Dell’s current Inspiron lineup — regardless of series — has been very consistent at offering above average looks and features for what you’re paying. There may be a disappointing spec here and there, but there’s typically some other feature to sweeten the deal in some other way.
For the Inspiron 14 5000 series it’s 802.11ac Wi-Fi, a backlit keyboard, and the fact that the laptop is a bit more travel-friendly than you might expect given its pricing.
The 14 5000 starts at $550 and comes in three configurations; we tested the midpriced version, which retails for about $700. The 14 5000 isn’t available in the UK or Australia, however the 15 5000 is, which has the same overall design but a larger 15.6-inch screen (touch optional), a keyboard with number pad, and configurations that include discrete graphics and, in Australia, solid-state hybrid drives and full-HD IPS touchscreens. Prices for the 15 5000 start £480 or AU$945.
Theis a step up in almost every way, but it’s just more than $1,000. If you can’t stretch your budget, the 14 5000 series is a compromise that doesn’t necessarily feel like one. Well, at least not too much of one.
Design and features
What’s best about the design of the 14 5000 series is that it looks better than you might be used to from a laptop that starts at $550. While the chassis is most definitely polycarbonate, the lid is finished with brushed metal with a small, simple Dell logo in the middle.
Mainstream laptops can be thick and heavy, but that’s not the case here. It’s not necessarily the thinnest or lightest 14-inch laptop, but you shouldn’t have trouble slipping it into a shoulder bag or backpack. The whole thing measures 0.9-inch thick (22mm) with a width and depth of 13.5 by 9.7 inches (342x246mm) and weighs in at 4.8 pounds (2.2kg).
|Dell Inspiron 14 5000 series||Asus Vivobook S451LA||Lenovo Yoga 2 (13-inch)|
|Price as reviewed||$699||$699||$899|
|Display size/resolution||14-inch, 1,366×768 touchscreen||14-inch, 1,366×768 screen||13-inch 1,920×1,080 touchscreen|
|PC CPU||1.7GHz Intel Core i5 4210U||1.6GHz Intel Core i5 4200U||1.6GHz Intel Core i5 4200U|
|PC Memory||8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz||6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz||4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz|
|Graphics||1,760MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4400||32MB Intel HD Graphics 4400||1,792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4400|
|Storage||1TB 5,400rpm HDD||500GB 5,400rpm hard drive||500GB+16GB SSHD|
|Networking||802.11a/c wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 (64-bit)||Windows 8.1 (64-bit)||Windows 8.1 (64-bit)|
The 14 5000’s keyboard is spill-resistant and backlit, and those are standard features even on the $550 entry configuration. There is a fair amount of flex in the keyboard deck, so if that’s something that really bothers you, you may want to hit up a Best Buy to type on it for a bit.
The touchpad is large and supports multitouch gestures up to four fingers, though you’ll have to enable many of them. It’s a decent touchpad, but if you tend to type with your hands on the palm rests, you’ll want to bump up the palm-rejection setting. Even with it turned all the way up I still experienced the occasional cursor jump.
The laptop’s 14-inch touchscreen has a 1,366×768-pixel resolution, something that’s still pretty common on midrange models. It’s fine, all things considered, but it doesn’t get very bright so working outside in bright daylight might prove problematic and color and contrast aren’t great either. Basically, you get a touchscreen that’s nice to have for Windows 8.1, but it’s not a particularly good one.
Sound quality from the front-firing stereo speakers is good for casual listening, and they get fairly loud without distorting. You’ll probably want to connect some decent desktop speakers or headphones when you can, though.
Ports and connections are nothing out of the ordinary. You get two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 ports; a full-size HDMI output; Ethernet; a headphone and mic jack; and an SD memory card slot.
Wireless features include newer 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which oddly isn’t available in the pricier 14 7000 series, and Bluetooth 4.0.
Performance and battery life
The Inspiron 14 5000 series currently comes in three configuration options with the main difference being the processor. The entry model has an Intel Core i3 CPU, 4GB of memory, a 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive, and Intel Graphics HD 4400 integrated graphics. Then you can step up to either a Core i5 or Core i7 processor with 8GB of memory and a 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive.
That’s it, though. There’s no option to max out the memory to 16GB or swap in a hybrid or solid-state drive. You can’t get a higher-resolution display or get a regular screen instead of a touchscreen. It certainly simplifies things when you go to buy, but if you were hoping to mix and match components, you can’t.
What you can do, however, is remove two screws to get access to the hard drive, dual RAM slots, and the battery. If at any point you want to upgrade or replace those components, it’s easy enough to do.
With the $700 Core i5 configuration, you can expect to get through daily tasks and entertainment with relative ease. It can handle multitasking like streaming music or video in the background while you do basic photo editing or Web surfing without feeling sluggish or like you’re waiting an eternity for something to happen.
The system boots in less than a minute and applications open relatively fast. If, however, you’ve been spoiled by the speed of a solid-state drive for your OS and other software, it may in fact feel like an eternity.
The integrated graphics are good enough for casual gaming and viewing HD video. For demanding PC games you can get playable frame rates at reduced settings at native resolution. There is no option for discrete graphics with the 14 5000 or any of the other 5000 series models.
If one of your main concerns is being able to keep working on and off all day, the Inspiron 14 5000 should do the trick. In our video playback battery drain test it reached 7 hours and 4 minutes. That’s really very good considering the size and price of this laptop, and with less demanding tasks you’ll be able to go class to class or meeting to meeting for much of the day without hitting up an outlet.
Like all of the Inspiron laptops we’ve tested, the 14 5000 series is a good value with impressive battery life, but you don’t get a lot of choice when it comes to specs.