Performance

Thanks to Intel’s 8th generation Kaby Lake-R processors, the Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 is a fair bit faster than you’re probably expecting from an ultraportable.

The massive improvement comes from Intel moving to a four core CPU design for their 15W parts, which provides a significant uplift in performance relative to last year’s 7th gen line. If you’ve been holding off on a laptop purchase because of sub-10% performance gains year-on-year, now is the perfect time to upgrade, because Kaby Lake-R is close to 50% faster than equivalent Kaby Lake parts.

The Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 is currently available in three configuration options:

  • Intel Core i5-8250U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD - $880
  • Intel Core i7-8550U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD - $1,050
  • Intel Core i7-8550U, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD - $1,250 (Reviewed)

I had the top-end model on hand to review, with the more powerful Core i7 processor inside. However, even the Core i5-8250U comes with four cores (compared to two in the last-gen Core i5-7200U), so you can expect pretty significant performance gains over previous ultraportables no matter what model you select.

If you’re interested in a full analysis of Kaby Lake-R for mobile devices, check out my extensive review of the Core i7-8550U and how it performs compared to a range of last-generation chips. If you’d rather get a recap of how the Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 performs, I’ll get to some benchmarks in just a moment.

The Core i7-8550U is a four core, eight thread CPU with a base clock of 1.8 GHz and a maximum Turbo clock of 4.0 GHz (though that decreases to 3.7 GHz on four cores). While the base clock for the 8550U is lower than last-gen parts, the addition of two extra cores and increased boost frequencies allows Kaby Lake-R to significantly outperform Kaby Lake in multi-threaded workloads, while still providing superior single-thread performance.

The Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 that I reviewed also comes with 16GB of RAM – plenty for most users – along with a SanDisk X400 512GB SSD, a SATA M.2 drive (not PCIe NVMe) that suits budget laptop lines like Dell’s Inspiron series. Wireless connectivity is fairly typical, with support for Bluetooth 4.2 and Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with 2x2 MIMO.

Across all of our benchmarks, the Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 was 49 percent faster than previous-generation Kaby Lake CPUs in multi-threaded workloads, though at times it was more than twice as fast, particularly during short workloads. In single-thread workloads, gains are in the 10 to 15 percent range, which is nothing to sneeze at either.

Storage performance is a little disappointing because Dell has used a SATA SSD rather than PCIe SSDs we often see in higher-end laptops. The result is we are limited to 500 MB/s sequential reads and writes, while random performance is a fair bit lower than most other laptops we’ve tested recently.

This sort of SSD performance isn’t unexpected, because the Inspiron line isn’t a flagship line, and Dell has clearly had to sacrifice some areas of hardware to achieve an attractive price point. In fact, with cheaper SSDs inside, Dell is able to offer an upgrade to 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD for just $200, which is a pretty reasonable price.