DELL'S INSPIRON LAPTOP LINEUP has always been the poorer sibling to the XPS family, left for those without serious bucks to throw at a feature-packed machine or for the bland business world.
But with PC shipments no longer staring into the abyss as the abyss stares back at them, Dell has decided to sex-up the Inspiron at IFA 2018, giving it a new look that's arguably much needed in the face of the current competition in the laptop world.
The whole 2018 Inspiron line, consisting of 2-in-1s and standard laptops in 13in, 15in, and 17in guises, has had a refresh and certainly make the laptop family better suited to take on machines from Asus and Acer in a similar price bracket.
But it was the new Inspiron 7000 2-in-1s, notably the Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1, that grabbed our eye.
That's probably because the new models use brushed aluminium instead of the former plastic build, which looks rather swish in a deep smoky grey with a blue metallic Dell logo.
And the design changes go beyond that with the models sporting a body with a form of dip from the sizable trackpad to the keyboard deck, which looks to be more style than substance but provides a solid palm rest which could make tapping away the keys a little more pleasant.
Speaking of which, the keyboard is pretty decent from our short time with the 2-in-1 machine. There's no flex in the deck thanks to the sturdier construction, and the keys have a decent if not a stellar amount of depth and tactile feel.
Sadly, it all felt a little cramped, which seems odd for a 15in machine. Take a gander at the pictures and you'll probably wonder why Dell wasted good chunks of space on the keyboard's left and right sides.
We didn't get an answer but given Dell has trimmed down the Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1, we suspect it might have battery packs and cooling consuming all the space just below the chassis, leaving no room for an expanded underlying keyboard mechanism.
Or it simply provides some rear space to grip onto when holding the machine in its tablet mode in landscape orientation. Either way, we'd rather the keyboard was a little more spacious even at the cost of the Inspiron's new industrial aesthetic and feel.
The trackpad is a nice size; not as spacious as one on a MacBook but roomy enough. It also has a textured feel to it which is likely to be divisive as it took as a few moments to get used to the less than smooth and slick feel were used to on other trackpads. But once we tuned into the textured surface the trackpad felt nice and accurate.
While we're on the laptop's body, it's worth noting there's a fingerprint scanner mixed in with the power button, which is practical but surrounded with a nasty looking silver-ish oblong design that rather marrs the rest of the machine's design.
Around the sides you get an adequate range of ports; HDMI, a full-sized SD slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, two USB Type-A, and a USB Type-C port that touts DisplayPort compatibility and charging through it, though there's a separate port for power as well.
All this is standard laptop and 2-in-1 fare, but one neat design trick is Dell has located a form of exhaust ventilation sitting within the hinge mechanism of the Inspiron 7000's lid.
It's a rather swish bit of engineering design and removes the need for side vents or loads of venting on the laptop's underside, which should mean it won't grill your legs if you use it as an honest-to-goodness laptop for any length of time.
Bezels be gone
And that hinge allows the Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 to be used in ‘laptop', ‘tent', ‘picture' or ‘tablet' modes.
The so-called tent mode might seem liked a weird way to orientate a 2-in-1 but the new Inspiron's come with Amazon Alexa support so you could prop it up like some kind of retro-futuristic ornament that sits there waiting for commands to be barked at it.
We digress, what you really want to pop your peepers on is the display. Coming in Full HD or 4K options - we saw the latter - the screen is pretty decent with a bright panel and solid if not particularly vibrant colours.
But the standout thing is the how Dell has shrunk down the bezels surrounding the screen, making the display look a ot larger and attractive than before.
Flipped into its tablet mode the slim bezels and the surprisingly light and slim - but by no means class-leading - chassis made the 15in model rather nice to tap and swipe away on. But oh boy was the screen reflective under bright show floor lights making it a bit awkward to see what our fingers were caressing. But in real-world use, such harsh lighting is not likely to be the norm.
The Inspiron 15 doesn't exactly have an InfinityDisplay aping screen, as seen on the XPS 13 and 15, but it does do away with chunky screen surrounds; with the exception of the 17in model which still sports some thicker bezels.
Slimming down the bezels certainly helps give the Inspiron range a more up-to-date look, more in keeping with the XPS machines rather than late 2016 and early 2017 laptops.
Slurping Whisky Lake
Pushing pixels to these pleasant panels is an optional Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics card in the 15in and 17in Inspiron 7000 2-in-1s - the 13in model makes do with an integrated GPU.
Keeping everything else ticking along are Intel's Whiskey Lake eighth-generation U-series processors coming in Core i7, i5 and i3 guises, matched with 8GB or 16GB of RAM.
Our Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 had 16GB of RAM and a Core i7-8565U, as well as the Nvidia graphics card. We couldn't really put that spec through its paces on the IFA show floor, but everything seems nice and slick.
And we reckon the Whiskey Lake CPU will give enough power for all but the most demanding tasks while eek out some decent battery life; probably a good working day.
Memory can hit the 1TB mark in SSD format and Intel's Optane memory can be used to improve single drive performance. In short, you have plenty of options here as is the case with Dell machines.
All in all, the new Inspiron 7000 2-in-1s come out of IFA 2018 punching and looking pretty decent while doing so. If you have an XPS 13 or the budget for one then you won't give a damn, but for less well-heeled folks, the new Inspiron family as a whole is looking a lot more appealing.
There are some pretty solid specs on offer, and with the Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 coming with a starting price of $849, some £659, on 2 October in the US, the new mid-tier machines look pretty affordable without resembling something you'd rather hurl a frothy latte over than type your memoirs on in a hipster coffee shop.
Dell will likely need to fend off challenges from the likes of Asus' new ZenBook laptops, which also gobble display bezels like there's no tomorrow.
But with the new innards, options and design, the Inspiron family looks to be in rude health for a gadget scrap. µ