- Attractive design
- Robust build quality
- Core i7 CPU, discrete Nvidia GPU
- 360-degree screen hinge enables multiple modes
- Good audio subsystem
- Infrared camera supports Windows Hello authentication
- Large and heavy
- Moderate screen resolution
- Somewhat cramped keyboard
- Less than all-day battery life
If you think that 17-inch laptops are something of an oddity -- too large and heavy for carrying around, less practical in the office than a smaller laptop with an external screen, for example -- then Dell's Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 may reinforce your opinion. A 17-inch laptop with a 360-degree rotating screen, it is, according to Dell, the first of its size to offer 2-in-1 functionality. So, is it useful -- or a solution looking for a problem?
Unsurprisingly, the Inspiron 17 7000 is large and heavy. It measures 412mm wide by 277.5mm deep and takes up a large amount of space on the desktop. It's somewhat thicker than your average laptop these days too -- 22.6mm thick at the back, tapering ever so slightly to 22.1mm at the front.
The good news is that the build quality is robust. The large lid does have some flex, but it's quite tough and the base feels very solid. Dell has chosen brushed aluminium for the chassis, and its silvery expanse when the lid is down is broken only by Dell's logo and a narrow, shiny silver band all around the edge.
The laptop's weight starts at 2.7kg, and that's with 4GB of system RAM and an SSD. Both of the models currently on offer from Dell's UK website have 16GB of RAM, and you can opt either for a 512GB SSD or a 1TB HDD plus a 128GB SSD. The latter configuration, in particular, is likely to weigh closer to 3kg.
Open up the Inspiron 17 7000 and the screen's massive size is quickly apparent. Measuring 17.3 inches, the 'Truelife LED-Backlit Touch Display' is bright and sharp. There's a bezel of about 13mm on the short edges, 16mm at the top and a generous 29mm at the bottom. This helped me avoid prodding the touchscreen when moving between usage modes (of which more below) but the large bezel does contribute to the overall size of this laptop.
Not everyone will appreciate the screen's reflective finish, and its 1,920-by-1,080 pixel resolution -- that's just 127ppi -- is disappointing. More pixels would definitely be welcome: to get a 'retina'-class display for this laptop, for example, you'd need around double the pixel density, or a 4K resolution of 3,840 by 2,160 pixels. Still, the Inspiron 17 7000's HD display delivers good brightness and colour depth, and viewing angles are fine. Despite its moderate resolution, I found this screen satisfactory for mainstream workloads.
Dell characterises four usage modes for this laptop, all of which are now standard for 2-in-1 devices: laptop, tablet, tent (supported by top and bottom edges, screen facing outwards) and stand (keyboard flat to desk, screen facing outwards). Some of these modes are likely to be more useful than others: if you regularly need to make presentations, for example, you may find the Inspiron 17 7000's combination of large screen and stand mode particularly valuable.
Sound quality will be important to anyone giving presentations, and it's good, with plenty of volume and no loss of quality at the highest levels. Dell provides an audio control app with a number of presets, as well as the ability to create and save custom presets.
The hinges are very robust -- Dell says its testing regime ensures they feel tight even after opening and closing the lid 20,000 times. A measure of resistance when using a 360-degree screen is welcome, and it does help with manoeuvring the laptop between its four modes. However, simply because of its size I found the process of switching between modes rather unwieldy.
The keyboard is something of a weak link. There's ample chassis room to accommodate both the QWERTY keypad and a separate number pad, yet both feel oddly squished into their surroundings. The number pad has slightly narrower keys than the QWERTY set, while the cursor keys are only half height, the Fn keys are half height, and perhaps most bizarrely of all, the Enter Key is double width but single height.
Clearly there's an optimum distance for spacing between keys, and would not want to see that increased here. Still, with more than 20mm of width and acres of vertical space to play with, there's no need for the keyboard to feel cramped.
The keys themselves are spongy under the fingers, with good spring back but no 'click' as they depress. I found it fine for touch typing, although my preference is for a more responsive keyboard. There's a very deep wrist-rest area that some might find awkward to reach across.
The keyboard backlight toggles between two brightness levels via a Fn key. When you swivel the screen through its full 360 degrees, the keys remain operational, so care will need to be taken not to accidentally depress them with too much force.
The touchpad could do with being wider to mimic the aspect ratio of the screen. It's responsive and the two embedded buttons deliver a satisfying click when pressed. However, annoyingly, a gentle touch depresses them slightly, with a corresponding light click sound, but nothing happens. I couldn't find a way to disable the touchpad either.
There are just two configurations of the Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 available off the page in the UK at present. Both run on the same Intel Core i7 6500U processor with 16GB RAM, and both sport a discrete Nvidia GeForce 940MX GPU. These specs help the laptop handle relatively demanding workloads.
The main differences between the two models relate to internal storage, with the less expensive of the two sporting a 1TB physical hard drive with 128GB SSD, and the more expensive offering 512GB of SSD storage:
- Intel Core i7 6500U up to 3.10GHz, 16GB RAM, Windows 10 Pro, 1,920 x 1,080, Nvidia GeForce 940MX 2GB GDDR5, 1TB 5400rpm HDD plus 128GB SSD
£832.35 (ex. VAT)
- Intel Core i7 6500U up to 3.10GHz, 16GB RAM, Windows 10 Pro, 1,920 x 1,080, Nvidia GeForce 940MX 2GB GDDR5, 512GB SSD
£874.17 (ex. VAT)
Ports and connectors are somewhat limited given the size of this system. In particular, there's just one USB 3.0 port (with PowerShare) and one USB 2.0 port. With so much chassis space available, Dell could have gone to town here and provided much more connectivity. On the plus side, there is also a USB Type C port which, as well as allowing for device connection, supports charging -- although the provided charge cable has a round-pin connector. There's also a full-size HDMI por, an SD card reader and a 3.5mm headset jack.
The 720p webcam above the screen sits next to an infrared camera that works with Windows Hello for face-recognition-based login.
The suggested battery life ratings at Dell's website cover a number of processors and other specs, but not those for our review sample. However, from those that are provided, we infer a claimed battery life of around 6 hours. That's not a full day's mains-free work, and based on my own experience during testing, real-world battery life might be closer to five hours. This would normally raise alarm bells, but as this 17-inch laptop isn't likely to be a frequent traveller, it shouldn't be a deal-breaker.
Dell's Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 is the first 17-inch laptop with a 360-degree screen hinge that we've seen. The combination of such a large screen and a form factor more commonly associated with ultraportable devices is intriguing, if not entirely successful.
The screen, for example, although perfectly acceptable, would benefit from a higher resolution. Similarly, the keyboard is usable but could do with some refinement. The audio subsystem is good, though, and the Core i7/Nvidia GPU combination makes for a powerful system that can handle a wide range of business and consumer workloads. But if you intend taking this almost-3kg system on your travels, you'll be looking for better battery life.
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|Processor / Chipset|
|CPU||Intel Core i5 (6th Gen) 6200U / 2.3 GHz|
|Max Turbo Speed||2.8 GHz|
|Number of Cores||Dual-Core|
|Features||Hyper-Threading Technology, Intel Smart Cache, Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0|
|Installed Size||3 MB|
|Memory Speed||2133 MHz|
|Memory Specification Compliance||PC4-17000|
|Configuration Features||1 x 8 GB + 1 x 4 GB|
|Installed Size||12 GB Dual Channel DDR4 2133MHz (8GBx1 + 4GBx1)|
|Rated Memory Speed||2133 MHz|
|Max Supported Size||16 GB|
|Speed||2133 MHz / PC4-17000 - 2133 MHz|
|Form Factor||SO-DIMM 260-pin|
|LCD Backlight Technology||LED backlight|
|Image Aspect Ratio||16:9|
|Diagonal Size (metric)||43.942 cm|
|Display Resolution Abbreviation||Full HD|
|Humidity Range Operating||10 - 90% (non-condensing)|
|Audio & Video|
|Graphics Processor||NVIDIA GeForce 940MX - 2 GB GDDR5 SDRAM|
|Sound||Stereo speakers, two microphones|
|Spindle Speed||5400 rpm|
|Wireless Protocol||802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Features||Intel Wireless Display (WiDi), Miracast|
|Drive Type||no optical drive|
|CPU Type||Core i5|
|Clock Speed||3.10 GHz|
|Supported Flash Memory||SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, SDXC Memory Card|
|Input||AC 120/230 V (50/60 Hz)|
|Output||65 Watt, 19.5 V, 3.34 A|
|Connections & Expansion|
Headphone/microphone combo jack
|Memory Card Reader||Yes (SD Card, SDHC Card, SDXC Card)|
|Product Line||Dell Inspiron|
|Model||17 7778 2-in-1|
|Data Link Protocol||Bluetooth 4.0, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n|
|Mechanical Design||360° flip design|
|Hard Drive Capacity||1 TB|
|Diagonal Size||17.3 -inch FHD (1920 x 1080) Truelife LED-Backlit Touch Display with Wide Viewing Angles|
|Features||USB PowerShare technology|
|Included Accessories||power adapter|
|Theft/Intrusion Protection||security lock slot (cable lock sold separately)|
|Dimensions & Weight|
|Type||1 year warranty|
|ENERGY STAR Certified||Yes|
|Min Operating Temperature||32 °F|
|Max Operating Temperature||95 °F|
|Operating System / Software|
|OS Provided: Type||Windows 10 Pro 64-bit English|
|Type||McAfee LiveSafe (12 months subscription), Microsoft Office (30 days trial)|
|Discrete Graphics Processor||Yes|
|Graphics Processor||NVIDIA GeForce 940MX|
|Graphics Processor Series||NVIDIA Geforce|
|Installed Size||2 GB|
|Service & Support|
|Type||1 year warranty|
|Service & Support Details|
|Full Contract Period||1 year|
|Shock & Vibration Tolerance|
|Shock Acceleration (Operating)||110 g|
|Shock Duration (Operating)||2 ms half-sine pulse|
|Shock Acceleration (Non-operating)||160 g|
|Vibration Acceleration (Operating)||0.66 g|
|Vibration Acceleration (Non-operating)||1.3 g|