There’s a new laptop in town, and it doesn’t play nice with other laptops.
It weighs 6.12 pounds, which makes it a bit heavy but also heavy on features. In fact, it’s one of my favorite Dell models because of one highly unique feature.
The Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 is the first “foldable” laptop in the 17-inch size, which means you can grab the screen and rotate it all the way around to the back and use it as a touchscreen tablet or a movie machine. If you use one on a plane, you can type on the screen using an Windows 10 on-screen keyboard and not worry about having the space on the fold-out tray to type docs and check email.
No previous laptop has worked quite like this, even though there have been many other devices that come close, including the iPad Pro with a cover keyboard (although that model is only 12-inches in size) and plenty of 17-inch touchscreen laptops (none that fold this way, and most of them are for gaming).
I first realized how handy it is to use a 17-inch laptop that folds into a tablet when I used on one a long car ride. With it sitting on my lap, I was still able to type fast (thanks to the software keyboard that responds quickly to finger taps) and never had to squint. That’s one issue with 13- and 15-inch notebooks even though the screen is fairly big–on a plane or in the car, the 17-inch screen was big enough to see my Google Docs and the software keys with no issues. That 6.12-pound weight is also a plus in some ways because the laptop stays put on a desk. I could tap furiously on the screen and the Inspiron would stick to any surface like a refrigerator.
Now, for business use, that’s helpful because you can keep working, but the truth is that no one would purchase this model, which costs $899 for the base model with an Intel Core i5 processor, 12GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive, unless you were thinking about movie night or playing No Man’s Sky and visiting an alien world over lunch. (Yep, it works great for that.) The model I tested costs $1,149 and has an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and two storage drives (a 128GB SSD and a 1TB HDD).
I first tested the movie The Huntsman: Winter’s War in HD, delicately side-stepping the fact that the movie has no discernible plot or point but gazing in wonder at what is essentially an HD television. You use it with the screen folded all the way back and resting flat, turned backwards so the screen is facing you and the keyboard is facing the wall, or in “tent” mode with the keyboard jutted out slightly and standing upright with the screen in a V-shape. (The fourth mode is a bit dull–the screen faces you and you type on the over-sized keyboard, a.l.a. a standard laptop.)
All of that power helped with a Netflix and HBO Go test in HD as well, making sure the stream stayed smooth. (Streaming tends to depend as much on your Internet speed as the graphics chip.) I was impressed by the speakers as well, which are louder and clearer than most laptops. I cranked up the volume and could hear the audio from the show Jessica Jones on Netflix from across the room just fine, so I can imagine someone using this laptop for streaming in a hotel room.
I’m not a big fan of the keyboard used on most 17-inch laptops–this one is a bit too wide and I ended up using the touch keyboard with the screen in tablet mode more than anything. I know a few readers have told me over the years that they prefer wide full-size laptop keyboards. The Inspiron has a full numeric keypad to the right of the keys as well; the thin keys made typing fast and easy, but I felt like the keyboard on a smaller notebook is better for my style of sporadic speed typing.
That said, this is a well-designed laptop. It’s powerful, has great audio, and the screen is versatile enough for almost any situation. It might be heavy, but it’s also heavy on smart features. For movies or Google Docs typing, it’s a fantastic machine.