Dell Inspiron 13 5000 (5368) review

Its battery life and display aren't brilliant, but the Inspiron 13 5368's speed and excellent build quality help bridge the gap

Price
£799

Dell's going all out this year with its mid-range laptop/tablet hybrids, and the next series in line to receive the 2-in-1 treatment is the Inspiron 13 5000. It's essentially a miniature version of Dell's Inspiron 15 5668, taking its 360 degree hinge and fitting it on a smaller 13.3in screen. It also comes in a wider range of specifications, with the entry-level model starting at just 499.

Just like the Inspiron 15 5668, the Inspiron 13 5368 looks stunning, and its lightly textured gunmetal grey chassis adds a touch of class to its design that's rarely seen on 500 laptops. It might be made out of plastic, but it feels remarkably robust and showed very few signs of flex when put under pressure.

Display

Its compact size is also a much better fit for using its 360 degree hinge. In fact, when it's folded back into tablet mode, its size feels much more akin to a sheet of A4 paper, making it a lot more manageable and easy to use than the 15.6in screen on the Inspiron 15 5668.

It has built-in palm rejection, too, so it's a good fit for graphic designers and digital artists who need a touchscreen they can bend to their will. You'll need to buy a stylus if you don't already have one, though, as it doesn't come with one in the box. Still, even if you're only using it to kick back with a bit of Netflix, the hinges are incredibly sturdy and they held the screen in place no matter how hard I prodded and pushed with my fingers. There was naturally a little bit of bounce, but the screen didn't fall backwards like it did on the Inspiron 15 5668.

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It's a shame, then, that the Inspiron 13 5368's colour accuracy is so poor, as our colour calibrator showed its 13.3in, 1,920x1,080 display was only capable of showing 58.7% of the sRGB colour gamut. This is very disappointing regardless of which specification you're looking at, as its lack of colour coverage means you lose out on a lot of detail and overall colour depth. Its contrast ratio of 1,220:1 was more promising, capturing a decent amount of shadow detail in darker images, but its low peak brightness level of 252cd/m2 just makes everything look rather drab and washed out. It also makes it tricky to use outdoors, as I struggled to see the screen clearly out in the sun.

Keyboard and touchpad

Thankfully, it's still a great laptop to work on thanks to its excellent keyboard. Every key is incredibly tactile and responsive, and it made word processing an absolute breeze. The full-sized keyboard uses up pretty much all of the space available to it, but those with large hands may still find it a little cramped - a problem the Inspiron 15 5668 suffered from as well.

Still, I certainly didn't have any problems with the touchpad. General web browsing and two-finger scrolling was perfectly responsive, and the integrated mouse buttons didn't pose too much of a problem, either.

Battery life

Admittedly, the Inspiron 13 5368 doesn't have a huge amount of stamina for when you're away from the mains, but its 5 hours and 26 minutes of continuous video playback in our battery life test should still get you through a lengthy commute. This was with the screen brightness set to 170cd/m2 as well, so turning the screen brightness down will likely extend the laptop's run time even further.

Performance and benchmarks

Dell's Inspiron 13 5000 series 2-in-1 laptops come in three distinct flavours. Starting at 499, you get a 2.3GHz Intel Core i3-6100U processor with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. There's also a 699 version, which comes with a slightly better 2.8GHz Intel-Core i5-6200U processor with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for faster boot up speeds.

My review sample, however, was the top-end model, which costs 799 and comes with a 3.1GHz Core i7-6500U processor, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. It's actually the same specification as the top Inspiron 15 5668, which also happens to cost 799, so you're actually getting less laptop for your money overall with the Inspiron 13 5368. However, I do greatly prefer the smaller form factor and it's good to see Dell hasn't hampered it with a less powerful set of specs.

That said, the Core i7 model did buckle a bit when I subjected to our demanding 4K multimedia benchmarks, but it handled most high-performance tasks without much issue. With an overall score of 49 in our benchmark tests, this puts it one point in front of the Inspiron 15 5668 and three points in front of Dell's XPS 13, where you'd need to spend at least 1,149 to get an equivalent specification.

That's pretty impressive for a 799 laptop, and it shows you don't have to fork out over a grand to get the very best performance. General use was great, too, with basic word processing and web browsing proving to be very swift and responsive.

Without a dedicated graphics chip, you'll have to fiddle about with its graphics settings if you want to start playing games on it. Still, its integrated Intel HD 520 graphics chip managed a commendable 37.5fps in Dirt Showdown at 1,920x1,080 with graphics turned down to Low, so you should still be able to play older games at a reasonable speed if you tailor your expectations. Likewise, Minecraft never dipped below 30fps at the medium render distance, but bumping it up to 32 chunks hampered the performance considerably with all too frequent frame drops.

Ports and speakers

You get a decent selection of ports on the Inspiron 13 5368 as well. There are two USB3 ports and one USB2 port on offer here, along with an HDMI port, SD card reader and 3.5mm headphone/mic jack. It's a shame there's no Ethernet port, but at least there's 802.11ac Wi-Fi support.

The dual speakers, meanwhile, deliver a surprisingly effective amount of bass. The Wave Maxx Audio Pro audio enhancement tools that come pre-installed on the laptop are also a real help, but you'll get the best audio experience when the laptop's in kickstand mode with the keyboard facing down.

Conclusion

There's plenty to like about Dell's Inspiron 13 5368. 

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It does have some rather glaring flaws, though, namely that it doesn't have the best quality display or the best battery life. Then again, neither does its main rival, the 14.1in version of the Lenovo Yoga 700, which has a nigh-on identical specification but costs around 100 more.

Given the choice, I'd probably pick the Inspiron 13 5368, as I prefer its compact size and superior keyboard. I'd also pick this over the Inspiron 15 5668 as well, as its smaller dimensions lend themselves much better to being used as a tablet hybrid. It's not perfect, but it's still one of the better laptop/tablet hybrids you can buy today.

If this doesn't quite fit the bill, then check out our sister title Expert Reviews' best laptops 2016 guide to help you make the right decision.

Verdict

From the superb build quality, 360-degree touchscreen display and surprisingly fast performance, it’s a great little laptop for using both at home and in the office, and its smaller form factor makes it a much more manageable hybrid than its big brother, the Inspiron 15 5668.

Processor: Dual-core 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, RAM: 16GB,Dimensions: 325x224x9.5mm,Weight: 1.62kg, Screen size: 13.3in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Graphics adaptor: Intel HD Graphics 520, Total storage: 256GB SSD

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