a good chance you will push them because they are not loud.
Dell’s chiclet style keyboard is OK. Not brilliant, not bad. It isn’t backlit. You’ll find better laptop keyboards, but maybe not at this price. It’s fine for everyday typists and touch typists.
Touch and go
As mentioned at the top of the page, the touchpad on the review machine didn’t work. This maybe be a driver problem or it could be a hardware fault. The system didn’t detect a touchpad.
It’s hard to know if we just had a bad machine or if there’s a wider problem. We heard of other Dell users experiencing trackpad problems, but that’s not a scientific sample.
When you fold the screen back, the device switches from laptop mode to tablet mode and the Windows 10 on-screen keyboard appears. During the reverse process, the physical keyboard snaps back into action.
Otherwise performance was solid. The Intel Core i5 Running at 2.8 GHz and 8 GB memory are plenty for most applications. Everyday office apps run fine. There’s enough power for the 1920 by 1080 display, but you might hit the machines limits driving higher resolution graphics, especially if you are a gamer.
Push the computer hard and a fan starts with air passing though vents in the case. This is normal for laptops, but seems strange when the device is in tablet mode. It’s not a loud fan noise, but tablets are usually silent.
Dell says the battery is good for up to nine hours. Battery claims are often ambitious, this one is more than most. In practice the computer lasted less than seven hours on a single charge.
Putting the non-working trackpad to one side, the Inspiron 13 5000 is a good value laptop for someone on a budget. We recommend it for high school or university students.
You get a lot of computer for your money, performance is good and the 2-in–1 versatility can be handy at times. Just remind yourself it’s not a lightweight as a detachable.