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Dell Inspiron 16 Plus review: A MacBook Pro alternative for much less

dell inspiron

It doesn’t have MacOS, of course, but Dell built an excellent, budget-friendly 16-inch laptop for creators (and gaming) you really should consider.

There are plenty of 15.6-inch laptops, but 16-inch models like the Dell Inspiron 16 Plus are something of a rarity. The most notable being Apple’s MacBook Pro, but there’s also the excellent LG Gram 16 and Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Extreme, as well as a handful of gaming laptops. Those models all have something else in common besides their screen size, though: They’re more expensive than the Inspiron 16 Plus, which starts under $1,000.

The 16-inch display is a great size since the laptop is barely bigger than a 15.6-inch model, but you get more room for work and typically a roomier keyboard and touchpad along with it. That’s the case with the Inspiron 16 Plus. The body is roughly the same size and weight as the 16-inch MacBook Pro, and its aluminum body, slim screen bezels and clean design give it a higher-quality look and feel you might not expect from an Inspiron laptop. And I haven’t even mentioned what you can get inside yet. 

Because of chip shortages and production delays, prices and availability continue to fluctuate on laptops from Dell and others. The Dell Inspiron 16 Plus starts at about $1,000 at the moment in the US, £815 in the UK and AU$2,999 in Australia. It can be configured with an 11th-gen Intel Core i5 or i7 H-series processor, up to a 1TB solid-state drive and up to 32GB of memory, although 16GB is the max amount you can get at the moment. You can also choose from integrated graphics or a 4GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 GPU, or 60-watt RTX 3060 with 6GB of memory. Fully loaded it’s $1,616 right now, which is much less than the $2,199 Apple wants for the base 16-inch MacBook Pro. 

DELL INSPIRON 16 PLUS

Price as reviewed$1,421
Display size/resolution16-inch 3,072×1,920 display
CPU2.3GHGz Intel Core i7-11800H
Memory16GB DDR4 3200MHz
Graphics4GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050
Storage512GB NVMe PCIe SSD
PortsHDMI 2.0, Thunderbolt 4.0 USB-C, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A (x2), SD card reader, combo audio jack
Networking802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.1
Operating systemWindows 10 Home (21H1)

To be clear, I’m not saying this Inspiron has the same build quality as the MacBook or even Dell’s own XPS 15 or 17. While the chassis is metal, the lid doesn’t have the rigidity of a premium laptop and there’s also some flex to the keyboard deck. It’s also running Windows and not MacOS. But if you’re looking for more processing and graphics performance in something that’s not a gaming laptop or as pricey as the other 16-inch options, this Inspiron has that all wrapped up. 

Remarkably, the battery life is also really good considering it has discrete graphics, hitting 10 hours, 11 minutes on our streaming video test. It can also be charged through its Thunderbolt 4 USB-C port; its 130-watt power supply uses a barrel connector. And, while this is meant as a general-purpose laptop or for creators for photo, video and graphics work, it can be used for gaming when configured with the 3050 or 3060 GPUs, too. However, the laptops use Nvidia’s Studio drivers and not game-ready drivers.

The 16-inch display is good for basic content creation. Its brightness hit 291 nits — just below its rated 300 nits — which might have been an issue with a glossy screen, but with this display’s matte finish, reflections are minimized. Also, the display covers 100% sRGB and 81% AdobeRGB color gamuts. Again, it’s a good display. The only disappointment is that Dell doesn’t offer any other options like a touchscreen or one with greater brightness. 

Dell didn’t skimp on the keyboard or touchpad, either. Both are spacious and feel good. The keyboard’s backlit keys have 1.3mm of travel and a pleasant pop to them, so they don’t feel mushy. The touchpad is smooth and accurate and I didn’t experience any palm-rejection issues or cursor jumpiness. They’re just all-around good. Also, there’s a fingerprint reader in the power button.

The built-in webcam, mics and speakers are all on par with what you’d typically get at this price — fine but nothing special. Dell did put in a physical privacy shutter for the webcam, so you can block it and only be on camera when you want.

XPS for less?

The line between Dell’s premium XPS laptop line and its mainstream Inspiron models gets blurrier every year. There are still clear differences in materials, build quality and component options, but laptops like the Inspiron 16 Plus really do look and feel like you’re buying a high-end device at a lower price. There’s much to like here, from its aluminum exterior and palm rest to its port assortment to its excellent performance and battery life. It’s a premium laptop at a better price. 

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