Classy aluminum construction. Infrared webcam for Windows Hello. Good keyboard feel.
Mediocre battery life. Lacks Thunderbolt 3 port.
- Bottom Line
It stumbles a bit on battery life, but Dell's value-priced Inspiron 13 7000 (7378) can still run with 2-in-1s that cost hundreds more.
Convertible hybrid notebooks are often called 2-in-1s, not 2-for-the-price-of-1s, even though machines that can flip and fold between laptop, tablet, and other modes tend to carry a premium price. But Dell has kept the premium to a minimum with its Inspiron 13 7000 (7378). The $799.99 base model we tested features a seventh-generation Intel Core i5-7200U processor, 8GB of memory, a 256GB solid-state drive, and niceties like a USB-C port, and an infrared camera for Windows Hello face recognition. It doesn't have the swank two-tone styling or the available 4K display, but it's otherwise an affordable rival to our Editors' Choice for high-end convertibles, the HP Spectre x360 13. As such, we're rating the Dell above the older, heavier Acer Aspire R 14 as our new top pick for midrange convertible hybrids.
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The entry-level Inspiron, unlike some bargain systems with only half as much RAM or storage, is more than adequate for office and on-the-road productivity. If you crave more power, a $999.99 model steps up to a Core i7-7500U CPU, while a $1,099.99 configuration combines the Core i7 chip with 12GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. A 13.3-inch full HD touch screen is standard across the line.
Hey, Good Lookin'
Its silver brushed aluminum lid and keyboard deck, the former decorated with a dark Dell logo and a shiny wraparound beveled edge, give the 7378 an esthetic edge on its all-plastic competitors. At 0.76 inch, it's thicker than the Spectre x360 13 (0.5 inch) or Acer Spin 7 (0.43 inch), and its 12.7 by 8.8-inch footprint covers the HP's (12 by 8.5 inches) as well, but it still slips easily into a briefcase. You'll notice its weight there, however—3.5 pounds, versus 2.8 for the Spectre and 2.7 for the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1.
Two hinges let the screen fold back from Laptop mode into the familiar convertible contortions pioneered by Lenovo's first Yoga in 2012—an easel-style stand mode for giving presentations; A-frame tent mode for swiping at touch-screen apps on airline tray tables; and Tablet mode with the screen face up and keyboard face down for Web browsing or video viewing (usually in your lap, as most 2-in-1's are too heavy to hold in both hands or the crook of an arm for long). The bezels around the display are thicker than today's ultrathin laptop fashion so they can accommodate thumbs. The Inspiron feels reassuringly sturdy, with no flex in the keyboard deck and little wobble when you poke the screen.
It's also well equipped with ports, though it lacks the Thunderbolt 3 port of the Spectre x360—you're limited to USB, not Thunderbolt, docking and storage solutions. On the left edge are a jack for the palm-sized AC adapter; a USB-C/DisplayPort connector; HDMI and USB 3.0 ports; and an audio jack. On the right side are the power button, a volume rocker, an SD card reader, a USB 2.0 port, and a Noble lock slot. As you'd expect, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless are standard.
Besides letting you log into Windows with a glance instead of a typed password—a small convenience, but a pleasing one that we're glad to see trickle down to a mainstream system—the webcam takes reasonably bright if not ultra-sharp images for Skype chats. The Dell's bottom-mounted speakers, backed by a Waves MaxxAudio Pro tweaking utility, produce averagely loud audio; one guitar riff sounded ragged, but voices and other instrumentals were clean and complete with a bit of bass.
The keyboard is a bit on the flat or shallow side, with a little less travel than we'd like, but makes up for it with crisp feedback and a snappy typing feel. We were cruising at high speed after only a few minutes' practice. The layout is easy to master, with cursor arrows in the proper inverted T, although they're small and paired with the Fn key in lieu of dedicated keys for Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down. The keyboard backlight caught our eye, too, with two brightness levels (plus off) and above-average focused rather than fuzzy white illumination. The touchpad works smoothly, with just a gentle press or flex required to click its lower corners.
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The 1,920-by-1,080 screen isn't whiter than white or brighter than bright, and like many touch screens is prone to reflections in dark areas. But it offers wide viewing angles (helped by IPS technology) and good contrast. Colorful photos and 1080p videos looked sharp and accurate, though solid colors in PowerPoint slides didn't pop like poster paints. Touch operations were slick and precise in testing.
About the only aspect of the Dell that screams "entry level" is its one-year warranty with mail-in service; upgrading to a year of premium support with on-site service after remote diagnostics costs $69. Bundled software is minimal, aside from dueling Dropbox and McAfee pop-ups.
As we mentioned, the Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 is built around the "Kaby Lake" Core i5-7200U, a 2.5GHz (3.1GHz turbo) dual-core processor with Hyper-Threading and Intel HD 620 integrated graphics, teamed with 8GB of DDR4 memory and a 256GB Toshiba SSD. In the single most important of our benchmark tests, Futuremark's PCMark 8 all-around productivity measurement, the Inspiron's score of 2,983 fell just short of 3,000-point bragging rights (see the Yoga 910 at 3,197, for instance). But it topped the HP Spectre's 2,713 despite the latter's Core i7 CPU—and the Spectre, like all the systems shown here, is more than capable of crunching through office apps like Excel, Word, and Google Docs.
The 7378 also acquitted itself capably, virtually tying the HP, in our Cinebench rendering and Handbrake video editing tests. It fell off the pace, however, in our Adobe Photoshop image editing test, taking 4 minutes and 40 seconds—more than a minute longer than the Spectre (3:34) and Yoga (3:35)—to apply 11 complex filters and effects to a large JPEG. We'd assign blame both to its Core i5 versus Core i7 processor and slower SATA rather than PCIe solid-state drive.
Neither the Inspiron nor any of these integrated-graphics convertibles set the world on fire in our graphics benchmarks, posting lackluster results in 3DMark and missing the 30 frames per second threshold for smooth gameplay in the gaming simulations Heaven and Valley. And the 7378 joins the Spectre at the back of the pack in our battery life test, each lasting for about eight hours of video playback—stamina that we would have applauded just a year or two ago, but that looks decidedly subpar in this age of freakish results like the Yoga 910's 21-plus hours.
But let's repeat one stat that helps bring the Inspiron 7378 into focus: $799.99. Convertible buyers have found the difference between a three- and four-figure budget might as well be the Grand Canyon in hardware capability; the Dell might not out-dazzle machines that cost half again as much, but you can hardly expect it to. For what it does for what it costs, we're happy to award this hybrid an Editors' Choice.
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By Eric Grevstad Contributing Editor
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, all of which he uses when commuting and telecommuting between PC Labs and a cat-filled home office in Old Greenwich, CT. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EricGrevstad…. More »
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