Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 review: a versatile, functional and affordable device

With a decent battery and the flexibility of a 360-degree hinge, the Inspiron 14 2-in-1 is a great budget choice for students

Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1
(Image credit: Richard Baguley)
T3 Verdict

The Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 is a mid-range laptop that offers decent but unspectacular performance, especially in terms of the screen and keyboard. It’s a great pick for the student on a budget, though, offering good battery life and versatility.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Long battery life

  • +

    Decent performance from the 8-core CPU

  • +

    Good budget choice

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Dim screen brightness

  • -

    Keyboard feels a little flimsy

  • -

    Not great for gaming

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Dell designed its Inspiron range of laptops and 2-in-1s in a thoughtful and practical way to enable users to stay connected wherever they are with a long-lasting battery. Ideally suited for study, travel or just everyday life, the easy-to-use Inspiron 14 is a solid option for students, freelancers and other cost-conscious users who prize daily functionality and flexibility over powerful computing performance. 

Among its useful, if unspectacular, features are the ergonomically positioned lift hinge design, mechanical privacy camera shutter and single sign-on fingertip reader. The keyboard leaves a bit to be desired, and sending emails on the sunny outdoor patio at your local cafe may be difficult due to a relatively dim screen.

Depending on what you need, it may not be the best laptop for everyone. But it's among the top 2-in-1 laptops out there. And, overall, it does the job well for most of the jobs it needs to do. Find out how we test at T3 and read on to learn more about the Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1.

DELL INSPIRON 14 2-IN-1 REVIEW: PRICING AND AVAILABILITY

The Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 is available now, starting at $799.99 (£499, AU$1,598.99) with the Ryzen 7 5700U processor. My review model with the i7-1225U processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD, and the FHD touch screen, is priced at $1049 (£849, AU$1,998.99). While mine came with Windows 10 Home edition, Dell is now offering a free upgrade to Windows 11.

Oct 24 note: Specs have been corrected to reflect true review sample and new prices

Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1

The versatile Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 features a 360 hinge.

(Image credit: Dell)

DELL INSPIRON 14 2-IN-1 REVIEW: DESIGN AND FEATURES

Let’s start with the screen of the Inspiron 14, which is, well, a little disappointing. It has decent color and videos look fine on the 14-inch Full HD touch display with thin edge bezels, but it generally lacks brightness. I measured it at a maximum brightness of 200 Cd/M2, which is the base level to be considered acceptable. 

Working outside on a sunny day it was just visible in shadow, but you couldn’t make much out in direct sunlight. That’s disappointing, especially for a 2-in-1 system that is designed to be carried around and used like a tablet.

Above the screen is a small webcam with a sliding shutter. Slide the small switch over, and a physical piece of plastic slides over the webcam. That’s all contained inside the screen bezel, so it isn’t going to break off. That’s a nice touch for educational users or those who just want to keep things private.

No pen is included, but the touch screen is compatible with the Dell Active Pen PN350M. This attaches to the top lip of the lid with magnets, so you aren’t likely to lose it.

The case feels well-constructed, and the hinge that allows the screen to rotate into tablet mode feels pretty tough — it should stand up to knocks and bumps without issue. The keyboard isn’t great, though, with a flat, mushy feel and a bit more give than I like. If you are a keyboard crusher like me, the whole keyboard flexes slightly when you are struck by inspiration and start hammering away on it. 

I don’t expect laptop keyboards to feel as robust as the mechanical keyboard I use as a daily driver, but the more expensive cousins of the Inspiron 14 have a better, more robust feel. They don’t feel like they are going to buckle when the muse is with me and I’m bashing away in a poetic frenzy.

One nice touch is the inclusion of a combination standby button and fingerprint reader in the top right of the keyboard, which is becoming standard fare on mid-range laptops. For those who have inquisitive children or co-workers, that’s a definite plus as a simple way to control who can log on. Just touch the button to put the device in standby mode when you walk away to make a cup of tea, then touch the button to turn it on and log on when you return. 

The touchpad is large and responsive, with a nice mechanical click when you press down. It supports up to 10 touches, so you get all the standard multi-touch features, like two-finger scroll, three finger touch and flick up to see all running programs, etc. It did pick up the odd wrist touch, though, mistaking that for a finger click when I rested my palm on the edge of the touchpad.

Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1

The power button is also a fingerprint sensor for security

(Image credit: Richard Baguley)

DELL INSPIRON 14 2-IN-1 REVIEW: PERFORMANCE AND BATTERY LIFE

My Inspiron 14 review model was built around a Ryzen 7 5700U, the faster of the two options on offer. This CPU includes 8 cores that run at 1.8Ghz, although some of them can crank that up to 4.3GHz when required. Twinned with 16GB of RAM, I found that this combination was capable of some decent work, although it lags behind its faster cousins.

I tested the laptop using the PC Mark 10 benchmark, which simulates several common office tasks like video conferencing and spreadsheet number crunching. It achieved a score of 5323 — somewhat slower than laptops like the Dell XPS 15 (with a score of 6030) but a touch faster than the cheaper Asus Aspire 5, which managed 4007.

I certainly found the Inspiron 14 to be adequate for general use: it cranked through spreadsheets and some light photo editing without problems. It started to choke when I applied more complex filters in Adobe Photoshop, though, and editing HD video in Premiere was a stop-start business as the system struggled to create previews.

The same was true of gaming: the Inspiron 14 managed a rather lackluster score of 1182 in the 3D Mark Time Spy test. Most 3D shooter games weren’t really playable, with frame rates in Doom Eternal between 10 and 25 frames per second (fps) at the Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080). It managed a more playable 50 to 60 fps if I dropped the resolution down to something like 640 x 480, but we aren’t in the 1990s anymore, and that doesn’t really cut it these days. 

The Inspiron 14 2-in-1 has decent battery life, lasting a little more than 11 and a half hours in my tests with the PC Mark 10 Video benchmark. It is worth remembering, though, that the computer is just playing back video in this test. Start playing games or doing any serious work and that’s going to be significantly less. It will still be more than adequate for most uses, however, and should get you through a day of work or college notetaking.

Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1

The Inspiron 14 is compatible with the Dell Active Pen PN350M

(Image credit: Richard Baguley)

DELL INSPIRON 14 2-IN-1 REVIEW: VERDICT

There is a lot of competition for the Inspiron 14 2-in-1. A thousand dollars/pounds or less gets you a lot of computer these days. The Inspiron 14 is a decent pick for this budget, with acceptable performance and build quality. 

It’s no gaming machine, though, and the compromises that keep the price down are evident in the flimsy keyboard and the screen that just can’t manage the brightness levels that make games and videos pop off the screen.

Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1

(Image credit: Richard Baguley)

DELL INSPIRON 14 2-IN-1 REVIEW: ALSO CONSIDER

The Acer Aspire 5 shares many of the same features as the Inspiron 15 but costs a lot less. Starting at $500, It has a Full HD screen and decent battery life, but the CPU is a quad core model and only comes with 8GB of RAM, while the Inspiron has a faster eight-core CPU and double the memory.

The Dell XPS 13 is a definite step up from the Inspiron 14, but that also ups the cost. The XPS includes a 4K OLED screen option that puts the Inspiron 14 to shame, but it’s much more expensive. The whole package is more refined and robust, though, with a superior keyboard, magnesium alloy case and better overall build quality. 

Is it worth nearly double the price? That’s up to you. But I would recommend you consider it if you want to handle heavy workloads on the go or watch movies on the move with that gorgeous OLED screen.

Richard Baguley has been writing about technology since the 1990s, when he left a promising career in high finance to work on Amiga Format magazine for Future. It has been downhill for him ever since, writing for publications such as PC World, Wired and Reviewed.com. He has tested gadgets as diverse as 3D printers to washing machines. For T3, he covers laptops, smartphones, and many other topics. He lives near Boston in the USA with his wife, one dog, and an indeterminate number of cats.