Convertible notebooks that can be used as tablets or laptops bring obvious benefits, with the main upshot being that you only need to buy one device rather than two. The first type uses a rotating hinge design to flip the display around 360 degrees, while the second makes the display detachable - like Microsoft's Surface Book. Dell has opted for the first former approach with its giant Inspiron 17 7000 convertible laptop, and we can't help but thing it might have been better off going for the latter.
There's no getting around the Inspiron's size, which is both its main advantage and biggest flaw. Dell's machine is the first 17-inch convertible, which itself speaks volumes. Folding over the the Inspiron 17 7000's base to switch between laptop, tablet and presentation modes is two-handed exercise, one that would be a worthy addition to any yoga routine.
On the other hand, the Inspiron 17 7000's sizeable attributes get you a roomy display that simply doesn't exist on any other convertible - and it's a beauty. If your small business needs a device that will be used to show off company videos, or support materials for sales pitches, flipping the unit into tent mode (an inverted 'V') provides an instant monitor that takes up little space on the surface it's rested upon.
That display also feels like a missed opportunity. Its resolution meanders at Full HD, which limits its usefulness as a productivity device and especially as a desktop replacement. There's enough room to multi-task comfortably, but office workers used to the extra desktop real-estate afforded by QHD or 4K displays will feel constrained by the lack of pixels here. On a positive note, you can use all fingers and thumbs to operate the touchscreen display, which is especially convenient when used in Windows 10's Tablet Mode.
You also get a lot of laptop for the money. Dell is offering the Inspiron 17 7000 in two configurations, starting at £999 (around $1,300). That fetches you a sixth-generation Intel Core i7-6500U processor backed up by 16GB of RAM. Storage consists of a 1TB 5400 rpm hard disk drive and 128GB SSD, which Windows is stored on for fast boot times. For an extra £50 ($70) there's also a second configuration that serves up a 512GB SSD for storage instead.
Design-wise, Dell's machine is attractive without trying too hard. its brushed aluminium chassis contrasts well with the display's matte black bezel, which positions a silver Dell logo at the bottom. There's solid build quality wherever you prod and poke at the machine's aluminium chassis, which at six pounds in weight is not particularly backpack-friendly. It's not something you're going to want to lug between meetings or squeeze awkwardly on a train table.
The Inspiron 17 7000's port selection is decent, featuring HDMI (1.4), USB-C, USB 3.0 with PowerShare, USB 2.0 and a media card reader (SD, SDHX, SDXC). Communications features include Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Keyboards have been a bone of contention on a number of Dell's high-end offerings in recent years including the XPS 13 and XPS 15, with only the Latitude 13 7370's excellent keyboard bucking the trend. Unfortunately typing Inspiron 17 7000's keyboard isn't a great experience due to keys with shallow travel, combined with a frankly huge wrist rest that forces you to moved your arms further forward toward the keyboard.
- Cinebench R15: OpenGL: 60.31 fps; CPU: 306 points
- Geekbench (Single-Core): 3,506 points; (Multi-Core) 7,138 points
- Battery test (1080p looped video streamed over Wi-Fi in Edge, 50% brightness): 5 hours 56 minutes
The Core i7-6500U processor inside is no slouch, featuring a base clock speed 2.5GHz and 3.10GHz achieved using Turbo Boost. However, it's not quite as fast what you'll find in Dell's flagship 15-inch offering, the XPS 15, which comes with a Core i7-6700HQ chip that racked up 12,449 points in our Cinebench R15 Multi-Core benchmark.
The Inspiron 17 7000 gets a dedicated Nvidia GeForce 940MX 2GB graphics which is a step above Intel's integrated offerings and more than adequate for web browsing, using a high-resolution monitor and low-level 3D rendering and multimedia work. Just don't expect to play games in-between work breaks at anything approaching high detail settings without lowering the resolution first.
The first 17-inch convertible is an intriguing one. You can't knock Dell's ambition with the Inspiron 17 7000, which offers solid performance, an attractive design and a large display that looks great with the device flipped into its various modes. It's just a shame that the display has such a low resolution, which seriously limits the Inspiron's potential as a desktop replacement device. It's limited as a laptop and too unwieldy and heavy to be used as a tablet most of the time, which positions it awkwardly as a mid-way device that excels at neither use case. An interesting, niche and ultimately flawed effort, then.