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Dell Inspiron 14 7000 (7490): Ultraportable Excellence

PC Magazine|June 2020

Dell Inspiron 14 7000 (7490): Ultraportable Excellence
Dell’s Inspiron laptops are positioned below its higher-quality, more powerful XPS series, but you’d never know it judging by the Inspiron 14 7000.
MATTHEW ELLIOTT

The new 7000 (specifically, model 7490) boasts a magnesium-alloy chassis that’s virtually as thin, light, and sturdy as an XPS enclosure, and the ultraportable pulls off the neat trick of squeezing a 14-inch display into a 13-inch form factor. Under the hood, it offers Intel’s 10th Generation “Comet Lake” CPUs and optional Nvidia GeForce MX250 dedicated graphics. Unless you need the 4K (3,840-by-2,160-pixel) resolution available with Dell’s XPS 13—and I’d argue you don’t in a 13.3- or 14-inch screen size—the Inspiron 14 7000 replaces the XPS 13 as the ultraportable to own and our Editors’ Choice pick.

WELL-EQUIPPED AND WELL-ENGINEERED

Our test unit’s construction is just as impressive as its Core i5-10210U processor, 8GB of RAM, 512GB solid-state drive, and GeForce MX250 graphics. The new Inspiron 14 7000 (model number 7490) puts an end to the days when Inspiron laptops were a cheap, plastic fallback option for those who couldn’t afford the rugged goodness of an XPS system. Dell says the magnesium alloy chassis is lighter than aluminum but just as durable; it feels rigid without being heavy or bulky.

The black screen bezel is impressively thin on all four sides, which combines with new, higher-density boards and components to help shrink the size of the laptop. The Inspiron measures 0.6 by 12.6 by 8.1 inches (HWD) and weighs 2.9 pounds. By comparison, the Dell XPS 13 is only slightly thinner and lighter (0.46 by 11.9 by 7.8 inches, 2.7 pounds) and the 13.3-inch Razer Blade Stealth is about the same size and a tad heavier (0.6 by 12 by 8.3 inches, 3.1 pounds). Dell’s step-down Inspiron 14 5000 occupies more of a typical 14-inch laptop form factor at 0.7 by 12.9 by 9.4 inches and 3.6 pounds.

Dell Inspiron 14 7000

(7490)

PROS

Packs 14-inch screen in 13-inch chassis. Thin and light magnesium alloy enclosure. Intel “Comet Lake” CPU is powerful and efficient. Nearly around-the-clock battery life. Wi-Fi 6.

CONS

The screen could be brighter. Touchpad a bit noisy when clicked.

BOTTOM LINE

The Dell Inspiron 14 7000’s enviable blend of performance, screen size, and portability unseat the company’s near-legendary XPS 13 as our favorite ultraportable.

Black bezels aside, the system is a vision in silver. The lid, keyboard deck, and the keys themselves are a light-silver color. If you tend to keep the keyboard backlighting on all the time, you’ll need to break that habit; the silver keys offer no contrast against the backlighting in a brightly lit room, rendering the keyboard a mysterious blank slate. I would have preferred traditional black keys. On the plus side, the keyboard is roomy and responsive with just the right amount of travel for a springy feel without being mushy. No keys are shortened, and the top-right key combines the power button with a fingerprint reader for easy, secure logins.

The touchpad is accurate and responsive, but it offers a bit too much travel when clicked. It feels a bit flimsy, especially when clicked in either of the bottom corners, and its clicks are loud enough that they might annoy the person sitting at the next table at a coffee shop.

GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS

Whether the Inspiron is hibernating or powered down, the login screen appears without your having to hit the power button, thanks to a sensor that begins to load Windows as soon as you lift the lid. The 14-inch touch screen offers 1,920 by 1,080 resolution. Unlike with the XPS 13, there is no 4K upgrade option. For this size display, however, a 1080p image is still sharp and affords a fairly roomy workspace—not to mention that it needs less battery power than a 4K panel. And the Inspiron 14 7000 delivers outstanding battery life, as you’ll see in the next section.

The display looks crisp with accurate colors, but it’s rated for an unremarkable 300 nits of brightness. That’s fine for indoor environments but isn’t the best pick if you work in the field and plan to use the Dell regularly outdoors, as you might be tempted to do by its portability and optional LTE connectivity.

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June 2020