Tech

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus review: A well-rounded machine

Dell Inspiron 14 heroImage: IDG / Mark Knapp

At a glance

Expert’s Rating

Pros

Strong performance despite throttlingExceptional battery lifeAn unreasonably good keyboardCompelling value

Cons

Fake ventsThrottle under sustained loadsNo user upgrades

Our Verdict

The Dell Inspiron 14 Plus isn’t perfect, and some of its choices are even a little silly, but it’s all-around performance is impossible to ignore, especially at its price. Any area the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus comes up lacking, it’s more than made up for in some other way. And with that in mind, it’s hard to see any good reason not to get it.

Price When Reviewed

$999

Best Prices Today: Dell Inspiron 14 Plus

RetailerPriceDell$999.99View DealPrice comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwideProductPricePrice comparison from Backmarket

There’s been a trend of mid-tier laptop lines getting a glow-up. HP, Acer, and Asus have done it, and with the Inspiron 14 Plus 7440, Dell shows it has a knack for this as well. While the Inspiron name might call to mind drab, plastic work machines, the latest iteration breaks free from its roots in all the right ways. A dash of metal here, a more colorful display there, and unexpectedly strong performance and battery life all behind a $1,000 price tag make this a highly competitive looking machine. And with a bit of deeper digging, it’s clear that Dell has a massive success on its hands. 

Looking for more options? Check out PCWorld’s roundup of the best laptops available right now.

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus (2024): Specs and features

CPU: Intel Core 7 Ultra 155HMemory: 16GB LPDDR5X-6400Graphics/GPU: Intel Arc GraphicsDisplay: 14-inch, 2240×1400, WVAStorage: 1TB PCIe NVMe SSDWebcam: 1080pConnectivity: 1x Thunderbolt 4, 2x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, 1x HDMI 1.4 (1080p/60 max), 1x microSD card reader, 1x 3.5mm combo audioNetworking: WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3Biometrics: Fingerprint readerBattery capacity: 64 watt-hoursDimensions: 12.36 x 8.92 x 0.75 inchesWeight: 3.49 poundsMSRP: $999 as-tested ($999 base)

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus (2024): Design and build quality

IDG / Mark Knapp

The Dell Inspiron 14 Plus is a smoother office machine. Aside from the plastic underside, the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus is built with a largely aluminum chassis that feels like a polished stone, offering just the slightest bit of friction and featuring smoothed corners and edges. While there are elements of the design that look a little more slapped together than the polished designs of Apple’s MacBooks or Dell’s own XPS line — like it’s thicker, plastic bezels or basic and wiggly display hinges — the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus still exhibits a sleekness that Inspiron’s in the past have lacked.

This improvement to design is likely where the Plus in the name is coming from, though the internals certainly have a role to play as well.

For a compact work machine, the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus makes a show of having lots of cooling. While I’m used to seeing a decent side vent on machines like this, I was surprised to find even more vents on the rear. There even appear to be vents tucked away behind the display hinges. Confoundingly, further inspection reveals much of these vents are just hunky punk plastic grilles made to look like vents. So, while at first glance the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus looks like it might offer better cooling than the Dell XPS 16 did, which runs the same CPU, the opposite appears to be true.

The frame has a little sponginess to it around the keyboard and at the center of the display lid, but it feels rigid enough to handle a little abuse. That keyboard deck flex is also hardly noticeable while typing. 

Dell didn’t manage to make the Inspiron 14 Plus a super svelte machine. It’s modestly thick for a standard laptop and weighs 3.49 pounds. It’s still reasonably portable with these measurements though.

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus (2024): Keyboard, trackpad

IDG / Mark Knapp

The keyboard you get is a bit on the basic side. The keycaps are just a bland gray with little to no contour. They have a little pop to them and are thankfully stiffer than some cheaper laptop keyboards, so they don’t suffer from as much corner mushiness. The result is a surprisingly quick keyboard. In a matter of minutes I was able to get comfortable enough with the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus keyboard to manage a 129-word-per-minute typing speed at 100 percent accuracy in Monkeytype — a personal best. 

A good deal of that typing performance stems not just from the keyboard, which just feels fine, but from the comfort of the laptop’s surface. Since I don’t have to stretch too far over a large surface or let a sharp edge dig into my wrists, I can comfortably anchor my palms for accurate typing. This helps make up for the keys’ lack of contouring. Too bad there’s not much to make up for the tiny arrow keys on the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus. 

The keyboard includes basic white backlighting, available at two brightness levels, that’s enough to get the job done.

The trackpad has modest proportions. It’s made with mylar, which glides smoothly and feels like a good match for the texture of the frame. It has a somewhat firm click that doesn’t feel overly prone to misclicks nor mushy in any way. 

Between the keyboard and trackpad, the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus delivers an altogether good interface that leaves little to be desired. 

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus (2024): Display, audio

IDG / Mark Knapp

Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus is its inclusion of an altogether respectable display. This is no dim, drab, low-resolution panel serving only as a cost-cutting measure. It’s an odd resolution, but the 2240×1400 resolution offers solid clarity on the 14-inch panel. Between the 418-nit peak brightness and effective anti-glare coating of the display, it’s also remarkably easy to see even in unfavorable lighting conditions. Essentially, visibility is wonderfully managed on this display.

Dell has topped that off with nearly 100 percent coverage of the sRGB color space, which doesn’t have quite the same vibrant pop as full DCI-P3 coverage but still gives life to visuals across the entire experience compared to the many basic panels available on budget laptops. I measured a high degree of color accuracy as well, with an average dE of 0.81 without any calibration. The visuals are even enhanced slightly by a 1680:1 contrast ratio, which is more than I would have expected from a simple LED panel. Pixel response is a bit slow, leading to some ghosting on moving objects, but this is no gaming machine. The display is exceedingly well suited to office work and static imagery. 

The audio experience is similar to the display in that it has some admirable qualities without being exceptional. The speakers blast out audio at an impressive level without infrequent, insubstantial distortion. They can be a little grating at max volume, especially if you’re sitting close, but they’re crisp and clear. That said, bass is common weakness for machines like this, and there’s no denying that it’s somewhat lacking. Thankfully, it’s not completely AWOL. Whether in Vulpeck’s “Fugue State” or Miike Snow’s “My Trigger” the bass is clearly present, but it’s thin, with some of the energy sucked out by the higher registers. The bass also has a propensity for distortion. 

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus (2024): Webcam, microphone, biometrics

IDG / Mark Knapp

The webcam on the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus looks OK, offering reasonably smooth video but not at particularly high clarity. Even with a 1080p sensor, it doesn’t end up impressively sharp. The quality is more held back by its handling of brightness. It has a tendency to either blow out highlights or appear too dark. Still, there are much worse webcams out there.

The mics do a good job picking up my voice even if there’s a big of background noise, such as the droning of a fan. Typing on the laptop while recording breaks through the noise suppression though, so it’s best avoided during meetings. 

While the webcam doesn’t offer facial recognition, there is a fingerprint scanner at the top right of the keyboard. This offers a convenient way to sign-in, though it regularly requires a few retries to register the fingerprint.

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus (2024): Connectivity

IDG / Mark Knapp

The Dell Inspiron 14 Plus may be small, but it’s not overly sparing on ports. The right edge offers up a 3.5mm headset jack, a microSD card reader, and a 5Gbps USB-A port. Much of that edge is occupied by venting, so it’s nice to see Dell still offer up some ports. The left edge has even more on offer with another 5Gbps USB-A port, a Thunderbolt 4 port, a DC charging port, and a full-size HDMI port. That’s only an HDMI 1.4 connection though, topping out at 1080p/60Hz. Thankfully, Thunderbolt 4 provides a lot more flexibility for external display connections. 

Wireless connectivity has been consistent in my experience with the laptop. Connected to a Wi-Fi 6 router on a Gigabit connection, I had no issues, even with a few plaster walls blocking the signal. Bluetooth also worked admirably, keeping the laptop piping audio out to my headphones in a busy café for several days without issue.

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus (2024): Performance

So far, things are looking pretty bright for the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus, and it largely stays bright in the performance department. That said, Dell’s cooling choices do come back to bite it a little bit. 

The Dell Inspiron 14 Plus performed exceptionally in PCMark 10’s benchmark, which analyzes overall system performance in a variety of office use cases, and that speaks well to the laptop’s overall viability. It beats out similar 14-inch laptops, like the Acer Swift Go 14 and even the much pricier Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, both of which use the same Intel Core i7 155H chip. Impressively, it even beat the Dell XPS 16 I recently tested, which fell behind with a score of 6,392. 

However, when it comes to sustained CPU performance, the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus takes a bit of a hit. It still comes out ahead of its thin-and-light competition here, but doesn’t fare nearly as well as it might have if any of the false cooling vents were actually offering cooling. Compared to the Dell XPS 16’s 17,641 points in Cinebench R23’s multi-threaded test, the Inspiron 14 Plus fell way behind. A quick look at HWInfo64 was all it took to see that the test quickly had CPU core temps spiking to 110 degrees Celsius, resulting in thermal throttling. Back to back tests only saw performance sink lower and lower. To the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus’s credit, it still pushed out better performance even with the throttling than its main competition here.

In spite of its thermal issues, the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus refused to cede ground to its closer competitors. It’s not in the same ballpark as the Dell XPS 16 after all, nor can it keep up with modern discrete GPUs when it comes to graphics performance, but the Intel Arc Graphics inside the system still outperformed the integrated graphics in the rest of these rigs. 

While these performance results are in part a story of thermal throttling, some of these benchmarks are designed to stress a system a bit more than the everyday tasks. It’s fairly remarkable that the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus performs as well as it does, and barring lengthy periods with heavy workloads on the CPU, the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus manages to be exceptionally quick and snappy. 

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus (2024): Battery life

One thing could have ruined it all for the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus. If it had a weak battery, it would be a much harder sell. As luck would have it, the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus offers truly remarkable battery life. In our battery test, which plays a 4K video on repeat with the display set between 250 and 260 nits, the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus lasted for a staggering 1,021 minutes (just over 17 hours). This beats the competition easily, and even beat the Dell XPS 16 (which did have the disadvantage of using OLED). I even ran the test both with and without the My Dell software’s intelligent battery extender feature enabled to ensure it wasn’t fudging the results, and in both cases the system ran over 17 hours. This is performance that can rival even Apple’s best MacBooks, which we test at a notably dimmer 150 nits.

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus (2024): Conclusion

If Dell had added another heat pipe and used the extra rear grille as an actual exhaust port to keep the CPU thermals in check, this probably would have been the rise of a new king of everyday PCs. Even without that concession, the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus is a remarkably well rounded system. In just about every category, it’s decent at worst. And in most departments, it’s better than the competition. It may not be as pretty as a ZenBook or Pavilion Plus, but it’s faster and lasts longer. And even if it’s no ThinkPad or XPS, it’s so much cheaper. Even with the Acer Swift Go 14 offering a lot of the same aspects, I’d never trade the Dell Inspiron 14 Plus’s keyboard for one from Acer. 

The fact that you can get a system this well rounded for $1,000 (and I’ve even seen it for $850 already) is a huge boon for PC shoppers looking for a no-nonsense, machine that’s all together excellent. 

Best Prices Today: Dell Inspiron 14 Plus

RetailerPriceDell$999.99View DealPrice comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwideProductPricePrice comparison from Backmarket

Recent stories by Mark Knapp:

Lenovo Yoga 7i review: A long-lasting 2-in-1 with tradeoffsDell XPS 14 (2024) review: Style and substance come at too high a priceAcer Aspire Go 15 review: A $300 laptop that’s worth your money

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