Artist Review: Dell Inspiron 14 (5410) 2-in-1 laptop with Dell Active Pen PN350M

Big thanks to Dell Singapore for providing this review unit

This review is from the perspective of a visual content creator, someone who does digital art, graphic design, edits photos and videos. This review is written for digital artists and graphic designers.

The Dell Inspiron 14 (5410) is a 2-in-1 convertible laptop released in 2020. In case you don't know, a 2-in-1 device is one where you can flip the display 360 degrees to the back to use the laptop as a tablet. This laptop has a touchscreen and supports the Dell Active Pen PN350M.

Just to give you the bottom line upfront, this 2-in-1 laptop is good for general office-type work, but it's not suitable for visual content creators for the various reasons I'll mention below.

By the way, don't mistake the Dell Inspiron 5410 with the Dell Latitude 5410. The latter is a laptop has no touchscreen but has more ports. And then there's the Inspiron 14 laptop (non-convertible) and the Inspiron 14 2-in-1 convertible. The specs are different. The laptop uses NVIDIA GeForce MX450 (10-30% better) while the 2-in-1 uses MX350.

Specifications for Inspiron 14 (5410)

  • Processor: Intel 11th Gen i3-1125G4 (2 to 3.7Ghz), i5-1135G7 (2.4 to 4.2Ghz), i7-1165G7 (2.8 to 4.7Gz)
    OS: Microsoft Windows 10, S or Home 64-bit
  • RAM: 4 to 16GB, DDR4, 3200Mhz
  • Storage: 128GB to 2TB PCIe NVMe SSD
  • - Intel® UHD Graphics with shared graphics memory (Ci3 UMA)
    - Intel® Iris® Xe Graphics with shared graphics memory (Ci5/Ci7 UMA)
    - NVIDIA® GeForce® MX350 with 2GB GDDR5 graphics memory (Optional Discrete for Ci5/Ci7)
  • Display: 14.0-inch, 1080P, touchscreen, WVA panel
  • Ports -
    - 1x HDMI out 1.4a
    - 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
    - 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C with Power Delivery and Video
    - 1x DC-in port
    - 1x 3.5mm Headphone/Microphone combination jack
    - 1x microSD card reader
  • Dimensions:
    H/W/D: 0.64” – 0.71” x 12.66” x 8.32”
    (16.32 – 17.95 x 321.5 x 211.35mm)
  • Wireless: Intel® Wi-Fi 6 2x2 (Gig+) and Bluetooth 5.1
  • Battery capacity:
    - 3-Cell Battery, 41 Whr (1.5KG)
    - 4-Cell Battery, 54 Whr (1.56KG)

This review unit on loan from Dell comes with Intel i7-1165G7 quad-core 2.8Ghz, NVIDIA GeForce MX350 with 2GB RAM, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, 3-cell 41 Whr battery. Retail price from Dell's website is SGD 1598.

The entry level model with Intel i5-1135G7 quad-core 2.4Ghz, Intel® Iris® Xe Graphics with shared memory, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage is SGD 1,148 which is significantly cheaper.

Design


Design of this 14-inch 2-in-1 laptop is compact, portable and looks good. This unit comes with the 3-cell Whr battery and weights a total of 1.5kg. The 54 Whr battery upgrade should give you up to 30% more battery life and weighs a total of 1.56kg.

The unit only comes in Platinum silver colour. The exterior shell is made of plastic with a nice matte surface finishing.


The thickness is 1.63cm at the thinnest and 1.8cm at the back. The bottom is curved which makes it easy to pick this laptop up.


There are eight huge holes on the back for the fan exhaust. On the bottom of the cover are two small rubber feet for the display in laptop mode.


The display cover will prop up keyboard section slightly in laptop mode.


Ports on the left are HDMI v1.4, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type A and USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type C (with DisplayPort function). The USB-C can only be used to charge other devices but can't charge the laptop.


Ports on the right are 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type A and microSD card slot. The microSD card slot is not that useful for me. So to transfer photos, I use a USB-A SD card reader and can get USB 3 transfer speed.


The chiclet-style keyboard has good key travel and feedback. Typing experience is excellent.


The power button with fingerprint sensor can quick unlock effectively and sign in.


The trackpad is big with left and right click areas. Click is firmer than I prefer. Cursor tracking is alright.

Unfortunately for me, the trackpad on this unit can sometimes register a click+hold instead of a click. Imagine you want click a tab to switch between tabs, with a click+hold, you'll be dragging the tab instead of switching tabs. Very annoying. It doesn't happen often, but it's something that shouldn't happen even 1 out of 100 times.

One alternative is to use a wireless mouse and the other alternative is to get the Dell Active Pen PN350M. Or maybe this problem is just isolated with the unit I have.


Those are ventilation grills for air intake. The two downward firing speakers (vertical) have rather hollow sounding audio quality. It's like someone's talking to you but they are not facing you.


To get to the internals, you just have to remove 7 screws from the back. PCI NVMe SSD and RAM are user-replaceable.

Display

This 14-inch display has rather thin bezels, thicker at the top and bottom. Image quality is alright, serviceable.


Dell calls this display a WVA display. WVA is Wide Viewing Angle and is not to be confused with VA which means Vertical Alignment.

Anyway, for this WVA display, brightness still drops and colours still shift when viewed from the side. That's the limitation of VA panels.


I measured colour support for 64% sRGB, 46% NTSC, 48% AdobeRGB, 48% P3 and a maximum brightness of 201 nits.


You get the best colours and brightness when viewing the display from the front. If you want to watch a movie with someone else, the viewing experience from the side is not optimal.

The reflective glossy display is going to be a problem if there are huge light sources pointing to the display, eg you're seated in a cafe or office with huge windows at your back. If you're using this indoors with lights at the top, no problem.

Problem with brightness dimming on battery, and varying brightness
By default, the Dell BIOS is set to reduce display brightness to 50% when running on battery. That's a substantial drop in brightness and makes the display dim and content more difficult to see. You'll only get the potential maximum brightness when connected to power.

The other problem is Dell BIOS has this EcoPower mode that will adapt the brightness to whatever content that's on the display. E.g. When viewing a webpage with text on white, the display is brighter but as soon as you scroll to see a photo, the screen becomes darker. You can scroll down a long webpage, such as this review you're reading, and the brightness will adjust as many times as needed. Even switching between browser tabs can change the brightness.

EcoPower is meant to save power but it's distracting and unnecessary. Also when you're using an app with dark user interface or night mode, the EcoPower will make it darker. If you're on battery power with EcoPower and use an app with dark UI, it's almost impossible to work with the app. I think of this as unwanted dynamic dimming. lol.

Thankfully, you can turn off battery power brightness dimming and EcoPower easily. Upon startup, press F2 to enter BIOS, then adjust the appropriate brightness settings. Adjusting the brightness with the shortcut keys will not override the Dell BIOS.


When using a photo editing app with dark user interface, the whole screen will look even darker, making it impossible to edit the photos. The external display I connected to colour check my photos is the C-Force CF015xT and you can see it's visibly brighter.

General performance

The quad-core Intel chip is more than powerful enough for general office work, web browsing and watching videos.


SSD speed is fast. Startup, launching apps, opening and saving big files are all fast. Switching between apps is instant.

General performance is smooth and snappy. Fans don't turn on unless you're gaming.

The pen and drawing performance

The Dell Active Pen PN350M is an active stylus that supports 1024 levels pressure sensitivity.

The pen is made of metal, has solid build quality and is comfortable to hold.

The two shortcuts for the two side buttons will vary depending on the apps you use.

Pen tip is quite firm with minimal wobble. This is a hard tip so it is quite slippery when drawing on the glass display. For writing, the extra smoothness is not a problem because we want to write fast. But for drawing, the lack of friction or resistance makes it more difficult to control the pen.

For palm rejection to work properly, the cursor must show on screen first. Drawing or note taking apps that let you set the settings to accept only pen input will have perfect palm rejection.

Initiation activation force is medium to high. You have to press down with slight force to draw a line. This also means drawing thin lines with minimal pressure will be challenging.


The Microsoft Surface Pen can be used on the Dell Inspiron 5410 too. The Surface Pen supports 2048 levels of pressure, has better/lower initial activation force, but unfortunately suffers for more wobbly diagonal lines.

Depending on the app you use, you may or may not be able to adjust the pressure sensitivity.


Pen strokes from Medibang Paint.

Pens with higher initial activation force usually will have pen strokes that taper more abruptly than gradually because the pen is not sensitive enough to register/read the tapering off.


The Dell Active Pen can certainly be used for drawing, but the drawing experience is not going to be the best considering the initial activation force.


Concepts did not work properly for me. When drawing, the lines will not show up, however...


Those lines can occasionally be seen while panning around the canvas.


Sketchable works fine.


Drawing with the tablet mode is fine but you won't have access to the keyboard shortcuts. So in this case, it makes more sense to use drawing apps made for tablets, e.g. Sketchable, Concepts, Autodesk Sketchbook.


If you draw with the laptop mode, you'll either have to hold the display with your hand or put some support on the back otherwise the display will wobble.

All the drawing apps work nicely without lag even when there are many other apps opened. The input lag is also surprisingly minimal. There's still the gap between the line as it tries to catch up with the pen tip but it's a small gap and not really an issue when it comes to drawing.

Battery life

I managed to get 4 hours 30 minutes of battery life with the 41 Whr battery and 50% brightness. If battery life scales proportionally with battery capacity, the 54 Whr battery should last 5 hours 30 minutes.

A full charge takes 2.5 hours.

Gaming

NVIDIA GeForce MX350 is not a powerful graphics card but it's still good enough for some 1080P gaming.

Benchmarks for Tomb Raider (2013) and GTAV (2013) with high textures both ran at 60FPS. I also played some Two Point Hospital (2018) and gameplay was smooth at high visual settings at 1080P. The fans are quite loud when gaming though so you'll probably want to use earphones or headphones.

Conclusion

This 2-in-1 laptop is targeted at people who do mostly office work, documents, spreadsheets, and for those who want to jot down some notes.

Image quality of the display is alright but I feel like Dell should have at least put in a display with 100% sRGB coverage. This WVA panel is certainly not suitable for visual content creators due to the limited colour space.

Overall performance is smooth and snappy thanks to the Intel 11th gen processors, RAM and fast internal drive speeds.

Pros and cons at a glance
+ Compact design that looks good
+ Thin bezels
+ 1080P resolution still adequate for a 14-inch display
+ 1.5 to 1.56kg
+ Smooth snappy overall performance
+ Excellent keyboard, typing experience
+ Graphics card good for some 1080P gaming
+ Rather good selection of ports
+ RAM and PCI NVMe SSD user upgradeable
+ Note taking performance is quite good
- Trackpad occasionally registers click+hold instead of click
- Downward facing speakers sound hollow
- Default BIOS settings lowers the brightness when on battery
- Default BIOS settings lowers the brightness automatically based on content on screen
- Maximum battery life just 4.5 hours with the 3-coll 41 Whr battery
- Dell Active Pen has higher than preferred initial activation force, affects drawing
- Just 64% sRGB colour support
- WVA display has slight brightness and colour shift when viewed from side
- Glass display is too smooth for drawing, but good for writing
- Glass display quite reflective
- microSD card slot not as useful as SD card slot
- Noisy fans when gaming

Availability

Lazada SG: https://bit.ly/laz-dell-inspiron-14-5410
Shopee SG: https://bit.ly/shopee-dell-inspiron-14-5410
Amazon USA | CA | UK | DE | FR | ES | IT | JP

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