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I am a long, long, LONG time user, and fan, of Dell laptops. My first Dell laptop was a Dell Latitude D630, couldn’t even tell you the specs, but I was so happy when I got it, as it was my first real computer at my first real job. I upgraded later to the Latitude E-series (maybe a 6500?), and the E-series line stuck around for a while until the most recent change over to the 3000 and 5000 series in the last year or so.
I’ve also worked the last 10+ years for different IT companies who in most cases preferred Dell computers due to the relative ‘bang for your buck’ that you get with them. And, aside from a couple deviations to Microsoft Surface products and a Lenovo or two, Dell has been my Windows “Home Base” for years when it comes to work laptops.
That experience at a handful of different IT companies has not just exposed me to the use of these systems from Dell, but also supporting them, recommending them, and selling them. And while the Latitude line has been the primary line of laptops for small to mid-sized businesses in my circles, my experience has not been without Vostro, Precision and XPS as well.
Remember netbooks? Netbooks ruined the expectations for how much a ‘laptop’ should cost. Many professional and consumer shoppers expected that perfectly balanced laptop for sub-$500 prices, which didn’t really ever exist. But because of the misinformed opinion of how much a laptop should cost, many clients over the years would bring to us ‘consumer’ or ‘retail’ product lines like Inspiron, fully expecting us to encourage the purchase and to support those laptops that had no business in a business. Windows Home be damned, people wanted to save money!
So, I’ve been seeing Dell laptops for years; unboxing them, using them, and in all that time it’s as if their different product lines, which at one point stood distinct from one another, are adopting features and design language from other product lines such that they are slowly homogenizing their entire family of laptops. And, in the case of the Inspiron line, one of those products that a past version of myself would condemn a client for purchasing, those feature and design options have a significant impact on my overall impression of the product line.
The Dell Inspiron 14 7000 2-in-1 is a mid-sized, 3.62 pound laptop that tries to tick a lot of boxes at a price that doesn’t break the bank. Living in a world of $2000+ MacBook Pros and Surface Books, this model sports an 8-core AMD Ryzen 7 4700U Chip and 16GB of RAM, a full HD screen and a 512GB SSD for under $1000.
Getting into the box is one of those long Dell traditions wherein it seems the primary goal of the manufacturer is to provide a truly underwhelming, non-glamorous experience. If you really love a “Frustration-Free” packaging experience with products purchased from Amazon, this should be right up your alley. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Dell’s packaging seems far more recyclable than most other tech products I unbox, and so likely far better for the environment (note, this is more of a theory and less of a substantiated claim).
Yet I digress. Honestly, the unboxing experience is just like every other Dell laptop I’ve unboxed in the last decade, with the exception of the XPS 13 from a couple of years ago which I remember to be quite surprising at the time. Aside from discovering a power supply with a barrel connector in the box, there were no real surprises here.
Once the laptop was removed from its ‘super-luxurious’ plastic baggy, first impressions of the design reflect elegance, simplicity, uniformity (to Latitude, XPS and Precision) and dare I say, quality. The shell of the laptop is a mix of aluminum and plastic, but it feels far from the ‘cheap’ or ‘value’ option that Inspiron was once known for. And it’s heavy, although not in a bad way; it feels substantial and like it won’t break easily if it gets knocked around in your bag during transit. Still, that weight may be a bit more than you are looking to carry around with you.
Before I even opened the lid, I noticed a sharp edge on the sides of the laptop, along the base, that made it somewhat uncomfortable to handle (although, I suppose it is something you’d get used to). It is less extreme along the front, and non-existent along the back hinge, so it in theory can be avoided. I have mixed feelings about it; the sharpness is reminiscent of laptops like the MacBook Pro with low tolerance milled edges, which in addition to being somewhat uncomfortable to hold, kind of make me feel like I’m holding something of value.
This hinge design is shared with other Dell models, most memorably for me on the XPS 13 from 2016, with one modification: opening the lid elevates the back of the keyboard deck by about a quarter of an inch when the screen is pushed to between 120 and 130 degrees, which is a decent viewing angle for me (although your mileage may vary).
The lifted deck design probably helps with air flow and temperature control, while providing a very small amount of ergonomics to the user. It is worth mentioning, though, that this hinge design makes for a less-than-ideal scenario when it comes to using this laptop on your lap, as the lid protrudes below the body of the base and kind of digs into your legs a bit.
The hinge mechanism itself does a fine job supporting the 2-in-1 form factor; a similar design is used on my XPS 13 which has held up well to many folds and unfolds over the last 3 years. It’s a design that Dell has been using for a while now, and I have no concerns about its durability.
Aside from the hinge, opening the lid revealed two nice touches that you may recognize if you’ve paid attention to Dell’s product releases over the last few years. First, there is a slight chamfer around the entire base which not only gives it a nice shine in the right light, but also gives the laptop a sense of quality and sophistication. Second, and particularly exciting for me, the keyboard deck and keys have a nice “bronze-y” finish that hide dirt and moisture far better than the matte black / carbon fiber finish on my XPS.
One of the less exciting things about opening the lid? ‘Dat chin, tho.’
I’ll admit after some consistent use the size of the chin is something you adjust to, but the bezels on this laptop are still just large enough to suggest that it isn’t a premium laptop–and in some ways, it is one of the few things upon first inspection that makes it feel like a lower-cost computer.
The port selection here is decent, acceptable even. The left side of the deck has the barrel connector, an HDMI (1.4b), USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, and USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (5Gbps) which supports display port and power delivery. The right side has another USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port, a headphone jack and a full-size SD card reader. There’s plenty here for most people to connect what they need.
Powering the unit on and after running through the standard Windows 10 setup steps, I found myself increasingly irritated by the screen as time went on. At 14 inches in size, a full HD screen is plenty for everyday use although slightly higher resolution would help crisp-up the graphics and text just a little bit more. At 100% scaling in Windows on this FHD panel, the lower resolution is very noticeable, but at 125% it is totally acceptable. The panel itself comes in at 220 nits and is very bright, but the display almost seems slightly washed out by default, as if it’s a little too ‘white.’ It’s hard to explain, but this is not a screen I’d suggest you use in the dark as it comes off too harsh in that environment, even when dimmed. Fortunately, there is an app included by Dell called CinemaColor, which allows you to choose from some pre-defined settings to adjust saturation, temperature and contrast. And, you can even customize those settings, although you can’t rename the settings themselves.
And speaking of apps, the one place where you can best see that this is a consumer laptop is in the list pre-installed applications. I realize that these applications help to subsidize the cost of the unit, but there are some things that really should be adjusted here.
For starters–McAfee–it’s just not the direction I’d go if I were making a recommendation; I find the software overbearing to say the least. Another odd application subsidy comes by way of the Alexa app, which is a weird thing to see since Cortana assists you in setting up your computer for the first time.
There were in fact a total of 67 pre-installed applications on this computer, which sounds like a lot because…it is. 20% of those are software included by Dell, most of which could probably be left out. Completely out of curiosity, I did try the Dell Mobile Connect app (in place of Microsoft’s “Your Phone” app) and was disappointed, finding it unstable and ultimately unusable. I will say, however, that Dell’s support is one of its biggest selling points, so registering the product in your My Dell account is a must.
A couple of positive mentions in the app world come by way of Microsoft’s Edge browser and the built-in Mail application (yes, I was surprised too). My only real gripe with Edge is that the last two Windows computers (both of which were NEW models) I’ve set up have required an upgrade immediately to the “New” Edge browser; I really think this needs to be included in the base image for Dell (and other manufacturers’) computers.
Regarding the built in Windows Mail application: I’m a long time Outlook user, have grown to love and then hate it as its user interface has aged, and am now a supporter of the Outlook web application as my primary go-to. However, the built in Mail app included by Microsoft has come a very, very long way and shares much of its design cues with recent updates to the Outlook client and web apps. Honestly, I was prepared to destroy the mail app in this review based on my previous experience with it, but after playing around with it I was pleasantly surprised. And, while I recognize this is NOT a review of Windows 10, it is worth mentioning that it is a more light-weight application than Outlook and will likely help things run a little smoother overall.
The only other question I have for Dell is–how much does the price of the laptop really get subsidized because Farm Heroes Saga is installed?
Actual performance of the laptop is rock solid. Between the processor and the 16GB of RAM (which, by the way, can be upgraded to 32GB), the Latitude 14 7000 2-in-1 had no issues handling everyday tasks with ease…and while I don’t think that 16GB is totally necessary, I probably wouldn’t recommend anything less.
This laptop also has a dual mic and a front facing HD camera, which will be particularly helpful to you in a world where web conferences have become the new normal. The speakers are downward facing and maybe helped by the slight deck raise when opening the lid; they do an OK job but are certainly nothing to write home about. These speakers aren’t winning any awards, and sadly, the MacBook line continues to ruin laptop speakers for absolutely everyone else. The camera, by the way, also includes a privacy slide, so you won’t have to stick a small sliver of post-it-note on there if you’re paranoid, (although if you are paranoid you probably still will).
No laptop review is complete without talking about the input experience. Dell has for a long time delivered great input experiences on their keyboards and trackpads, and this laptop is no exception. The trackpad is smooth and responsive, appropriately sized, and has a physical ‘click’ for those who don’t like tap-to-click. I found it somewhat difficult to consistently click without over-exerting unless you press in exactly the right spot along the very bottom-center of the trackpad. The key spacing is great, and the keyboard itself provides a decent experience when it comes to key travel and noise, but lacks a little in the tactile experience as the keys feel a bit mushy and cheap.
I’m surprised that this model is one of the few Inspiron models that doesn’t support Windows Hello for authentication. Instead, Dell includes a fingerprint reader, which was quick and easy to set up, responsive, and doubles as the physical power key. It sits in the physical position that I’m accustomed to seeing the delete key, so that took a little time to get used to.
Overall, this is a well-built, thoughtfully designed machine that shares many design cues with its more premium siblings (XPS, Latitude, Precision even). And at $899 before any sales, which I’m sure you’ll see plenty of, and given that the specs are pretty customizable, it’s really hard to not recommend this if you’re looking for a sub-$1000 laptop to handle your day-to-day activities.
I only have a handful of gripes about this laptop, otherwise, the tremendous number of positives outweigh the arguably nit-picky criticisms I’ve captured here. Even the battery life is decent (again, nothing to write home about, but totally acceptable for a mid-range laptop in 2020).
And, if not for running Windows 10 Home, this would be a totally suitable laptop for business use…although I’m sure plenty will use it for that, much to the dismay of my MSP brethren who support home users’ computers on a regular basis.
This product was provided by Best Buy and Dell in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. The opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author and have not been reviewed or approved by any sponsors prior to posting.