You won't mistake it for a $1,200-plus HP, Lenovo, or LG (or even Dell's more upscale Inspiron 7000 series), but the Inspiron 14 5000 2-in-1 is a sound convertible for about $900 in the peppy model we tested.
Under 4 pounds is a good figure for a 2-in-1 convertible laptop. Under one grand is an even better one, particularly if the system in question has an easy-on-the-eyes 14-inch screen instead of the more common 13.3-incher. The Dell Inspiron 14 5000 2-in-1 (starts at $579.99; $899.99 as tested) meets those criteria, even if it lacks the elegance of our more expensive Editors' Choice, the Lenovo Yoga C930. It's a nice-looking, nicely built mainstream convertible.
Also known as the Inspiron 5482, the Inspiron 14 5000 2-in-1 costs $579.99 with a Core i3 processor, a skimpy 4GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. My $899.99 test unit steps up to a 1.8GHz (4.6GHz turbo) Core i7-8565U chip with an Intel UHD Graphics 620 integrated processor, along with 8GB of memory and a 256GB NVMe solid-state drive.
Doubling the RAM and SSD to 16GB and 512GB respectively adds $200. The touch screen offers full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) resolution; there's no 4K option available. The Windows 10 Home system carries a one-year warranty.
At 0.79 by 12.9 by 9.2 inches, the matte-silver Dell is slightly trimmer than the 14-inch Acer Spin 3 (0.82 by 13.2 by 9.1 inches). It could stand to be a little lighter, at 3.87 pounds to the Acer's 3.75 and the LG Gram 14 2-in-1's remarkable 2.53 pounds, but it doesn't feel like a drag in a briefcase.
While it can't match the LG's magnesium-alloy construction, the Inspiron feels reassuringly solid, with just a little flex when you grasp the screen corners and none when you press the keyboard deck or aluminum palm rest. Two fairly hefty hinges hold the display, whose bezels aren't as vanishingly thin as those of Dell's XPS series but aren't obnoxiously thick, either.
One USB Type-C port and two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, along with an HDMI port, an audio jack, and the power connector, decorate the laptop's left edge. A Thunderbolt 3 port, or at least a second USB Type-C port rather than a proprietary plug for the AC adapter, might have been nice, but no dice.
On the right edge, you'll find an SD card slot, a USB 2.0 port, and a cable-lockdown security notch. The SD slot leaves cards protruding to snag on something in your briefcase rather than swallowing them whole. If you anticipate spending a lot of time in tablet mode, you might miss a volume rocker.
Images captured by the webcam centered in the top bezel are low in resolution (1,280 by 720) and not terribly bright, but they're crisply focused and commendably free of noise or grain. The camera does not perform face recognition, though the system supports Windows Hello sign-ins via a fingerprint reader built into the power button.
Something else that's not terribly bright is the IPS touch screen—even with brightness turned all the way up, I kept pressing Fn+F12 again in hopes of getting truly white instead of off-white backgrounds. Contrast isn't bad and viewing angles are wide, but the mediocre brightness and reflective surface—like most touch screens, the panel has a glossy finish instead of a matte one—detract from what are actually pretty vivid colors. It's far from the worst I've seen, but it's perhaps the clearest indication why the system belongs to Dell's 5000 rather than the slightly posher Inspiron 7000 line.
The backlit keyboard lacks dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys but otherwise generates few complaints. The Control and Delete keys are in their proper corners, Shift and Backspace keys are generously sized, and it has a pliant, plasticky typing feel with snappy feedback. The buttonless, finely textured touchpad taps and glides smoothly.
Bottom-mounted speakers produce somewhat muted sound—adequate for a small conference room or a Netflix movie in your lap, but not for boom-box duty at a party. Bass is missing in action but highs and midtones are clear. Bundled software features Amazon Alexa, Dell Mobile Connect (to link the PC and your phone), and Dell CinemaColor. The last lets you choose among a few color-temperature presets.
In addition to the abovementioned 14-inch convertibles from Acer and LG, I compared the Inspiron's performance to that of two 13.3-inch flip-and-fold machines—its Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 stablemate and the business-oriented HP EliteBook x360 1030 G3. The contenders' base specs appear in the table below.
Overall, the test unit acquitted itself admirably in routine productivity tasks, though I was somewhat disappointed with its battery life. And neither the 5000 nor any other laptop with integrated graphics will satisfy those seeking to play the latest games. Your after-hours entertainment will be limited to casual and browser-based games and, of course, streaming video.
PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, Web browsing, and videoconferencing. The test generates a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.
PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a Storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the storage subsystem. The result is also a proprietary numeric score; again, higher numbers are better.
The Core i5 Acer was a step behind, but the Core i7 convertibles all flirted with the 4,000-point score we consider excellent in the PCMark 10 productivity test. The 14-inch Inspiron finished in the top two in both benchmarks, competing well against the considerably more costly EliteBook and Gram.
Next is Maxon's CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC's suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
Another silver medal for the Inspiron 14 5000 2-in-1, hard on the heels of its same-CPU'd cousin. The Spin 3 defied the odds by taking the bronze.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and, at the end, add up the total execution time (lower times are better). The Photoshop test stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters. Systems with powerful graphics chips or cards may see a boost.
Just 6 seconds separated the Dell convertibles on their way to another one-two finish, with the LG close behind. I'd recommend the test unit for managing a photo collection, if not for its dim display.
3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suited to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.
The Inspiron 14 5000 finished near the back of the pack here (though not all that far behind the much more expensive HP), but it's more important to note that none of these scores indicates sufficient graphics gumption for challenging games. It's nothing we haven't seen in a hundred tests of integrated-graphics laptops, but it's still a letdown for anyone longing to play the latest titles.
Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it's rendered in the company's eponymous Unigine engine, offering a different 3D workload scenario than 3DMark, for a second opinion on the machine's graphical prowess. We present two Superposition results, run at the 720p Low and 1080p High presets.
Don't worry about the test system being a few frames off the pace at 720p. The convertibles were uniformly awful at the 1080p preset. They're emphatically not gaming rigs; Intel HD Graphics never surprises on these tests.
After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) where available and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop into airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of the open-source Blender demo movie Tears of Steel—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system conks out.
The 14-inch Dell outlasted its 13.3-inch stablemate, but the LG and HP put them both to shame—well, maybe not to shame (eight and a half hours is more than a workday's worth, after all), but at least to some embarrassment. The Inspiron's three-cell, 42-watt-hour battery is on the smallish side, and it shows.
A three-and-a-half-star review generally indicates a pendulum swing between three and four. If the Inspiron 14 5000 2-in-1's screen were a shade brighter, I'd bump it up; if it wasn't so attractively priced, I'd like it less. As is, the 2-in-1 does a fine job of carrying the Inspiron 5000 banner (not to be confused with the Inspiron 7000 or XPS banner). Dell's savvy direct customers may not buy it in droves, but it's a solid competitor to retail brands.
Bottom Line: You won't mistake it for a $1,200-plus HP, Lenovo, or LG (or even Dell's more upscale Inspiron 7000 series), but the Inspiron 14 5000 2-in-1 is a sound convertible for about $900 in the peppy model we tested.
Formerly editor-in-chief of Home Office Computing, Eric Grevstad is a contributing editor for PCMag and Computer Shopper, where he earlier served as lead laptop analyst and executive editor, respectively. A tech journalist since the TRS-80 and Apple II days, Grevstad specializes in lightweight laptops, all-in-one desktops, and productivity software... See Full Bio
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