With a lightweight design and incredible battery life, Dell's Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 is worth a look for commuters and frequent travelers. You also get fast performance, a solid keyboard and a big, 15.6-inch display that gives you tons of room to work. And as the name indicates, its folding hinge lets you use the device like a huge tablet when you want.
It's not as durable or secure as business-class laptops like Lenovo's ThinkPad Yoga 15, though, and it lacks work-friendly features like a 10-key number pad. So can the Inspiron 15's lightweight design make up for those shortcomings?
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With a rigid design and high-quality materials, the Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 — not to be confused with the standard Inspiron 15 7000, which lacks a 360-degree hinge — feels almost as premium as top-end Dell laptops like the XPS 15.
The matte-grey plastic lid has a soft-touch finish that feels luxurious, and I like the look of the brushed-metal keyboard deck and its diamond-cut edging.
Beneath the display is a physical Windows button, which makes it easy to summon the Start menu when you're using the device as a tablet. I prefer it to the capacitive home buttons on most other Windows hybrids, which are too easy to activate with an accidental touch.
Like most 15-inch laptops, you probably won't want to lug the Inspiron 15 on your daily commute between home and the office. But if you must, Dell's machine is more portable than most competitors, weighing in at 4.8 lbs. Lenovo's ThinkPad Yoga 15 is heavier at 5.07 lbs., and HP's Envy x360 15t tips the scales at 5.2 lbs.
The Inspiron 15 is about average in size, measuring 15.04 by 9.94 by 0.78 inches. That roughly matches competing machines like the ThinkPad Yoga 15 (15 by 10 by 0.82 inches), but is noticeably smaller and thinner than the Envy x360 15t (15.11 by 10.18 by 0.93 inches).
Like other 2-in-1 laptops, the Inspiron 15 can be used in four distinct "modes," depending on how you fold the hinge. In addition to standard laptop mode, you can flip the display a full 360 degrees to use the machine like a gigantic tablet.
Of course, a 4.8-lb. chassis doesn't make for the most practical tablet. It's just too heavy to carry around for more than a minute or two.
There's also the option to fold the display back partway into Tent or Stand mode. Stand mode in particular will come in handy when you're using the touch screen on a small airplane tray table, whether you're working or just watching movies to pass the time on a long business flight.
I wish the hinge were more stable, though. When I used the device in Stand mode, the display tended to tip backward if I gave it more than a gentle tap.
I also wish that Dell's Active Pen stylus worked with the Inspiron 15. Support for a digitizer pen would have made the hybrid design more useful by letting users take notes right on the laptop's display. It's hard to fault Dell for the omission, though, since competing 15-inch 2-in-1s also lack that functionality.
Keyboard and trackpad
Even though its keys are a bit on the shallow side, the Inspiron 15's keyboard still feels great. The keys are well-spaced and feel snappy and provide plenty of feedback, making for a pretty comfortable typing experience overall.
On the other hand, each key has just about 1 millimeter of travel distance, which is below the laptop average of 1.5 mm. In general, deeper keys are better because they provide a more comfortable, desktoplike feel. The ThinkPad Yoga 15 offers better feedback and deeper keys, which make it one of the most comfortable 2-in-1 keyboards I've tested.
Unlike 15-inch business-class notebooks, the Inspiron 15 lacks a 10-key number pad. That could be a big downside for workers whose jobs involve number crunching.
Meanwhile, the Inspiron 15's touchpad is extremely roomy, with a nice matte finish that my finger glides over easily. Mousing around feels responsive, and so does gestures like two-finger scrolling.
The Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 is one of the longest-lasting laptops we’ve tested. It ran for a whopping 12 hours and 55 minutes in our battery test, which simulates continuous Web browsing. That’s more than doubles the mainstream laptop average of 5 hours and 46 minutes. It also handily beats the HP Envy x360 (4:14) and the Toshiba Satellite Radius P55W (6:45). It also easily tops the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 15, even though that machine ran for an impressive 8 hours on a single charge, however.
The Inspiron 15's assortment of connectivity options is on par with what you'll find on competing 2-in-1s. You get two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, an HDMI port for connecting an external monitor or projector, a full-size SD card slot for expanding the notebook's internal storage and a Kensington lock slot for physically securing the machine to your desk. If you need an Ethernet port for connecting to private office networks, you can always buy a USB adapter.
While it comes with Windows 8.1 installed, a free upgrade to Windows 10 — the latest version of Microsoft's desktop operating system — is available out of the box. Initiating the upgrade is as easy as running Windows Update and following the directions that are provided.
Windows 10 goes a long way toward making 2-in-1 machines like the Inspiron 15 feel genuinely practical. That's because it includes a separate Tablet mode that makes it easier to navigate Windows on a touch screen, with big, touch-friendly buttons and full-screen applications. When you fold the Inspiron 15's display back, you're automatically prompted to enter Tablet mode, and you can set it to transition automatically.
Some handy productivity apps come installed out of the box, including Skype for basic videoconferencing and OneNote for taking and saving notes. A free one-month trial of Microsoft Office 365 — which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint — is included, but you'll have to pay for the software if you want to keep using it after the trial period ends.
Dell sells the Inspiron 15 in a far wider range of hardware configurations than most hybrid laptops. The bottom-end model comes with a dual-core Intel Pentium processor and 4GB of memory for $549.
My review unit, meanwhile, came with the top-end specifications, including a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 Processor with 8GB of RAM and a speedy 256GB solid-state drive (SSD). It sells for $899. A Core i7 model is also available for $899, but it comes with a slower (but roomier) 1TB hard drive.
The $699 model is a decent sweet spot for the average business user. It included a Core i5 processor with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB SATA hard drive. Serious multitaskers will want to pay for the extra RAM and an SSD, though, since that will let you open and switch between apps more quickly, in addition to letting your machine boot up in seconds.
Lenovo's ThinkPad Yoga 15 has a more comfortable keyboard, better durability and longer battery life, but it's thicker and heavier than the Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1. It also has a higher starter price point, but the Core i5 models are similarly priced.
Toshiba's Satellite Radius P55W is slightly slimmer than the Inspiron 15 7000 2-in1, and has a full 10-key number pad. It's pricier than the Dell, though.
HP's Envy x360 15t has a sleek design and a sturdier hinge than the Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1, but it's also heavier and has shorter battery life.
Dell's Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 is a slim, lightweight hybrid laptop that should satisfy business users, with amazing battery life and plenty of horsepower under the hood. You also get a nice keyboard and a sharp 15.6-inch display, all at an affordable price point.
But if you don't mind lugging around a thicker, heavier machine, there are better options for workers. Lenovo's ThinkPad Yoga 15 is a more durable machine with an even better keyboard that has a full 10-key number pad, as well as a sturdier hinge that's better for Stand mode.
But if you prize portability over all else, or don't mind sacrificing some performance for a more affordable model, the Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 is worth a look.