At its starting price of $479, the Dell Inspiron 13 5000 could be a bargain if you’re looking for a 2-in-1 convertible laptop for the most basic of computing needs. The more powerful and expensive $749 version we’re reviewing here, despite offering very good computing performance, is anything but a slam-dunk purchase, however. It has woeful battery life by today’s standards, despite its power-sipping eighth-generation Intel Core i5 CPU. Furthermore, the poorly constructed display lid that you might be willing to overlook in exchange for forking over less than $500 on the base model is a major turn-off on our unit, which competes with the far more durable, stylish, and capable Lenovo Yoga 720 (13-inch), our current Editors’ Choice for midrange convertible laptops.
Big, Heavy, and Slightly Flimsy
A convertible notebook with a 360-degree display hinge is an excellent choice if you interact with Windows the way Microsoft intends: using touch gestures on the screen for navigation and occasional drawing or text entry, while employing the physical keyboard for longer typing sessions. It’s also great for frequent travelers, who can convert their device into Stand or Tent modes to read or watch a movie in a cramped airplane cabin.
The larger the convertible’s screen, however, the more cumbersome it is to manipulate, which means that the 13.3-inch screen size featured on the Inspiron 13 5000 is typically the largest we recommend. You can buy a 15-inch convertible, but you’d be better off selecting a conventional laptop if you need the additional screen real estate.
If you’ve settled on a 13-incher, though, you should know that even machines with identical screen real estate come in different sizes. The gray plastic-clad Inspiron 13 5000 measures 0.77 by 12.76 by 8.85 inches (HWD). Compare that with the Yoga 720’s 0.6 by 12.2 by 8.4 inches. Shaving off tenths of an inch in each dimension might not seem like a big deal, but the overall look is strikingly different because the edges of the Lenovo’s display and keyboard appear drastically closer to the sides of the chassis, lending the complete package a decidedly sleeker look than that of the Dell. Compounding the Dell’s size problem is the fact that thin display bezels (the borders around the screen) are all the rage in the smartphone world, with the iPhone X being exhibit A. Dell is of course in on this trend, as evidenced by its nearly bezel-less XPS lineup, but the fact that the company leaves such a large border on the Inspiron 13 5000 is puzzling, especially since Lenovo manages to put a much slimmer one in the Yoga 720.
As thick as the Inspiron’s bezel is, it’s not the worst part of the display setup. That dubious honor belongs to the construction of the plastic lid. If you bend it from the upper left or right corners, even by a millimeter or two, you can easily snap the black bezel loose from the Theoretical Gray lid (yes, that’s the actual name for the color), exposing the backlight and the rest of the display’s components. It’s startling, and while it probably won’t happen in the course of normal use, it shouldn’t happen at all. At least the rest of the plastic chassis is far more sturdy.
The display itself is a full HD (1,920-by-1,080) panel with in-plane switching (IPS) technology to increase viewing angles. The touch screen, which is compatible with an optional Dell stylus, is bright enough to stand out in a fluorescent-lit room. Colors appear brilliant, as they should on a glossy display, but viewing angles aren’t quite as wide as you’d expect from IPS. The screen washes out completely and nothing is viewable at an angle of about 160 degrees, a view at which other IPS screens still display readable text.
At 3.56 pounds, the Inspiron 13 5000 is among the heaviest 13-inch convertibles we’ve tested. Compare its weight to the Yoga 720 (2.83 pounds) and the HP EliteBook x360 1030 G2 (2.82 pounds). Even the 14-inch Lenovo Yoga 920 is lighter at 3.02 pounds. The extra half-pound or more of weight could be a significant drawback if you’re carrying the Inspiron 13 5000 to and from work or school every day, or plan to mostly use it in Tablet mode.
One silver lining of the Inspiron 13 5000’s larger size is that there’s room for a 720p webcam with built-in IR sensors (an optional extra) above the display, which allows you to log in to your Windows account using facial recognition. The webcam’s quality is also adequate for Skype sessions, although it takes grainy photos indoors.
There are two speaker grilles, both located at the bottom of the chassis. This means that the sound is rather muffled while in Laptop mode since it’s bouncing off the table, but once you change to Tent or Stand mode, the sound becomes noticeably louder.
Dell offers a sturdy, backlit keyboard and a generously sized, clickable touchpad that is fairly responsive when you set its sensitivity to maximum using Windows Settings. Unfortunately, the more sensitive levels also tend to pick up unwanted inputs from your palms while you’re typing. This tradeoff between sensitivity and palm rejection is one that nearly every Windows portable suffers from, but it’s a problem that Apple has largely overcome with the superior pads on its MacBooks and MacBook Pros.
The port selection is rather shortsighted, since there’s no USB-C port to ensure compatibility with the growing number of peripherals that use this format. While I don’t expect to see a Thunderbolt 3 connection on midrange laptops, even some machines that cost less than half the Inspiron 13 5000’s price, including the HP Stream 11, have USB-C connectors. At least there are two USB 3.0 ports and a USB 2.0 port, so even if you connect a wired keyboard and mouse, you’ll still have a port to spare. A combo audio in/out jack, an HDMI port, and a full-sized SD card reader round out the I/O selection.
Bluetooth 4.1 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi come standard, as does a one-year warranty with mail-in repair service. Mercifully, with the exception of some Dell utilities and mandatory Microsoft apps like Skype and Minecraft, the Inspiron 13 5000 is largely bloatware-free, which is a key feature on sub-$1,000 consumer laptops.
A Powerful Performer
Thanks to an eighth-generation Intel Core i5-8250U, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, the Inspiron 13 5000 is a top performer on our benchmark charts, especially when it comes to specialized tasks like video encoding, image editing, and 3D rendering. Similarly priced competing systems took at least 2 minutes to finish our encoding task using Handbrake, while the Dell completed it in 1 minute, 10 seconds. Similarly, its rendering performance as measured by its score on the Cinebench test (675) is twice that of the nearest competitor (322, belonging to the Core i7-powered Acer Spin 3), and it finished our series of Photoshop image-editing tasks more than 30 seconds faster than the Yoga 720 did (3:27 vs. 4:05).
Its superior results continue on our graphics tests, with class-leading scores on both of the 3DMark gaming benchmarks (7,252 and 390) and frame rates that are only a few frames per second lower than the Yoga 720 on the Heaven and Valley simulations.
The problem with both the multimedia and graphics results is that although they are good relative to the competition, they’re still far worse than what you’d expect from a dedicated gaming rig or mobile workstation. Don’t expect to play the latest titles at maximum resolution and quality settings on the Inspiron 13 5000, although less-demanding games like Minecraft should run OK.
When it comes to the more relevant metric of everyday performance, the kind you’ll need while you’re web browsing, making a Skype video call, or typing up a report, the Dell is again best in class, though by a much shallower margin. Its score of 3,156 on the PCMark 8 test demonstrates this, since it’s less than 100 points better than the Yoga 720’s score. Any result greater than 3,000 on this test indicates a machine that will likely perform well on everyday computing tasks.
If you want even better performance and more storage, you can configure an Inspiron 13 5000 with a Core i7-8550U processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD.
See How We Test Laptops
Intel’s eighth-generation CPUs are supposed to be more efficient when it comes to power consumption, but the Inspiron 13 5000’s battery life is a dismal 5 hours and 15 minutes, by far the worst in its class. That’s likely due to a less capacious battery than a problem with the CPU, but whatever the reason, know that you won’t be able to stay away from a power outlet all day, as you’d expect to do with the 12-hour battery life of the Yoga 720.
Despite its good computing performance, the Dell Inspiron 13 5000 is nowhere near as well-rounded a machine as the competing Lenovo Yoga 720. It’s bigger, heavier, and has far worse battery life. The only situation in which we’d recommend it is if you need to wring as much computing power as possible out of an extremely strict budget. Otherwise, you can get a machine that’s far more pleasing to use in the Lenovo Yoga 720, even if it is slower on specialized multimedia tasks.
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