$600 Inspiron 5402 14" - A wolf in a sheep suit

Discussion in 'Dell' started by Not-meee, Dec 11, 2020.

  1. Not-meee

    Not-meee Notebook Geek

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    I am closing out on any more updates, as this is my final. Had to rush, since UPS, did the runaround in delaying to my post office, which had been super slow at doing what they are to do. I could have had the 980 Pro held for pickup and had more time to write up my findings with the laptop. So here is what I found in a nut shell.

    I had been busy with keeping up on all the updates. Some added performance and functionality. The recent BiOS update, was poo!

    Just like Android firmware, you can't go back, even if you have so called ability. Not sure what to make of it, as the system is new, and now waiting on another BIOS update to fix the new BIOS. Hopefully they will get the nomenclature right, this time around.

    After my quick run through of 9 various installs, with 1 and 2 NVME disks, with 980 Pro and 970 Evo plus, defaults work out just fine with either drives, for speedy boot to desktop and running applications. No matter how I try loading up memory, either with rebooting and quickly launching Office apps, Firefox and Edge, nothing seems to phase the system, as each launch takes about 1 or 2 seconds. Now when I mess with tweaking here and there. The Office splash screens for each application, are just wee blips, even during multiple launches with various other applications being ran simultaneously. It was not big on the tweaks, just 8k allocation during format works better than moving the page file.

    Sorry it sounds like I am reviewing NvMe disks. But I figured it can be interesting to see a laptop max out with upgrades, not just be open box comparison with like system.

    To be honest many like systems are not as like as they seem. The closest laptop right now to this model is the HP 14. Though you really have to dig deep to know what your getting. If you want a screen as bright as this one, it will have touch capability. Also oddly enough HP actually has proper silk screen nomenclature for Thunderbolt and Superspeed USB. Though their service manual sucks, and is a bit confusing. There are two m.2 ports, but you have no clue to the size and their locations. The chassis looks to be the same as Dell, when looking at the skin and form factor. The price on the HP 14 is a wee less expensive, and will save you, but something about it seems cheaply built, and too much leaving one to question, on the more they dig. Only a 3 cell battery, which won't last as long as the 4 cell the Dell 5402. Though you will have a 400 nits display with touch capability. To me it's more or less which company you like better. I admit Dell has a lot better service and keeps up with drivers and updates. One big turn off is the lack of support the HP 14 has and it is a wee older model.

    Originally this laptop was perky but limited by the meager ram and slow NVME. With the upgrades, it's like a whole new laptop.

    Now for the issues I found with it. Not many but they are sort of expected. The main issue about this laptop is, that the plastic along the front is a wee thin, mostly because of design and limited area behind the touch pad. Even after a few very careful removals, of the bottom cover, the front seem will not close snuggly. The wee plastic tabs are too thin and warp or get damaged. It's just a wee .25mm gap, but the touch pad seems to be effected by it. As it locks or becomes unclickable. So if you are like me, in opening up and adding faster disks or more ram, you better order a replacement bottom cover or have some smarts about you as to fix the loose fit.

    It's fixable, but it's not what I expected in the short time of working on the laptop.

    Second issue... you cannot close the lid when doing things in bsckground, while on performance mode. I did not realize it until I looked at its construction up close. The lid will close off the top vents when shut. Unlike most other laptops, the vents are behind and below the screen, I am use to closing the lid on my laptop, when connected to my 65" Front projection screen DLP, or just playing audio when moving about in my daily tasks at home.

    Those are the two issues I can think off, though this laptop can get hot on one's lap, but with care, it's managable. It's the quietest laptop I ever had, even when plugged in to AC. Though if anyone ordered a discrete video option, there are two fans, compared to one. So that will be noisier.

    All in all for the price it's no slouch when you want a light and speedy laptop.
     
  2. Not-meee

    Not-meee Notebook Geek

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    Since I complained about the Dell firmware update, and had no option but to upgrade once a new firmware was released... I have updated once more, and found a wee improvement but MS ruined any way to verify in depth. I now have some odd changes from MS updates with NVME drivers. Before I was using windows default drivers, as there was no Samsung driver for the 980 Pro. The new stornvme.sys driver seems to make benchmark apps have slowness with read and write performance checks. Even though I see no degradation. Maybe a wee enhancement, but I have not put my finger on any real world benifits as of yet.

    Since updating my firmware, I am at the mercy of forever updating until I find reason not to. I think the original release for November was the best all around, but that is no longer an option for me, at least.

    I am awaiting for MS to deliver more updates this month, in hopes more Tiger Lake updates are issued. At least at this time, MS Windows knows there is Tiger Lake hardware. Just many of the UI features on both drivers and system, still are using ID info not pertaining to Tiger Lake. The only option is to use PCI-Z, and update the database. There is a PCI ID hosting site which it grabs from, which does a good job at updating monthly, as new hardware ID information is introduced.

    I think any laptop with Tiger Lake should have Thunderbolt 4 and the PCI-E 4.0 standards. Just manufacturers have been quiet so they can sell higher tier hardware at higher prices, for little differences between abiltities and performance outside of options and looks.
     
  3. kojack

    kojack Notebook Virtuoso

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    This is true for anything. Every car should come with all wheel drive, heated seats and wheel, and full 12" screen entertainment and all the bells and whistles. but they sell higher teir cars for more money.
     
  4. Not-meee

    Not-meee Notebook Geek

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    Your taking a bit further than I intended. The so called better systems running the Tiger Lake are reskinned with little differences. Like my title says, differences are what skin it's wearing. A lot of misinformation both by manufacturers and paid reviewers. In a way treating Tiger Lake as an abortion for Rocket Lake to prevail for upcoming sales. Like why bother even trying to sell. That's what I see in it. Even HP has its own issues, having specs contradict what is actually there. Like what happened, did real technical writers moved over to Acer? Some of the technical writings on late year Tiger Lake Systems is just trash. The 14" ips display rocks, pci-e v4, and dual 2280 m.2 sockets are rare in a mid range laptop. If they put it in a carbon fiber looking shell it would be priced 2x as much. That's what I am looking at. Who cares about looks, it's what's under the hood that counts. Look at all the over priced used laptops that are avaiable now. Why spend $600 on a used 2 year old laptop when you can spend a few hundred more on something so much better. Wait til rocket lake comes out. I am sure a lot would contemplate moving away from pci-e 3 to the much better v4. I probably am the only one who has proven the specs on these laptops are greatly underrated. As for 15" displays and keyboard setups, I am not sure about. Bigger does not mean better. Displays for instance are much easier to make evenly bright and vivid below 15". When I see a difference below $50 between 14" and 15" models I wonder, how much lacking that 15" really is. I think the 14" keyboard layout, saved me from finding out. The extra $250 invested could not be bested by any laptop below $1000, which makes the investment in upgrading a laptop comparable to upgrading a pc. Which is a rare thing now these days, if you own a mid range laptop.
     
  5. custom90gt

    custom90gt Doc Mod Super Moderator

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    Higher end laptops typically contain other features like bigger batteries, smaller size, better display, dedicated GPU, etc. The CPU/chipset stuff has always been similar, sure you didn't used to get thunderbolt on a mid-tier laptop...
     
  6. Not-meee

    Not-meee Notebook Geek

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    Maybe i see it differently... Hp and others have smaller batteries. Not that i want to stuff a 64wh battery in this 14" laptop. But 54wh is standard for this model. As for dedicated gpu. It's been verified there is not much difference in going with one using intel's integrated graphics. Though the soldered ram boards would be a benefit by the faster ram. Again I stated the smaller display has a benefit over the 15". Just saying if it was a wee less expensive... Which will happen soon... It would be a budget laptop. It's been years since to see a budget laptop rank so high in all around performance and versatility. Really i can't see paying for any other tiger lake laptop. Unless it is specific to gaming. Though i might as well glue a 22" LCD display on a PS5 and strap on 3 car battery jumper bricks and an inverter. It would cost just as much as a gamer laptop and run quieter. Ever hear gamer laptops? Like it's really not a laptop at all. We techs would grab Compaq lunch box pc, and gut it. Install a mini ATX pc and display so other goodies. It was not a laptop but it was portable.
     
  7. Not-meee

    Not-meee Notebook Geek

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    Here is a image of what the MS NVME driver is like with two 980 Pro drives. Dont know why the second m.2 port is still driving 3.0 standards. I assume BIOS still trying to keep some SATA compatiblity. Note I am able to get nice results on sequential reads. But the new driver seems to be not so good with random, as before, since it was using AHCI drIvers. I assume there will be another update to correct it. The only other thing that may cause some random speeds to drop is from Windows Defender. I could revert to using Eset as it is fast and very lightweight protection. Just Defender has worked very well for my use.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. custom90gt

    custom90gt Doc Mod Super Moderator

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    You mean low level entry GPUs, sorry your integrated graphics isn't as fast as a 1650ti or above that can be found in an XPS. And yes battery size is a major selling point for "higher end" laptops, dell has always done it this way. You didn't touch on the screen either, there are typically large differences there as well (especially in Lenovo's line up, lol).
     
  9. Not-meee

    Not-meee Notebook Geek

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    After some testing with my tweaks to old school boost Windows NT, I found that I was cooking the 980 Pro on the PCI-E 4.0 soon after the sequential read was performed. The random read caused the fan to kick in sooner and a bit more than it should be. So I will need to customize a heat sink plate for the limited gap for cooling. Only if the two m.2 slots had been the other way around, the secondary 980 Pro does not get as hot and does not need extra cooling, because it is on the limited 3.0 port. I assume that port is shared with the WiFi card. Mostly because I have yet to see a PCI-E 4.0 Wifi card, and you cannot mix 4.0 with 3.0 as the channels detect the slowest speed and will not allow any higher.

    Here is my tweaked settings NVME test...

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Not-meee

    Not-meee Notebook Geek

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    Note, the tweaks I introduced are done after all my applications have been installed. I am no longer testing with a removed back cover, on a bare bones fresh install. That was all done prior, to make a base line, as to start from, or to shoot for.

    Here is a wee list of applications running on my laptop currently.

    Setup media player for audio files
    Installed Any Player to run Blu-ray disc and flv files.
    Movies & TV is now reinstalled, as it plays and edits most of the video codes
    Installed Dolby DTS:X 14 day trial for both speaker and headphones (To enable decoding 7.1)
    Enabled all the Windows Defender protection settings and enforced Vitualization, with Secure Boot enabled
    Manually installed Group Policy Editor and all Virtualization Packages
    MS Office 2013 (Business/Corporate Edition) One Click can't be disabled, like in my Windows 7 system
    ZOOM... Yes I know, I have Meeting, but schools & colleges are ignorant and cheap, so ZOOM it is. (Mannual launch and exit)
    All of MS Media Extensions and Graphics tools
    NET framework 3.x, 4.x and 5.x
    Netflix and Amazon Prime Video (Disabled background operation)
    Dell Mobile Connect (Running)
    Intel Buisness Graphics Manager Beta (Running, and less bulky than standard, but the same)
    Samsung Manager (Running)
    XBox Game Bar (Running)
    XBox services (disabled)
    Intel Driver Manager (Running)
    3D Maxx Audio (Running)
    Chrome and Edge (Disabled autoloading)
    Canon Print Tools and Applications (Print and Scan managers running)

    Forced removal of MS applications and disabled them from reinstalling :
    Cortana
    People and People Experience
    Mail & Calander
    Phone
    All preloaded games
    MS adservices (hidden system applications)
    Skype
    Music
    Spotify

    As for the second part.

    I have yet to start tweaking Graphics, both in a full Colour calibration and performance increases. Though I have adjusted Brightness, Saturation, and Contrast levels to remove the showroom demo look, and be close to my ISF calibrated 65" LED DLP RPD HDTV On its own merits the laptop display seems to be as good as my old Samsung gamers 22" flat panel display, though around 26ms instead of 22ms. It seems more able to give better contrast, without the dynamic capabilities of the Samsung display. Even though the laptop is not a gamer build, the display panel is worthy of being matched with the new Intel GPU. No eye strain day or night, nor overly blue, and more colour / grey scale neutral, with a slight lean to red. All adjustments were done with Windows built in colour adjustment setup, with Intel display control panel adjustments, switching back and fourth between setup pages. Fairly easy, without need for a DVE Colour Calibration tool and software. Though it's to get you in the ballpark for further fine tuning. What test people do online fail to explain... when you setup proper brightness, contrast and grey scale, the colour gambit is less an issue. You can't properly preproduce colour with out that being done firstly. It may not be a production display, but you can get it to be very close to one.

    Did a bit of testing with most all video codecs... VC1+DTS fails... had to use any player from MS store and Dolby DTS:X from MS store to play back. Also FLV video would not play without the addition of any player. As for Codec playback HVEC played very well with very little fan kick in. VP8 was a wee bit hard on decode, but VP9 with extension played like HVEC as for CPU and GPU decode running about 24% and 7% paired up with each other. It was nice to see very quiet fan use in movies and clips. Not one Codec caused a lot of strain. Though I did boost video performance a wee bit. Still haven't tweaked a lot as of yet. All my tweaks are with full colour 1080 with enhancements for best video playback.

    My laptop was chosen for multi-media and audio in mind. Games are last if not unimportant. Just amused about how well some demos and tests playback without the issues many speak of.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2021
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