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REVIEW: Get Inspired With Dell’s New Laptop

Dell’s Inspiron range is its all-rounder line that seeks to provide users with a work-friendly laptop which can also handle multimedia. These laptops can be found on sale individually but are also commonly used by corporates and MSPs to outfit whole workforces. So, how inspiring is it?

Design and build quality

The Inspiron 14 is reminiscent of Dell’s premium XPS range but the latter’s solid, metal casing is eschewed in favour of a plastic shell. It looks similar but feels very different. It’s nonetheless, very solidly built, looks classy and will easily fit into its native corporate environment. It can’t quite rival MacBooks for style when out and about, though.

Features

Opening it up reveals a 14-inch 1,920 x 1,200 screen which is surrounded by a nicely contrasting black bezel. At the top is a Full HD webcam with a privacy slide, to help provide peace of mind that you’re not being spied upon – whether by nefarious types or those who can see you’ve forgotten to leave a web conference. It offers impressive image quality and the dual-array microphones make a decent fist of keeping audio clear in noisy environments. It’s generally very good for online meetings.

The matte, Full HD, IPS-technology screen itself displays a crisp and clear Windows Desktop that offers a very comfortable amount of desktop real estate that suits all office tasks well. It’s also good for multimedia. While colours aren’t as vibrant as specialist Creator laptops and those equipped with OLED screens, it’s fine for casual video viewing. However, light banding can blight colour gradients.

Contrast is acceptable but details can get lost in particularly dark and bright areas. We were impressed that black-and-white transitions were relatively smooth (for a laptop screen) and not blocky.

If you were hoping to do some basic gaming, you might be disappointed. The screen has a standard 60Hz refresh rate, but the pixel response time is slow, meaning that fast-moving objects appear with significant blur. It’s fine for casual gaming, but anything that’s fast and frenetic gets messy quickly.

Ultimately, it’s a good corporate-grade screen.

The Scrabble-tile keyboard is very comfortable and accurate to type upon for extended periods. It’s white-backlit and the brightness can be adjusted to three levels. The up-and-down arrow keys are squished, but that’s the primary annoyance. In the top right corner, the power button doubles as a responsive fingerprint reader which supports Windows Hello logon (the webcam does not).

The trackpad is smooth and accurate, but we were disappointed at how stiff the buttons on it are.

The speakers, however, are very impressive. They get surprisingly loud and offer well-rounded audio fidelity that includes some punchy bass. Dell really seems to be leading the line in the ultraportable, laptop, audio space.

Performance

Our Inspiron 14 5420 review unit had an Intel Core i5-1255U processor which operates at 3.5GHz, has a 4.7GHz Turbo Boost speed and utilises two Performance cores and eight Efficiency cores. It also had 16GB of DDR4-3200 RAM and a fast 512MB NVMe hard drive.

In a laptop performance world that stretches between low-powered, ultraportable units and high-powered gaming behmoths, this lies smack in the middle. It will easily keep a laptop ticking along for office and casual tasks, but you’ll have to wait a bit longer if you want to use it for rendering workloads and such like.

It doesn’t have dedicated ‘discreet’ 3D graphics. We had to make do with the 1.25Ghz integrated Intel Xe GPU that’s integrated into the processor. This can’t cope with the latest and greatest AAA-titles but it can play casual, slow-moving games that don’t have high performance requirements. Still… this is no gaming machine.

Ports and connections

Inside the Inspiron 14 5420 is Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 wireless connectivity. It has two USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports, a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, an HDMI 2.0 port, an SD card reader and a 3.5mm audio jack. It’s a reasonable and useful complement, if not quite bleeding edge, but few target buyers will feel aggrieved.

How portable is the Dell Inspiron 14 5420?

The Dell Inspiron 14 5420 is well built with a solid hinge and it should survive life on the road. It weighs a very reasonable 1.5KG and the power brick adds just 310g more. That sub-2KG total means it won’t weigh you down.

The battery has a modest 54Wh capacity but it lasted a very impressive 12 hours in our PCMark 10 Modern Office battery test – that’s a day-and-a-half out of the office.

Verdict

If laptops were food, then the Dell Inspiron 14 5420 is arguably a Big Mac. There are cheaper and more expensive options, but this arguably represents the baseline of quality and value in the world of mobile computing… something that’s underlined by the attractive $1,279 price tag.

13th-Gen variants will be appearing soon but we don’t expect earth-shattering improvements to an Inspiron formula that has been consistent for years. It won’t suit everyone, but it’s the epitome of mid-range quality and that’s especially important when you need a reliable workhorse for an SMB or Enterprise-level, mobile workforce. 8/10

 



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