Pressure-sensitive tablet mode
Uncomfortable laptop mode
Poor heat management
All versions of the Dell Inspiron 14 can used in clamshell, table, and tent mode.
Here are the specs of the laptop we tested:
Our Dell Inspiron 14 7420 came configured with a 12th Gen Intel Core i7-1255U, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage for $1,050. The 1255U comes with 10 physical cores and 12 threads (two hyperthreaded performance cores and eight efficiency cores) and tops out at 4.7GHz, To save $100, you can opt for the Inspiron 14 7425, which uses an older AMD Ryzen 7 5825U chip. You can also find a budget-friendlier option in the $850 model with a slightly less powerful Intel Core i5-1235U CPU, which reaches clock speeds of up to 4.40GHz.
From a physical standpoint, all three versions are the same. Each laptop has touchscreen displays that can flip back 180 degrees to be used in clamshell, tablet, or tent mode. The difference is just in the processor, which determines how easily your device can handle tougher tasks like video editing, gaming, and inter-application multitasking.
The sensitive touchscreen means taps, swipes, and scribbles register without issue.
Many 2-in-1 touchscreens feel like an afterthought, but that isn’t the case here. Whether you’re poking at the screen in laptop mode or as a tablet, the Inspiron 14’s touchscreen is responsive and pleasant to use (especially compared with its alternate control options, the trackpad and keyboard).
While some 2-in-1 touchscreens tend to lag a bit, that isn’t the case here; inputs like taps, swipes, and stylus scribbles are registered immediately. The Inspiron 14’s screen is also compatible with any Wacom (AES) stylus and comes with a Dell Active Pen PN5122W, which offers 4096 pressure levels to make writing and doodling intuitive.
The touchscreen’s responsiveness doesn’t come at the cost of picture quality. The Inspiron 14’s screen has a contrast ratio of 1458:1, a decent showing overall for an IPS panel. We found that the screen reached a maximum of 269 nits, which is also in the middle of our brightness rankings but might not be bright enough for outdoor use. With a native resolution of 1920 x 1200, it’s certainly no 4K display, but the pixel density is comfortable enough for everyday productivity.
Surprisingly robust sound comes out of this device.
The Inspiron 14’s two 2-watt Waves MaxxAudio Pro stereo speakers really pack a punch. While Dell doesn’t appear to have been very thoughtful about the speakers’ placement—they face downward, causing the audio to sound hollow when the device is on your lap—that doesn’t stop this unassuming 2-in-1 from raising a few eyebrows.
Both bass and treble ring true without sounding buzzy or tinny, creating an impressive soundstage for a device of this size. You’ll easily be able to fill a room with the sound of your Spotify playlist or next Netflix pick.
The sensory experience of the keyboard is smooth and mostly silent.
Not everyone will love the depth of the Inspiron 14’s keyboard travel, but few are bound to complain about how quiet it is. Even for the fastest of typists, this device’s chiclet keyboard barely emits a whisper, making it a good match for teachers, students with in-person classes, or people with auditory sensitivities—as long as they don’t mind its deeper travel.
The keys also have a nice soft-touch texture, and while there’s a little bit of flex, it isn’t something you’ll notice unless you’re picky.
Keystrokes have to travel deep, making it a labor to type, and the entire device feels heavy.
This is ultimately the Inspiron 14’s downfall. In laptop mode, it is frankly exhausting to use. The trackpad is anything but responsive, often requiring immense pressure or second taps to register a single click. While the QWERTY keyboard is ultra quiet, the deeper travel required and smaller keys create a ripe environment for fatigue, making it more suitable for shorter typing sessions.
Those who hope to take their laptop on the go might resent the Inspiron 14’s size and weight. At 3.59 pounds, this device is far from the 3-and-under “ultra-portable” range. It’s also 0.7 inches thick when closed, landing it closer to a chunkier gaming laptop on the size scale. The Inspiron 14 7420 physically feels like something you would have found at Best Buy a decade ago.
Just about seven hours on a full charge.
If a laptop is going to be this heavy and difficult to use, it’d better boast a pretty impressive battery life. Unfortunately, the Inspiron 14 7420 doesn’t.
We tested this device’s battery life by rapidly rotating through 20 browser tabs at 200 nits screen brightness to simulate heavy web use. In the end, the Inspiron 14’s 4-cell, 54Wh battery will give you just over seven hours on a full charge. While that might be enough to get you through a few classes or an easier workday, it puts the Inspiron 14 toward the bottom of our battery life ranking.
The laptop runs hot—really hot.
The Inspiron 14 is one of the hottest non-gaming laptops we’ve ever tested. After just 20 minutes of intense productivity testing, the lower clamshell—the part of the chassis that rests on your lap—reached 42.11 degrees Celsius (107.79 degrees Fahrenheit). Not only would that be unbearable on bare legs, but it’s disappointing for a productivity laptop at this price point. If you plan on using your laptop in true laptop mode, this might not be the pick for you.
In the same vein, it’s worth mentioning that the Inspiron 14 abruptly restarted twice during testing. Both occurrences were during light productivity tasks (one being while we wrote this review) and both involved the dreaded Windows “blue screen of death” followed by some noisy fan acceleration. Whether CPU heat or other variables prompted these restarts is unclear, but it makes the Inspiron 14 feel a bit unreliable.
If you’re a frequent touchscreen user, this might be the 2-in-1 for you. All others should look elsewhere.
For $1,050, you’ll want to love the laptop you buy. We can really only recommend the Inspiron 14 7420 2-in-1 to those who will frequently take advantage of its 180-degree flexibility and the touchscreen. As a laptop alone, it’s a bit disappointing for the price. If you’re primarily looking for a tablet with an attached keyboard that you don’t have to remember to charge, this could be the device for you, especially if you find it on sale.
If you think you’ll only occasionally use your device’s touchscreen, you might like saving a couple hundred dollars with the MSI Summit 13 Evo Flip, which also boasts 180-degree flexibility, stylus compatibility, and an Intel i7 processor. You could even enjoy a Microsoft Surface Pro 9, which offers similar specs at about the same price (or cheaper) and can be used with a detachable Bluetooth keyboard.
If you’re not insistent on having a touchscreen, you can find a much better laptop in Apple’s 2020 MacBook Air M1, which we’ve boldly (but confidently) referred to as “the best laptop you can buy.” If you’re not into the Apple ecosystem, the older Acer Swift X packs a lot of speed into a comfortable body with 9+ hour battery life (and you even get a Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti). Meanwhile, the Dell XPS 13 9315 can hit double the Inspiron 14’s battery life for $1,099.
At the time of publication, the Inspiron 14 7420 is on sale for $750 via Dell’s website. At that price, it’s easier to recommend; otherwise, we’d suggest looking into a few other options before making your final decision.
The Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 features a fantastic touchscreen, crisp speakers, and a pleasantly quiet keyboard.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Adrianna is a technology and science journalist and a content consultant for small business owners. In her free time, she’s often found buying exorbitant lattes, soaking up the Arizona sun, or writing personal essays on mental health or social activism. adriannanine.com
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