The Dell Inspiron 14 is a 14-inch screen portable laptop built for those on a budget. It’s not the most powerful, best built or slickest looking portable laptop out there, but it’s price to feature set makes it attractive and Dell’s flexible online configuration means you can build the Inspiron 14 to suit your costs and needs. This Dell Inspiron 14 reviewed here is the latest Inspiron 1440 model marketed on the Dell website as just the plain old Inspiron 14. This review will cover the pros and cons for the Inspiron 1440 when used as a student notebook.
I recently reviewed the Dell Studio 14z that is a laptop targeted at students. Three major complaints with the Studio 14z were the fact it did not have an optical drive, there is no media card reader built-in and there is no VGA port. The Inspiron 14 has all of these features, however, it is not as powerful as the Studio 14z and the design and components used in the Inspiron 14 are cheaper. It just depends on your needs as to whether the Studio 14z or Inspiron 14 suits you better, comparisons will be made in order to help you with that decision if you are trying to decide between the two.
Here are the specs of the Inspiron 1440 laptop under review:
- Processor: Intel Pentium Dual Core T4200 2.0GHz, 800 MHz FSB, 1MB Cache)
- Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD
- Hard Drive Storage: 250G 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
- Memory: 3GB DDR2, 800MHz
- Screen: 720P Bright, Glossy, widescreen 14.0 inch WLED display
- Battery: 6-cell 48WHr Lithium Ion Primary Battery
- Wireless: Dell Wireless 1397 802.11g
- Ports: 3 USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet, 34mm Express Card slot, VGA port, headphone port, microphone port, AC adapter port
- Optical Drive: 8X DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Drive
- Weight: 5.0 pounds without adapter, 5.8lbs with adapter
- Width: 13.3″ (339.0mm)
- Height: 1.0″ (25.4mm) front / 1.5″ (38.9mm) back
- Depth: 9.4″ (238.0mm)
- OS: Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit with free upgrade to Windows 7 available
Dell Inspiron 14 Design
The Dell Inspiron 14 is pretty ordinary in terms of looks. It basically looks like an oversized version of all the Inspiron Mini laptops that Dell sells. The inside of the laptop is silver and looks like the plastic it is made of, the keyboard is black and there’s a single indicator light to show power is on. There are no media buttons or other fancy finishes. The one thing you can configure to add a bit of personalization and flair is a different color lid from the default Obsidian Black, the $40 color upgrade options are as follows:
- Cherry Red
- Alpine White
- Ice Blue
- Jade Green
- Passion Purple
- Promise Pink
As you can see in the above picture, the lid finish on the Inspiron 14 is glossy and therefore will reflect any light in a room and also pick up fingerprint marks. The red Studio 14z seen next to the Inspiron 14 does not have a glossy lid and that is a major benefit in my opinion.
One big complaint I do have with the Inspiron 14 is the fact there is only one indicator light on the laptop and that’s to indicate power is on. There is no hard drive activity indicator light or battery charging indicator light. This is quite annoying as many people are used to having these lights and rely on them to tell when the hard drive is working (such as during bootup) and be sure the power jack is plugged in and the battery is charging.
The power brick that comes withthe Inspiron 14 was quite small to my pleasant surprise and it has an attractive blue indicator light to show it is plugged in and receiving power.
Dell Inspiron 14 Construction and Weight
The Inspiron 14 is made entirely of plastic, though it by no means feels cheap. You can pick this notebook up using one hand on the corner and it will not bend and flex like is often true with cheaper laptops. The lid does feel a little thin and a bit flimsy, but there’s still enough protection that when pushing on the back of the lid no ripples were produced on the screen. The keyboard is also quite solid, there’s a slight amount of flex on the right side if you push down hard on the enter key, but since this is above the optical drive this is forgivable and the amount of flex is not noticeable during normal typing.
Studio 14z on the left, Inspiron 14 on the right
As seen in the pictures above, the Inspiron 14 (on the right in both pictures) is slightly thicker and also has a higher profile than the more svelte Studio 14z.
The one thing you have to be careful of with the Inspiron 14 is not dropping it, I don’t think the plastic body would survive a drop so well, but as long as you’re careful that’s a non-issue.
The Inspiron 14 I purchased came with the 6-cell battery and weighs in at almost exactly 5.0lbs, with the power adapter included the carrying weight totals 5.8lbs. This is definitely a portable weight for putting in your backpack and carrying around campus, but not as light as some other 14-inch laptops such as the Dell Studio 14z that weighed 4.5 lbs without the adapter and 5.4lbs with.
Dell Inspiron 14 Keyboard
The Inspiron 14 keyboard is full sized and what you’d be used to with a desktop keyboard. The keys on the Inspiron 14 are flat and somewhat cheap feeling, there isn’t much springiness to them and the key press travel distance is short. Because of this I wouldn’t call the feel of pushing a key very satisfying. That said, the keyboard is firm and does not suffer from sponginess or flexing that you often find in cheaper laptops. Overall the keyboard feel is fine and if you’re not picky (like I am) then nothing about this keyboard will bother you.
One of the more interesting features of the keyboard is that F1 – F12 keys in the top row function first and foremost as media buttons, just like they do with an Apple Mac computer. For instance, you hit F11 key for Play, F8 key for volume down, F9 key for volume up, F4 key for screen brightness down and F5 key for screen brightness up. While this is convenient, it has the problematic side effect of forcing keyboard junkies to hold down the “Fn” key plus desired Function button to perform that buttons typical “normal” operation. So for those PC users who like to use keyboard shortcuts such as F5 to refresh a browser (a very popular keyboard shortcut) they are forced to hold down the “Fn” key plus “F5”, and that’s almost impossible to do without removing your hands from the typing position. Depending on who you are you may or may not like this, and if you’ve ever used a Mac before you are probably already familiar with this keyboard functionality.
Dell Inspiron 14 Touchpad and Mouse Buttons
The Dell Inspiron 14 has a good sized touchpad, the buttons are also a decent size but somewhat cheap feeling, though still get the job done. The touchpad is responsive, the only issue I really had was the vertical scroll on the right hand side of the touchpad seemed to need a lot of pressure applied to trigger vertical scrolling.
Dell Inspiron 14 Ports
The Inspiron 14 has a pretty standard array of inputs and outputs and includes all of your basic ports, though it does not have more advanced digital ports such as HDMI or DVI out. Below are pictures of each side of the Inspiron 14 notebook and the ports you get:
Above is pictured the left side with the power jack, VGA monitor out port, Ethernet port, and two USB 2.0 ports
On the front of the Inspiron 14 is the 7-in-1 media card reader slot.
On the right side of the Inspiron 14 is the ExpressCard 34 slot, optical drive and one vertically oriented USB 2.0 ports.
On the back is simply the battery slot and heat vent.
Worth mentioning is that the bottom of the laptop is sturdy and offers a detachable compartment on the underside for easy access to the memory and PCI-Express mini card slot so it’s easy to get to and upgrade both memory and your wi-fi card (stored in the mini card slot) should you so choose.
Dell Inspiron 14 Screen
When you purchase the Inspiron 14 via Dell.com you can choose between a 14-inch 720p LED backlit screen or higher resolution 900p LED backlit screen. The actual screen resolution of 720p equates to 1280 x 720 while the 900p is 1440 x 900 resolution. With the high resolution screen you have the benefit of getting crisper images and fitting more on your display at once, but if you have poor eyesight then the smaller text and icons that are inherent to 900p might deter you. The fact the 900p resolution screen is a $75 upgrade will cause many people just go with the base 720p configuration.
The 720p variety screen I got with the Inspiron 14 is nice. The LED backlit screen is thin and although not blazing bright or as bright as the Studio 14z screen, is certainly adequately bright at the highest setting. There are no quality or performance issues with the screen, no flicker or noticeable refresh and no dead pixels to speak of. One thing to note is that the only option you have is for a glossy style screen which means the screen will reflect light, especially when dark colors are being viewed on the screen and there is a lot of light in the room.
Dell Inspiron 14 Speakers
The speakers on the Dell Inspiron 1440 are not half bad for a small laptop. The max volume level is more than loud enough, but at the top volume it is distorted. As you would expect the bass from the speakers is poor, but the highs and mids are decent.
Dell Inspiron 14 Performance
The Dell Inspiron 1440 is not billed as a performance power house or desktop replacement style laptop, rather it is sold as a laptop that will perform well enough to do all of your basic tasks while you’re on the road. Tasks such as web browsing, checking email, basic graphics editing, word processing, playing 2D games will be handled flawlessly by the Inspiron 14. More demanding tasks such as 3D gaming, heavy graphics editing, watching HD video or running several demanding programs at once will certainly cause the Inspiron 14 to slow down. If you get the fastest P8600 2.40 GHz Core 2 Duo processor with the Inspiron 14, it can certainly help performance, but the lack of any dedicated graphics options means that for 3D related work and gaming you’re really going to struggle.
For most students though the basic Intel Pentium 2.0Ghz dual core processor option should be just fine for your needs, and it keeps the price down, the next available Core 2 Duo upgrade option costs an extra $100.
When configuring the Inspiron 14 just make sure to get at least 3GB of RAM. There is no option for a faster 7200RPM hard drive, which is a shame, so you’ll just have to go with a 5400RPM hard drive of your choice. Accessing the hard drive on the left side of the laptop is easy so if you want to upgrade to a faster hard drive later on by purchasing one from NewEgg.com you can certainly do that easily.
For those into benchmark results here are a few benchmark results from popular benchmarking tools and the scores from the Inspiron 14 as compared to the Studio 14z:
|Dell Inspiron 14 (Intel Pentium Dual Core, 3GB RAM, Intel graphics)||Dell Studio 14z (Intel Core 2 Duo 2.1GHz, 3GB RAM, Nvidia 9400 graphics)|
|Windows Experience Index||3.2||4.8|
Obviously the Studio 14z takes the cake here in the performance competition, but you pay more for that.
Dell Inspiron 14 Battery Life
The Inspiron 14 is available with three battery options: 4-cell, 6-cell and 9-cell. The more cells you get the more battery life you get. It also means higher cost and greater weight. I went down the middle of the road by getting the 6-cell battery and am pleased that I did. The 6-cell battery does not stick out from the back of the laptop at all and doesn’t add much weight over the 4-cell. I got exactly 4 hours of battery life on the Inspiron 14 with the screen at the second brightness level, wi-fi on, Vista power saver mode enabled and doing simple tasks such as surfing the web and typing up documents. If you increase screen brightness the battery life drops significantly, with the brightness at the middle setting and in Vista balanced mode power setting the battery life was closer to around 3 hours and fifteen minutes.
Dell Inspiron 14 Recommendation and Conclusion
The Dell Inspiron 14 is a no frills budget portable laptop. I can’t find a lot wrong with it for the price. The major complaints would be the fact there are no newer digital output ports such as HDMI, no status indicator lights other than power, the look is pretty plain and finally if you configure a Core 2 Duo processor the price quickly jumps. Positives include that the weight and size are good and you get an optical drive and media card reader that are missing from the more expensive studio 14z. The Inspiron 14 screen is nice, and you are able to upgrade to a higher resolution 920p screen if you choose. The bottom line with the Inspiron 14 is that it can serve perfectly well as a student laptop and gives you good bang for the buck, though it may not have cutting edge features it at least offers all of the basics you’ll need and at a price that’s right.
Score: 7.5 / 10
Inspiron 14 Purchase Information