It's hard to find a good midrange laptop. The Inspiron 5000 Series from Dell includes laptops and 2-in-1s that start around $450, but mixed reviews and confusing configuration choices abound.
The 5000 Series is a clear step up from their sister products in the budget 3000 Series, offering more horsepower. But are they worth the money? Let's take a closer look at the models on offer and find out what reviewers had to say.
Dell Inspiron 15 5000
Starting out where the 3000 Series ended, we have the Inspiron 15 5000 range. These laptops all have 15.6" displays, 1TB hard drives, and run 64-bit Windows 10. You can opt for AMD or Intel processors and 8GB to 16GB of RAM, depending on your performance requirements.
The base model costs $599.99 and is packing the 7th generation AMD A9-9400 processor with Radeon R5 graphics and 8GB of RAM. That said, the display is just 1366x768 — you'll need to pay an extra $50 to get a 1080p touchscreen. For $699.99, you can have the AMD A12-9700P quad-core processor with Radeon R7 graphics, though this machine comes with the low-res screen. An extra $100 will get you the 1080p touchscreen with an extra 4GB of RAM. Your top option costs $899.99 and has an AMD FX-9800P quad-core processor with Radeon R8 M445DX dual GPU and 16GB of RAM.
On to the Intel lineup. The base model costs $599.99 and has a 7th generation Intel Core i5-7200U processor paired with Intel HD 620 graphics. Once again, an extra $50 will get you the 1080p touchscreen version. For $799.99 you can upgrade to the Core i7-7500U and an AMD Radeon R7 M445 graphics card, and another $50 gets you the touchscreen. The top of the line jumps to 16GB of RAM, but costs a whopping $949.99.
The touchscreen versions of the Inspiron 15 5000 also boast the infrared Windows Hello camera, which lets you log in with your face. Other than that, the extras are the same and include a DVD drive, 720p web camera, and dual speakers. When Laptop Mag reviewed the base Core i5-7200U model with the touchscreen, it gave the computer a 3 out of 5, praising the screen and overall performance but taking points off for "poor battery life" and "subpar speakers."
Dell Inspiron 17 5000
If you like a larger screen, then the Inspiron 17 5000 lineup might be for you. These big laptops all have 17.3" non-touch displays, but you have a choice of AMD or Intel processors and different levels of RAM and storage.
The base AMD model is $649.99 and pairs a 7th generation AMD A9-9400 processor with Radeon R5 graphics, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. The screen resolution is 1600x900. If you want to jump to the quad-core AMD A12-9700P processor with Radeon R7 graphics, then you'll have to spend an extra $100. For $999.99, you get the quad-core AMD FX-9800P processor with Radeon R8 M445DX dual graphics, 16GB of RAM, a 2TB hard drive, and a full HD 1920x1080 screen.
On the Intel side, things kick off with the Core i3-7100U with onboard graphics, 8GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and a 1600x900 display for $629.99. For a model with the Core i5-7200U processor and a proper 1080p display, the MSRP is $749.99. For $899.99, you can get the Core i7-7500U paired with an AMD Radeon R7 M445 graphics card — an extra $100 will double your RAM and storage to 16GB and 2TB, respectively.
The latest Inspiron 17 5000 range hasn't been widely reviewed, but Laptop Mag tried a build with the Core i5-7200U and the 1600x900 display, and gave it just a 2 out of 5. While it was said to offer "decent performance," the reviewer described a "lifeless display, short battery life and a spongy, uncomfortable keyboard" alongside "cheap build quality" made for a "third-rate" laptop.
Dell Inspiron 5000 2-in-1
Your final option in the Inspiron 5000 Series is the 2-in-1 range. All of them have a metallic gray finish, 1080p touchscreen displays, infrared cameras, and integrated Intel graphics units. They're divided between 15.6" models and 13.3" models.
The Inspiron 15 5000 2-in-1 lineup starts at $449.99 for an Intel Pentium 4415U processor with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. Just $30 extra gets you the Core i3-7100U processor. For $699.99, you can have the Core i5-7200U with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. If you want the Core i7-7500U CPU, it'll cost you another $180.
If you'd like something more portable, the Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1s start at $499.99 for a Core i3-7100U with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. Pay an extra $200, and you double your storage and RAM, and secure the Core i5-7200U processor. If you want the Core i7-7500U, you need to pay $879.99.
However, this series also failed to impress Laptop Mag. The reviewer gave the Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1 a 3 out of 5 after enjoying the "comfy keyboard," but disliking the "short battery life" and "dim, dull screen." Trusted Reviews examined last year's model and also gave it 3 out of 5 stars, saying that "Dell got so much right with this device, but then blew it all by fitting a poor screen."
Are These Laptops Worth Buying?
Overall, the Inspiron 5000 Series has received mixed reviews. The general consensus seems to be that the higher-cost configurations make too many compromises to be a really good value for the money. If you're going to jump on these laptops, definitely stick to the cheaper builds and don't expect too much from the battery life or screen.
Readers, what do you think of Dell's Inspiron 5000 Series? Do you own one of these laptops? If not, would you consider buying one? Let us know in the comments below.