With top-notch design and performance, the XPS 13 is the best laptop you can buy. The Dell Inspiron lineup, however, promises a similar experience without the significant price tag. Enter the Inspiron 13 7386, Dell’s latest 2-in-1 in the family.
Our review device comes with an 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8565U processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB M.2 PCIE NVMe solid-state-drive (SSD) on board. It also comes packed with a 13.3-inch Full HD display. There are other options available for a UHD display, 16GB RAM, or a 512 SSD, but those cross the price of the Inspiron into XPS territory.
Aluminum design, that just slightly warps
For under $1,000, the Dell Inspiron 13 7386 comes with a premium inspired design. Relatively unchanged from last year’s model, a brushed all-aluminum platinum silver finish still wraps the entire device, making it look like a MacBook from the outside.
On the inside, the aluminum finish slopes just slightly inwards to greet the touchpad, for a sharp, flashy finish. That is a change from last year, where the keyboard deck was recessed in its own island, away from the rest of the aluminum body.
Unfortunately, that also means the Inspiron 13 7386 is not as strong as we hoped. Pressing too hard on the aluminum areas above the keyboard will cause some slight flexing in the chassis. The hinge which supports the screen to the body is also a bit too weak when compared to the watchband system onboard the Yoga 730. It is still firm enough to hold things strong in laptop mode, but it gets a little wobbly when applying pressure to move the device into and out of tablet mode.
The Inspiron 13’s plastic trackpad really ruined the experience for us.
As another inconvenience, opening the lid on the Dell Inspiron 13 isn’t a smooth process. It requires two hands, which is something that is just slightly annoying for some people. That same problem persists on the XPS 13 and with such a premium inspired design this is a bit of a letdown.
Despite the slightly unstable hinge, the weight and the dimensions make the Dell Inspiron 13 a very portable device. Coming in at 3.08 pounds and 0.54 inches in thickness, it is just a bit heavier than the similarly priced Yoga 730 (2.3 pounds) or even the HP Spectre x360 (2.8 pounds.) We were able to throw it into our bag along with a notebook and travel to and from our office without feeling the extra weight.
The Dell Inspiron 13 2-in-1 also comes with a nice collection of ports which make it perfect companion for a home office. On the left side, there is an HDMI port and a USB-C port which is not Thunderbolt 3 compatible. On the right side, there is USB-A, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, and a microSD card slot. The inclusion of a microSD card slot and HDMI are both huge conveniences. It means you can expand on the included storage and plug in to monitors without dongles.
For Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, Dell goes with 802.11ac 2×2. That makes it a very connected machine, meant to pull the most out of fiber optic connections and new Bluetooth 4.0 accessories.
Another new feature on board the Inspiron 13 for 2018 is the miniaturized webcam. Unlike the awkward webcam placement on the bottom lip of the XPS 13, Dell manages to push things back to the top of the display on the Inspiron 13. It is a 4-element lens webcam, which utilizes Temporal Noise Reduction technology, to increase the image quality in low light. When on a Skype, this made things bright and more lifelike, according to the person on the other end of our call.
Type up a storm, but get lost with the touchpad
As is typical for 2-in-1s, the Inspiron 13 7386 comes with a comfortable keyboard. The keys might a bit rough on the top, but still quietly sink into the chassis with minimal effort. Our usual typing tests didn’t cause us to experience any pains or any harsh bottoming out when speeding through a Word document.
The display test score results were horrendous.
The black chiclet-style keys are also backlit in up to two levels and are easy to spot in the dark. It may not be as tactile as what is included on the HP Spectre x360, but it gets the job done. We achieved a 69 WPM average in Bing’s built-in typing test no sweat.
The touchpad, however, is a completely different story. Unlike the glass trackpads on the HP Spectre or XPS, Dell goes for plastic. That might be expected for the mid-range price, but it really ruined the experience for us. The surface is rough and though it creates grip for long-term use, it wasn’t as comfortable and precise for the quick swiping and scrolling tasks in Windows 10.
It’s not all at a loss though, as Dell includes a Windows Hello fingerprint reader above the keyboard on the Inspiron 13 7386. In a nod to Touch ID, it is built into the power button for seamless and easy logins. We were able to leverage fingerprint reader and sign in to Windows 99 percent of the time, without ever having to enter a password.
Where are the colors?
The review unit that we received came equipped with a 13.3-inch touch Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 display. It takes inspiration from the XPS 13 and sports a 3-sided narrow border for more screen and less annoying bezel. Support for Dell’s $55 Active Pen is also included, but it is a separate purchase. That is a shame, but it’s becoming a common practice in many similar 2-in-1s.
In testing with our colorimeter, the display scored just 65 percent of the sRGB color space, and 49 percent of the AdobeRGB. The scores are horrendous compared to the Spectre x360 or the Yoga 730. It’s one of the worst screens in terms of colors we’ve reviewed in quite some time and even a step back from last year’s model. Meanwhile, brightness also only maxes out at around 241 nits, which is a bit off the 300 nits we like to see.
Even when compared to the similarly-priced Asus ZenBook UX331UA, these scores are still horrible. That 2-in-1 is the better option for photographers, coming in with 256 nits of brightness, 99 percent of the sRGB 77 percent of the AdobeRGB and high color accuracy at 1.67.
The contrast levels and average color errors on the Inspiron 13 are still great compared to the competition, which is the one plus. We still wouldn’t count on it for anything other than everyday casual usage. When watching episodes of The Simpsons the animations were bright and crisp, regardless of which angle we looked at the display. For web browsing and drawing, the glossy screen is overly reflective. We often needed to turn the brightness a bit over 50 percent to ensure we weren’t looking at our own reflection on the display.
As for the speakers, the Waves Maxx Audio Pro speakers sit on the bottom of the chassis and are aimed towards the sides. It can get loud, and when we cranked some dance tunes to high levels, we didn’t lose any of the bass or feel any muffled sounds.
Plenty of power under the hood
Under the hood, our $1,100 Dell Inspiron 13 2-in-1 came with the 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8565U Whiskey Lake processor and 8GB of RAM. There are also options available with the Intel Core i5-8265U processor or 16GB of RAM.
The four cores on board our unit packed plenty of power and were more than enough for multi-tasking and everyday use. In fact, as our tests show, this latest release of Intel processors are more powerful than ever.
In our testing, the Dell Inspiron 13 2-in-1 packed big scores on the Geekbench 4 benchmarks. It comes in with a solid 5,242 single-core score and 16,019 multi-core score. Running on the same chipset, the Dell even comes slightly out on top of Asus Zenbook 14 which netted a 5,284 single-core score, and a 14,353 multi-core score.
It also easily surpasses the 4,153 and 13,707 set by the Yoga 730 with the older Intel Core i5 8250 U-series processor. The higher multi-core scores mean for efficiency when powering through intensive tasks or workflows.
With more demanding tasks outside Geekbench, the Inspiron 13 still managed to impress. When we encoded a 4K video file, it managed to complete the process in 255 seconds. That was close to the Yoga 730 (251 seconds) and the XPS 13 (241 seconds.)
The storage is also fast and the 256GB m.2 PCIe NVMe solid-state-drive SSD can read and write at quick speeds. Considering the SATA SSDs on other laptops (including the Inspiron’s predecessor), this means you won’t be seeing loading screens when loading into Windows or copying files.
At the end of the day, the Inspiron 13 is good for anything you might want to throw at it in the real world. We never once experienced any slowdowns or lags when browsing in Chrome and Microsoft Edge, even when plugged in on battery to a 4K monitor. You just might want to be wary of the fans, though, which can be very loud and slightly annoying when the system is under pressure from these tasks.
No League of Legends for you
The Dell Inspiron 13 comes with Intel UHD 620 integrated GPU, so that means that gaming isn’t really an option. It scored a 1,139 in the Firestrike benchmark results, which is not impressive, but typical for most devices with integrated graphics.
We turned to a lesser demanding game like Rocket League to verify our results, with an average of about 23 frames per second in high-quality settings, and 53 frames on performance. We completed a five-minute-long match on performance without lag, but it is probably best to turn down the graphics settings to achieve the best possible performance.
Keep the charger near
These days, most laptops can last for nine or ten hours of battery life when browsing the web, but not the Dell Inspiron 13. The 3-cell 38 watt-hour battery runs out of juice quickly, falling very short of Dell’s claims for nine hours and 21 minutes.
When we lopped a 1080p trailer, the Dell Inspiron 13 ran for a total of eight hours and twelve minutes before a full system shut down. That is less taxing than our web browsing tests, which were even worse, and netted roughly about four hours and 54 minutes before the system shut down completely. Like its predecessor, it’s not anywhere near the battery life it should. Compared to systems like the ZenBook 13 UX331UA or the XPS 13, it’s significantly behind.
Those results mean that while the Inspiron is a powerful device, it’s not something that will last you through the day. You’re going to need to keep your charger nearby if you truly want to enjoy the Inspiron 13 7386.
The Dell Inspiron 13 7386 packs plenty of power under the hood, and a display good enough for multimedia consumption but its short battery life holds is back. The touchpad also is mediocre at best and makes the device a pain to use during longer periods of time.
Is there a better alternative?
Yes. The 2-in-1 space is crowded, including in the price range of the Inspiron 13 2-in-1. The Yoga 730 and HP Spectre x360 are good options, both which have better displays, build quality, and battery life. Our configuration of the Dell Inspiron 13 7386 comes in at $1,100, and the HP Spectre x360 or Yoga 730 are the cheaper options at $1,000 and $890. Sure, those don’t come with the latest Core i7 processors, but the design is relatively the same, and battery life is significantly better on those models.
For most people, the ZenBook 13 UX331UA or the XPS 13 also might be better buys. The ZenBook 13 UX331UA starts at $800 and packs a similar convertible design. And the XPS 13 starts at $900 and offers up the familiar slim bezel display but a lesser powered Core i3 processor.
Also, at $900, another option might even by the Asus Zenbook Flip 14 UX416UN. It packs similar ports and all-aluminum design to the Dell Inspiron 13, but the bonus of a discrete GPU for light entry level gaming.
How long will it last?
Dell includes a basic 1 year limited hardware warranty, plus mail in service after remote diagnosis. There are paid options for premium support, as well as accidental damage service, covering three years.
Built of aluminum, the Inspiron 13 2-in-1 should be good enough to last through years of wear and tear. It also comes with USB-C, HDMI, and USB-A, which means it will be good enough to go into the future wave where USB-C eventually becomes the one port on every single device and accessory. The latest Intel Core i7 CPU also means that the device will pack plenty of power before Intel’s 9th-gen mobile processors hit the streets.
Should you buy it?
No. The battery life and display are simply too horrible for the price. You might be enticed by new Intel CPU, but only buy the Dell Inspiron 13 if battery life isn’t important to you. The performance, webcam, slim display, and design are all highlights of this device, but short battery still holds it back from fulfilling the potential of this laptop.