This laptop suffers from a problem another recent Dell machine, the Inspiron 11 Series 3000 2-in-1, has.
Both, with their metallic sheen and clean design, look like they each cost more than a thousand dollars. However, the illusion falls apart once you use them. For instance, the screen on the Dell Inspiron 14 has a mediocre 1,366 x 768-pixel screen resolution. But its biggest crime is that it is not an in-plane switching screen.
As a result, viewing angles are not very good. You have to be dead centre to get the best viewing experience. If the screen is tilted just slightly too far forward or back, the result is washed-out images. The glossy touchscreen is also fairly reflective. In addition to the physical bezel, there is a thin black border around the actual screen, which spoils the look.
At almost 2.2kg, this laptop is not the lightest 14-inch model. The sides may look tapered, but it is not as slim as an ultrabook. The good news is that there is sufficient allowance to fit an Ethernet port.
To be fair, it is not as underwhelming as the Inspiron 11 model. The lid is actually aluminium and not plastic with a metallic finish.
Powering the laptop is a capable Core i5 processor instead of a slower Intel Pentium chip. The 500GB hybrid drive is not as fast as a solid- state drive, but it is a much cheaper alternative.
This balancing act between cost and features is best exemplified by the Intel dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac adaptor. Based on the latest Wi-Fi standard, this adaptor is useful as it should avoid the increasingly crowded 802.11n band. But it is also a basic 1x1 version that, in terms of speed, is equivalent to the Wi-Fi on a mobile device rather than the 2x2 variants found on laptops.
The laptop's large touchpad makes it easy to perform multi-touch gestures. The keyboard is less impressive. Though it is decent enough to type on, it feels shallow and lacks backlighting.
Interestingly, the internals of the Inspiron 14 can be accessed with the right screwdriver. In its higher-end configurations, the battery is removable.
With its mid-range AMD Radeon graphics chip, the Inspiron 14 can run older PC games decently. Some tweaking is probably needed to run more graphically intensive titles, though it helps that the screen resolution is relatively low.
With a fairly hefty 58 watt-hour battery, it was not surprising that the Inspiron lasted 6hr 44min in our video playback battery test.
This mainstream laptop has its fair share of flaws, but they quickly seem less obvious when you consider its $899 price tag.
Processor: Intel Core i5-4210U (1.7GHz)
Graphics: AMD Radeon R7 M265 2GB DDR3
Screen: 14 inches, 1,366 x 766 pixels
Connectivity: 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, HDMI, Ethernet port, SD card slot, headphone and microphone combo jack
Battery: 58 watt-hour
Value for money: 4/5
Battery life: 5/5
This article was first published on Nov 12, 2014.
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