The Dell Inspiron 14 laptop computer is one of Dell’s many fine entries in this category. It represents an exceptional balance of the most needed laptop features with reasonable cost. Our review is based on what we believe to be an optimal configuration for a wide array of consumers but just about everything on this computer can be customized to the individual user’s needs and desires. Some of those choices add to the cost while others will actually reduce the final unit cost. We appreciate the Build It Your Way feature of Dell’s web site precisely because it makes customization simple and lets the consumer know exactly what effect any given choice has on the purchase price.
The Dell Inspiron 14 is one of the most versatile and practical laptops available. Its 14-inch widescreen display is large enough to avoid the eye strain that can be an undesirable side effect of NetBooks and similarly, its keyboard is spacious enough to make for a pleasant typing experience. Nonetheless, this little computer fits nicely into just about any laptop case or backpack with ease and weighing in at just about five pounds, carry it around is a breeze. Pricing is very reasonable for the amount of computing power provided.
While we don’t generally pay a lot of attention to the cosmetics of a computer in our reviews, the Inspiron 14 has enough intriguing possibilities that we find it worth a mention. The standard color is glossy obsidian black. It’s also available in six other colors including Alpine White, Cherry Red, Ice Blue, Promise Pink, Gecko Green and Passion Purple. Most interesting, though, are the more than 200 artistic designs that can be chosen to express ones individuality. The additional colors cost $40 additional and the artistic designs run around $65 but it’s a price that many people will choose to incur in creating their own signature computer.
The processor for the version of the Dell Inspiron 14 that we selected is the Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 running at a snappy 2.2GHz with a 2MB L2 cache and 800MHz front side bus speed. For users who need more computing power there are a couple of upgrades available culminating with the Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 with a 2.53GHz clock speed, 3MB L2 cache and 1066MHz front side bus speed. For those who wish to economize a bit, the processor can be downgraded to a still respectable Intel Pentium Dual Core T4300. The computer comes with a healthy 4GB of DDR2 RAM memory.
The Inspiron 14 used for our review comes with a 320GB hard drive which is upgradeable to 500GB. There are lesser versions of this computer that have hard drives as small as 160GB. It also includes an 8x CD/DVD burner. That can be upgraded to a combo drive that will read Blu-ray discs and write to DVDs or CDs.
Battery life is always an issue for laptops and this one comes standard with a very respectable 85 WHr 9-cell Lithium Ion battery. You can save $40 by downgrading to a 48 WHr, 6-cell battery but we wouldn’t recommend that for anyone except those who don’t expect to be away from a plug very often.
Microsoft Windows 7 is the included operating system on the Inspiron 14. It also comes with Microsoft Works and a trial version Microsoft Office. A 15-month subscription to McAfee Security Center is also part of the package. The standard warranty is a one year parts and labor and includes mail in or in home service following remote diagnosis. The warranty can be expanded to two or three years at additional cost.
The standard Inspiron 14 configuration supports Wi-Fi “G” wireless networking. Most wireless network users would do well to upgrade to the Wi-Fi “N” network card for much faster data transfer and better range. Bluetooth connectivity is available as an option.
Expert opinion of the Dell Inspiron 14 is generally that the computer packs a lot of bang for the buck but that battery life is somewhat disappointing and that features such as Bluetooth and a webcam should be standard. For that reason, we’ve configured the reviewed unit to include the webcam and a better battery believing that this best represents the computer that is most likely to be desired. Just about every feature of the computer can be upgraded for additional charge or downgraded to reduce the purchase price.
For those looking for a small laptop at a good price, there are few that offer as much as the Dell Inspiron 14. It packs a lot of power in its standard configuration but we believe that most consumers will find some upgrades preferable to the base unit. Dell’s web site is particularly good at allowing the consumer to have the computer built to individual specifications and keeps a running tally of what effect changes have on the unit’s price. Dell’s customer service and warranty plans are plusses for making this choice.
Pros: The large display and fast processor makes tasks on this laptop easy.
Cons: This Dell laptop has a short battery life along with lacks a webcam or bluetooth capabilities.
The Verdict: If you desire a laptop with a lot of power, this is a worthy option for you.