Mid-range convertible with middling battery life

The Dell Inspiron 13 7386 lasted four hours in a video-loop battery test.
The Dell Inspiron 13 7386 lasted four hours in a video-loop battery test.

The latest model of the Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 series - announced in August at the IFA trade show - is an updated take on another convertible in the same series released earlier this year.

Like other Windows convertibles, the Inspiron can switch between laptop and tablet modes (and everything in between). It does this using a flexible hinge design.

Both new (7386) and old (7373) Inspiron models are available on Dell's website.

But I did a double take upon seeing that the older version costs more than the latest model.

Especially as the former has less powerful hardware than the 7386 version.

The 7386 model has a more recent Intel Core i7 processor. For the highest-end configuration, the memory and storage have been bumped up to 16GB and 512GB respectively from 8GB and 256GB.


    PRICE: $1,999

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-8565U (1.8GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Intel UHD Graphics 620

    RAM: 16GB DDR4

    SCREEN SIZE: 13.3 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C, USB 3.1 Gen 1, HDMI, microSD card reader, audio jack

    BATTERY: 38 watt-hour


    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 3/5


    VALUE: 3/5


    OVERALL: 3/5 

To me, the only advantage of getting the older model seems to be its three years of onsite warranty compared with one year for the 7386 model.

Dell has switched the SD card reader to a microSD card reader on the latest model.

In addition, the latest Inspiron has a fingerprint scanner underneath the power button for biometric security, which I feel works more reliably than the facial-recognition feature on the older model.

Removing the infrared camera required for face unlock also means the top bezel above the screen can be made slimmer.

As a result, the new Inspiron has very thin bezels on three of its sides, although they are not as slim as the razor-thin borders seen on Dell's top-of-the-line XPS series.

The Inspiron is, of course, positioned one tier lower than Dell's premium XPS 13 2-in-1 convertible, although it might be difficult to tell them apart based on their specifications as they both can be configured with identical hardware.

In terms of appearance, the latest Inspiron looks similar to the previous model. Like most laptops in this price bracket, it is wrapped in metal and glass. Some may find its minimalist design a tad too bland.

I found its touchpad unusually rough, which was my complaint for the previous model.

It must be a deliberate choice by Dell because it feels less smooth than the palm rest.

I am unlikely to use the Inspiron in its tablet form because at about 1.4kg, it is rather heavy.

In addition, the Inspiron's power button and volume rocker are not at the sides, making it inconvenient to use as a slate.

However, if you are thinking of doodling and writing on the Inspiron's screen, Dell sells an optional pressure-sensitive stylus that feels responsive.

Thanks to its upgraded hardware, the new Inspiron scored 4,151 marks in the PCMark 10 system benchmark, which is an improvement from the 3,768 score of its predecessor.

Unfortunately, the biggest issue with the Inspiron - its lack of battery stamina - has not been addressed.

The older model had a 38 watt-hour battery that lasted 3 hours 20 minutes in a video-loop battery test.

The latest version extends this slightly to four hours, probably because of its new processor. But this is still unacceptably short for a laptop.

• Verdict: Dell updated the computing hardware on its mid-range Inspiron convertible, but failed to tackle its poor battery stamina.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2018, with the headline 'Mid-range convertible with middling battery life'. Print Edition | Subscribe