The Dell Inspiron 14 5000 (starts at $429.99; $579.99 as tested) is a midrange laptop that delivers capable performance but comes wrapped in an enclosure that gives off strong budget vibes. The only discernible difference between it and Dell’s economy-class Inspiron 14 3000 are the thinner bezels above and to the sides of the screen—the bottom bezel is still unfashionably wide, unlike that of the step-up, small-footprint Inspiron 14 7000. And while the 7000 features a durable magnesium alloy chassis, the 5000 forces you to make do with a basic plastic enclosure. Its 10th Generation “Ice Lake” Intel Core CPU provides adequate pep, but the machine as a whole is definitely short on design flourishes.
Basic Budget Design
Dell offers four versions of the Inspiron 14 5000 (model number 5493), all with 14-inch, non-touch screens with 1,920-by-1,080-pixel resolution. The $429.99 starter gets by with a Core i3-1005G1 processor and a skimpy 4GB of memory and 128GB solid-state drive. My $579.99 review unit combines a Core i5-1035G1 chip with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB NVMe SSD. Another $20 doubles the storage, while the top of the line offers a Core i7-1065G7 CPU with Intel Iris Plus graphics for $729.99.
The Inspiron 14 5000 follows the tried and true Apple MacBook Pro aesthetic of a brushed silver chassis with contrasting black keys and screen bezels. The clean, minimalist design is attractive, but the fat bottom bezel detracts from the laptop’s look and only serves to add to its size: The system measures 0.83 by 12.9 by 9.4 inches (HWD) and weighs 3.2 pounds. By contrast, the Inspiron 14 7000 measures 0.6 by 12.6 by 8.1 inches and weighs 2.9 pounds. The HP Pavilion x360 14 convertible is a hair thicker and heavier thanks to its touch screen but is more compact (0.8 by 12.7 by 8.8 inches, 3.5 pounds).
In addition to being slightly bulkier than many other 14-inch notebooks, the 5000 also feels flimsier. The laptop has a pleasing matte finish that looks and feels a bit more luxurious than the cheapest budget models, but the plastic lid and keyboard deck flex easily under pressure and give doubts as to how well the system will hold up against daily bumps and bruises.
The keyboard feels comfortable and responsive. Travel is fairly shallow, but not to the extreme of the butterfly keys of many MacBook Pros. They feel springy, but the flex of the thin plastic keyboard deck detracts from the overall typing experience. The keys do offer two levels of backlighting, which is something you won’t find on many budget models. Another appreciated feature is the power button at top right that integrates a fingerprint reader for simple, secure logins.
The touchpad has the same matte finish as the rest of the keyboard deck and creates a perfect surface for smooth swipes, and it accurately recorded my taps and other gestures.
I Want My USB-C
The 1080p display features a matte finish that does an admirable job of blocking glare and reflections. You’ll likely keep the display’s brightness maxed out, however, unless you’re sitting in a dark room. Colors are accurate and details are crisp, but the panel overall looks a bit dull. Neither a touch screen nor 4K resolution is available.
A 720p webcam perched above the display provides a well-balanced image with accurate skin tones for videoconferencing. The system’s stereo speakers suffice for Skype calls, but they aren’t powerful or dynamic enough for music playback—mids and highs sound muddy, and there’s nothing resembling a bass response.
The port selection is outdated. The Inspiron lacks a USB Type-C port, an uncommon omission in the year 2020; even Walmart’s ultra-low-priced onn. i3 laptop has one. Dell’s website says that Inspiron 14 5000 models configured with Nvidia GeForce MX230 graphics have a data-only USB-C port, but I couldn’t find the dedicated graphics in the online options list.
On the laptop’s left side, you’ll find a power connection, an HDMI port, an Ethernet jack, two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, and an audio jack.
The system’s right side holds an antique USB 2.0 port and an SD card slot.
Average, Adequate Performance
The Intel Core i5-1035G1 in my Inspiron 14 5000 tester is a quad-core, eight-thread CPU with a base frequency of 1GHz and max turbo frequency of 3.6GHz, as well as Intel UHD integrated graphics. For our performance benchmarks, I pitted the Inspiron 14 5000 against three other recent laptops with 10th Generation Core processors: The Inspiron 14 7000 and Dell XPS 13 feature “Comet Lake” chips and the HP Spectre x360 13 has an “Ice Lake” CPU. That left one slot for the 14-inch Walmart onn. i3 and its older Core i3-8145U chip.
Overall, the Inspiron 14 5000 felt peppy during general use. It loaded apps quickly and was able to juggle a dozen browser tabs without any lag. Heavy multitasking loads and running Adobe Photoshop resulted in some poky behavior, but the system still ran quietly with only a slight whir from the cooling fans.
Productivity, Storage, and Media Tests
PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, Web browsing, and videoconferencing. The test generates a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.
PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of a PC’s storage subsystem. It also yields a proprietary numeric score; again, higher numbers are better.
The Inspiron 14 5000 acquitted itself well in PCMark 10, finishing close behind the two spendier Dells and well ahead of the cheapskate onn. i3.
Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video editing trial, another tough, threaded workout that’s highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads. In it, we put a stopwatch on test systems as they transcode a standard 12-minute clip of 4K video (the open-source Blender demo movie Tears of Steel) to a 1080p MP4 file. It’s a timed test, and lower results are better.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and, at the end, add up the total. As with Handbrake, lower times are better here. The Photoshop test stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters, so systems with powerful graphics chips or cards may see a boost.
The Inspiron 14 5000 finished just off the pace of the Inspiron 14 7000 and Spectre x360 13 and well ahead of the Walmart laptop in our three multimedia benchmarks. The Dell XPS 13 finished far ahead of the other competitors because its processor has six cores and 12 threads while the other “Ice Lake” and “Comet Lake” laptops have four cores and eight threads. The Core i3 chip in the onn. has just two cores and four threads.
I encountered a driver issue with the Inspiron 14 5000 that prevented it from completing the 3DMark tests we usually run. It was, however, able to run another synthetic graphics or faux gaming test, Unigine Corp.’s Superposition, which pans through a detailed, animated 3D scene rendered in the company’s eponymous Unigine engine. We present two Superposition results, run at the 720p Low and 1080p High presets.
These scores are reported in frames per second (fps), which translates to how smooth the scene looks in motion. For lower-end systems, maintaining at least 30fps is the realistic target, while more powerful computers should ideally attain at least 60fps at the test resolution.
As you can see, the 5000 and its Intel UHD integrated graphics are not suitable for 3D games. Some higher-end “Ice Lake” processors feature Intel’s newer Iris Plus integrated graphics, which provide better performance than the UHD generation. The HP Spectre x360 13 was able to hit 31fps in the low-end Superposition test, which indicates a modicum of gaming aptitude as long as you keep your expectations and screen resolution and image quality settings in check.
Battery Rundown Test
After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) where available and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop in airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of the same Tears of Steel movie we use in our Handbrake trial—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and audio volume at 100 percent until the system conks out.
The Inspiron 14 5000 features a relatively small three-cell, 42WHr battery that delivered below-average runtime in our battery test. It lasted for about nine and a half hours, which will certainly get you through a typical workday but pales in comparison to the tremendous stamina that rival systems offer.
Stuck on the Wrong Rung
The Dell Inspiron 14 5000 occupies an awkward place on the laptop pricing ladder. It’s a notch or two higher than true budget models, but it uses a plastic enclosure that’s no different or sturdier than what you’d get with a system that costs hundreds less. And it’s a rung or two short of such niceties as a durable metal enclosure or thin bezels on all four sides of the display, let alone a brighter screen and USB Type-C ports. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the 5000 as a serviceable laptop for mainstream use, but if I were shopping for a simple home laptop or surfing system I’d be tempted to spend less on a 15.6-inch Acer Aspire 5 or save up for a more capable, better-built machine such as Dell’s own Inspiron 14 7000.