- Stylish metallic-grey design
- Decent performance
- Good keyboard and trackpad
- Terrible screen
- Touchscreen can be unresponsive
- Battery life just short of rivals
- 13.3-inch Full HD display
- Convertible design with 360-degree hinge
- Intel Core i3-6100U, i5-6200U or i7-6500U
- 4/8/16GB RAM
- 500GB HDD or 256GB SSD
- Manufacturer: Dell
- Review Price: free/subscription
WHAT IS THE DELL INSPIRON 13 5000 (5368)?
The latest version of Dell’s Inspiron 13 5000 line is an intriguing product. It’s a laptop/tablet hybrid device with a touchscreen that’s attached via a 360-degree hinge that allows for it to be completely flipped around into a tablet-like form.
That in itself is nothing new, but what Dell has also done is to keep costs impressively low, with this machine available from just £499/$748,5. Add a smart design and a wide range of spec options and you have a machine that should be ideal for an array of different buyers.
DELL INSPIRON 13 5000 (5368) – DESIGN AND FEATURES
Dell’s long had an eye for making great-looking products, even at the budget end of the market, and the 5368 is no exception. The company’s favoured gun-metal grey adorns most of the machine, and although it’s just a paint finish on a plastic chassis, it looks great.
Helping complete the look are lots of nice little touches, such as the fact that the back of the screen and the keyboard surround are both single pieces of plastic, so there are no seams to break up the clean lines. Similarly, the screen surround uses a contrasting black plastic that blends in that much better with the darkness of the screen itself.
It’s just a shame Dell felt the need to add little screen-protecting rubber bumps to either side of the keyboard.
One thing this machine can’t claim, though, is to be all that thin and light. While it’s still relatively so, dimensions of 325 x 224 x 20.4mm and a weight of 1.62kg make it noticeably heftier than non-touchscreen ultrabooks such as the Lenovo Ideapad 710S or Dell’s own XPS 13.
This has allowed Dell to squeeze in better connectivity options than you’ll get on those machines, though. Here you get not two but three USB 3.0 ports and a full-size HDMI, which is far more convenient than the micro/mini video outputs on slimmer machines.
You also get a headphone jack, SD card reader and a Kensington lock slot for keeping this laptop affixed to a desk. There’s not room for a wired network connection, but you do of course get 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Continuing the great first impressions is the keyboard. The layout is good and the key action is nicely defined, making it easy to tell you’ve pressed a key properly. It’s also backlit and there are two brightness levels as well as the option to turn it off completely.
The trackpad doesn’t let the side down, either. It offers accurate tracking, a smooth-gliding plastic surface and a responsive and precise one-button click action.
DELL INSPIRON 13 5000 (5368) – SCREEN AND AUDIO
Sadly the Inspiron 13 5000 is brought crashing back to earth by the quality of its screen. From the moment you fire this laptop up, it’s clear the screen has some serious issues.
Viewed absolutely straight on, it’s OK. Colours seem accurate, there are plenty enough pixels thanks to an ample 1920 x 1080 resolution and there’s a decent level of contrast, so it doesn’t look dull or washed out.
However, move even slightly off axis in any direction and an annoying graininess is introduced. This isn’t just annoying from a technical image quality point of view, but it’s also physically uncomfortable to view, as it has a shimmering quality to it that makes it slightly difficult to focus properly on the image. It’s quite a common effect on cheap screens, and while some devices can sort of get away with it, for a 2-in-1 like this it just feels unforgivable.
Add in the inevitable reflections of the glass touchscreen and it just can’t hold a candle to more conventional ultrabook screens, while plenty of high-quality tablets do far better for the same money.
Putting it to the test with a colorimeter, there’s little to redeem this display. Its maximum brightness is just 257nits – some way behind the 300-350nits of most ultrabooks – making use in bright conditions less than ideal.
Coverage of the sRGB colour space is also just 59.8%. I suspect this may be the crucial figure that provides a clue to that shimmering effect. The screen will be using dithering – where pixels alternate between two colours to mimic another colour – to make up for its lack of inherent colour depth. Just the slightest change in contrast when viewed off-centre highlights the difference in the two colours.
Straight-on the screen looks uniform, but from an angle solid colours look grainy
The only saving grace is that colour temperature (6,101K) is reasonably close to the ideal of 6,500K. Contrast is an impressive 1,285:1, so at least in colour accuracy terms it doesn’t immediately look wrong – there’s no obvious blue tint, for instance.
However, these scores fail to really drag this display up to being anything more than just about adequate for general computing. If you like to sit back and watch video on your laptop or you need accurate colours for editing pictures and the like, then it’s simply not up to snuff.
All of which is a massive misstep for a machine that’s so screen-centric. After all, what’s the point of having a 360-degree hinge that can allow you to position your screen in a multitude of different ways if it still looks a bit rubbish from any angle.
Nonetheless, the hinge itself is very well engineered and makes it easy to securely position the screen at any angle. Once past 180 degrees it will also automatically turn off the keyboard and trackpad and prompt Windows to shift into tablet mode.
Meanwhile, the touchscreen element is OK, with it largely feeling accurate and responsive. However, there were a few two many occasions where, when just browsing the web, it would incorrectly think I’d tapped a link or double-tapped to zoom into a section when all I was trying to do was swipe up or down to scroll.
As for audio, it’s actually pretty good for such a slim machine. The stereo speakers on the underside get reasonably loud and there’s a little more mid-range power than you might expect. It’s not class-leading, but it’s better than many a laptop I’ve used.
DELL INSPIRON 13 5000 (5368) – PERFORMANCE
The Inspiron 13 5000 is available in three configurations here in the UK, with the entry-level £499 model including an Intel Core i3-6100U, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard disk. Next is the £649 model that moves to an Intel Core i5-6200U, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Finally, is the £799 version that I’m reviewing, which has an Intel Core i7-6500U, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. All three include the basic Intel HD Graphics 520.
Related: How to replace your hard disk with an SSD
The £799/$1198,5 model on review is a perfectly powerful package. The 6500U processor rattles through just about any task you can throw at it with ease, which is something demonstrated by its impressive PCMark 8 score of 3,456 points. That SSD is also a reasonably fast one with read/write speeds of 499MB/s and 465MB/s respectively. Even graphics performance is reasonable, with a score of 65,000 points in 3DMark Ice Storm.
All told, this is about as typical as you can get for this type of device. While the likes of the Lenovo Ideapad 710S do offer slightly heftier graphics with some configurations, in most other regards it’s on the money and will be fine for any day-to-day computing.
DELL INSPIRON 13 5000 (5368) – BATTERY LIFE
This laptop just about delivers the sort of battery life that’s typical of hybrid devices. Most struggle to quite last a working day and so it is here, with the 5368 only managing 6 hours 26 minutes in our PowerMark test – set to 40% screen brightness, with a loop of 10 minutes of web browsing and 5 minutes of video. In comparison, thin and light conventional laptops can push 8 hours or more.
So it’s not a bad result, but it’s not the saving grace that this device needs.
SHOULD I BUY THE DELL INSPIRON 13 5000 (5368)?
Dell has got so many things right with this convertible laptop. It looks great, has a good selection of features and connectivity, provides adequate performance, battery life is just about good enough and its 360-degree hinge makes it a versatile touchscreen device. It also has a great keyboard, trackpad and speakers.
Unfortunately, the company has scrimped too much on arguably the single most important part of a product like this: the screen. It doesn’t get bright enough, colour accuracy is unimpressive and it looks distractingly grainy. As such the £799/$1198,5 version just doesn’t cut in the face of so many other choices with better screens at this price.
The £649 model makes a little more sense but is still struggling when the likes of the Lenovo 510S offers a great screen, better performance and longer battery for the same money, though that machine doesn’t have a touchscreen.
That just leaves the £499 model, and while it is hampered by having a slow hard drive and the screen drops even further in quality from an IPS panel to TN, it retains the other good qualities of this hybrid. Compared to many other laptops at that sort of price it actually offers reasonable value, as generally once you start getting below £500 you start to loose the keyboard backlighting, speaker quality drops and design and build quality become noticeably lower.
The £499/$748,5 model isn’t a stand-out bargain but is worth considering if your budget can only stretch that far and you want a relatively thin and light laptop.
Dell got so much right with this device, but then blew it all by fitting a poor screen. Only the cheaper models are worth a look.