With the new Inspiron 14 2-in-1, Dell wants to give us the full array of both laptop and tablet experiences in a model that doesn’t break the bank. From just over a thousand dollars (on sale, at time of writing), you can get a slim, lightweight laptop that will adapt to whatever situation you need. Writing notes in a lecture, watching TV on the train, or jotting down notes on the run: this 2-in-1 promises to be your all-in-1. Can it deliver?
|Screen||14” 1920x1080p touch screen|
|Processor||Options from 11th gen i3 8MB @3.7GHz to 11th gen i7 12MB @5.0GHz|
|Memory||8 / 16 GB DDR4|
|Hard Drive||256/512 GB|
|Battery||Not stated, approximately 6 hours|
Under the hood, the Inspiron 14 2-in-1 is about what you’d expect for the price. The base model’s i3 is quick enough for use as a work/school machine, with enough juice to provide a suitably responsive experience web browsing, streaming video and the like, with plentiful options to upgrade to even a top of the line i7. It would have been nice to see some more options for harddrive expansion, with 512 GB potentially falling short for those needing more disk space.
The Inspiron 14 is a New Page in the Mixed History of the 2-in-1.
Since iPads became cool (and then not so cool again), laptop makers have been trying to fit in the intuitive experience of using a tablet into their devices. Versatility has become the name of the game for what has come to be called the “2-in-1”: with the promise that customers can have the convenience and creativity of a tablet and still be able to reliably fall back on the utilitarian functionality of a laptop when required. Unfortunately, it’s easier to promise than it is to deliver.
One route often taken, including by the Surface Pro, was the tablet-with-detachable keyboard—usually, a glorified iPad with a flimsy excuse for a keyboard that made it a chore to use the device as a working laptop. On the other hand, some (thankfully) tried to be laptops first, but then bent and twisted awkwardly into a tablet-shape. While these were usually decent as laptops, one had to squint a little and look at it just the right way to maintain the illusion that they could be anything like a tablet. For a while I was convinced it was impossible: to enjoy using it, a tablet has to be a slim, light-in-your-hands device, while a good laptop has to be sturdy, with a keyboard that feels satisfying, and with enough juice that used to require a heavy body.
A glimmer of hope has come in recent years, thanks to the mobile market allowing more and more power in smaller and smaller packages. The Inspiron 14 delightfully grabs at this hope, and (impressively) manages to cram it all into a lightweight package. The result is a hybrid device that hardly feels like a compromise in either configuration. Presenting as a tablet, its featherweight body makes it easy to forget it’s hiding a fully functional keyboard behind its facade. Using it as a standard laptop, its metal body nonetheless provides the satisfying heft to its chassis needed for tapping away at the keyboard of any serious workhorse machine.
But Does it Compromise?
Admittedly, the Inspiron 14 is not the first laptop to successfully make this transition between worlds. Dell’s own XPS 13” machine, for instance, boasts an even more lightweight and premium 2-in-1 experience. The XPS, however, starts at over $1000 more. What makes the Inspiron 14, impressive, then, is how little it has to compromise to achieve a comparably seamless result for a budget price.
That’s not to say there are no compromises. The battery life on the Inspiron 14 is serviceable, but would fail to stand up to a whole day’s work for some who might have to travel a lot without access to a convenient place to charge. For such a modern-feeling laptop, it also felt a little like reaching back into the stone age to not have a USB-C port to charge from. A final peeve: no matter how hard I tried I could not get the fingerprint reader in the power button to recognise me. For little over $1,000, though, these are issues I’d be happy to live with.
The Verdict: For a Budget 2-in-1, Look No Further
The Inspiron 14 2-in-1 is the first budget-priced laptop that, for this reviewer, feels premium used as both a laptop and a tablet. From streaming Netflix in bed, to writing at my desk, the Inspiron was a pleasure to use throughout, and I never felt the cost of its second identity when using it in either configuration. For a machine that costs significantly less than the phones a lot of us now have in our pockets, I’d say that’s a pretty good deal.
The Inspiron 14 2-in-1 can be bought from $1061.98 from Dell.