Dell Chromebook 11″ 2-in-1 – Review

I have always liked Chromebooks, as they offer a lot of computing power and bang for your cash. Dell has been making these laptops for while, and in this latest iteration of the Chromebook 11″ they have taken the skills they have learned from the enterprise range and from making rugged machines for businesses, and melded them together.

The Dell Chromebook 11″ 2 in 1 is designed with education needs firmly at the forefront, so whilst it may not be the sleekest looking Chromebook around it, is easily one of the more durable ones. It is priced at £289.99 on Dell’s website, and whether it is worth that price is something that I hope to find out during this review.


I have had the pleasure of using the Dell Chromebook 11 for the past few weeks in order to ascertain whether this is as useful outside of the classroom as it is inside one. Now to be honest I have not entrusted this to be used my son who is in primary school, as I dread to think what sort of condition it would return to me in! What I have done is use this out and about with me, whilst I have been on the go… and I have not been keeping it wrapped up in cotton wool either. I did treat the device with the appropriate level of care for a review device, as I do have to return it to Dell at the end of my testing!

Design

This laptop is quite simply not going to win any awards for its design. It is big for the screen size, and quite chunky. In fact, when it is compared to my XPS 13 2-in-1, it is about the same footprint even though these screens are massively different. The screen on the Chromebook 11″ is as the name suggests, 11.6″ and it has a very large bezel around the sides of it. In places, these bezels measure up to an inch in thickness. Those of you out there who like skinny bezels on your laptop need to look elsewhere. These large bezels, on the other hand, are here for a very good reason, they act as a form of impact protection. They also provide a good space for children to hold the device when it is in tablet mode. Again, this thing has been designed for use in the classroom and will be used by kids with their grubby and sometimes (read a lot of) the time slippery hands. It is for this reason that the edges of the laptop are covered in a grippy rubberised material which is easy to hold, and will also help if the device is dropped! Going back to that screen, this was for me one of the hardest things to get used to in the review process. The resolution on this laptop is really low at 1366 x 768. Just as a comparison, I am coming from a 4k panel on my XPS. This being said, once I got used to it everything turned out to be very pleasant to use as the screen is very responsive and bright, the touch input works and track really well and it allows me to use a few Android apps side by side without too much resizing. The one thing I wasn’t able to do was to have two browser windows open beside each other, which I do find very useful when compiling reviews or news stories. Again though, this is not what the laptop is designed for.

Input and ports

Moving down to the keyboard. Here is where one of the areas where you don’t want cost-cutting making too much of an impact. I am happy to say that it has not, as this is a remarkably good and useable keyboard, and I have been quite happy tapping away on it to write various articles including this review. It does have a tiny bit of flex under the right-hand side of the board, but this is not enough to worry me and it didn’t hinder me too much. The keys have good travel and pitch, but they do have a very loud click to them. For me, this is a negative, but for the intended use case it is not a bad thing. It will mean that when a child is using the keys, they get a firm confirmation that the keys have been pressed, both by means of the physical offered by the keys and the sound the key makes. I have used worse keyboards on laptops that have been designed for high-end purposes, so credit is due here. My only real bugbear is the lack of any backlight as personally, I find that really useful for typing in darker rooms etc.

Below the keyboard is where we find the trackpad, which is sadly one of the downsides of this machine as it is decidedly poor. It has a very strong click and it actually requires a large amount of force to get a firm click from it. The tracking is not great, which makes for moving things and highlighting text to be annoying. I also found the texture of the surface to be very similar to that of the palm rests on either side of the trackpad, causing me to sometimes lose track of where I was. I understand that with this not being a Windows system, Dell could not use the Microsoft Precision drivers, but they could have made the trackpad a little bit easier to use. I think that when these are in their destined environment, external mice will be utilised. This brings me nicely onto ports.

Strewn down either side of the laptop are ports aplenty! On the right-hand side, we find a 3.5mm headphone jack, a power switch, the volume rocker and a Kensington lock slot. On the left is where you will find not one, but two full-size USB type-A slots. A little further along is a Micro SD card port. Lastly on this side is the barrel style charging connector. It is a shame to not see a USB Type-C, as this would allow for much more flexibility whilst on a school trip or similar. In addition to the ports and switches, we also have a power LED which is set into the case which allows you to see if whether the Chromebook 11 is open or not.

One other thing on the hardware front: As you can see in one of the images above, this is capable of being used in 4 different modes; Laptop, Tablet, Stand and Tent. These provide brilliant flexibility for where the device can be used such as on the back of an aeroplane/train seat tray, where it fits very nicely in stand mode.

That is about it for the design side of things. Onto the hardware now.

Hardware

Here are the specs:

CPUIntel Celeron N3060
RAM4GB
RAM Upgradable to4GB
Hard Drive Size64GB
Hard Drive TypeeMMC
Display Size11.6″
Highest Available Resolution1366 x 768
Native Resolution1366 x 768
Ports (USB)USB 3.0
Ports (excluding USB)HDMI
USB Ports2
Card SlotsSD memory reader
Warranty/SupportOne year limited
Size11.96 x 8.18 x 0.82 inches
Weight3.2 pounds

These are pretty good specs for an educational-based laptop, and they will certainly put it up there at the top of the class. I have found that this Chromebook when compared to previous entry-level Chromebooks, runs rings around them. This is partly down to the newer Intel Celeron N3060 chip that is onboard, and also down to the 4GB of RAM. As is always the case with Chromebooks these days, the internals are all soldered onto the main board and are not user replaceable. The performance is a vast improvement over my Acer Chromebook 11 2-in-1. I found that the Acer Chromebook really got bogged down when trying to run basic tasks, including the very early versions of Android app integration.

Talking of Android apps, I was able to use the device for basic video work without any problem when using the PowerDirector video app. Running games such as Asphalt 8 presented no problem at all, even while I was using Chrome with three to four tabs open. However, the base of the machine did get a bit toasty during these gaming sessions.

The heat build-up does dissipate reasonably quickly which is good to see, especially as this is a fanless system. This is most certainly not a gaming machine though, but I was happy to see that the laptop was able to cope with some light gaming – after all work and no play makes for a very dull student.

Software

What is there to say really about Chrome OS apart from that it is a wonderfully streamlined OS that will allow you to easily get to 90% of what everyday users of laptops will be doing. Add to that the ability now to run Android apps on top of this, and you have a very competent computing device. File management is easy, and there is essentially zero maintenance needed to keep things running smoothly. This is why Chromebooks are so very well suited to use in the latter half of primary school education and the former half of secondary schools, in my opinion. They are extremely easy to manage from an IT administrators point of view, especially as they will have the very latest versions of the Chrome browser pushed out to the Chromebook automatically as soon as it is available. Viruses are not something you really need to worry about either. So yeah, not really much can be said here on a software level that is not already known.

Well, Dell decided that they wanted to make it a little bit easier on teachers, with the inclusion of a Status LED on the rear of the laptop. This can be controlled via a very simple extension for Chrome, called Dell Activity Light. This will give the Status LED a specific colour depending on what the student is wanting to indicate to the teacher. It’s kinda neat. As an added benefit, it will allow the students to become familiar with the use of keyboard shortcuts, as well as three actions all have shortcuts assigned to them.

During the testing period of the Chromebook, I received 2 updates to the OS, and these were just seamlessly downloaded in the background while I carried on working away. When I was ready to install them, I simply clicked for them to install and then after a few minutes the Chromebook was back up and running and ready for me to continue. I love this, especially after a slightly nerve-wracking experience I had at MWC with my windows machine and the notorious Windows update!

So a few other features which are new to Chromebooks since my last foray into the Chromebook world.

There is Night Light mode, which is a godsend when you are working late into the night on a Friday, writing up a Chromebook review! It reduces the amount of blue light emitted from the screen to help protect your eyes, and let you sleep better when you do turn in for the night.
The new toolbar being in the middle and acting as a launcher for frequently used apps. This is much more touch-friendly and familiar for phone users. That being said, it is not the easiest thing to do with a mouse though.
The new and improved notifications windows that pop up out of the notification area when you need to action something.
The new look of the whole Chrome OS; it ties in with Android a lot better.
The ability to run Linux, allowing the app developers of the future an environment to learn how to code and use Terminal-based programs early. This is something I wish I had been taught in school, as I would have been much more perceptive to it than when I was 26 at college!
Google Assistant being present and correct, albeit in its very basic form of a text entry box.

Conclusion

I have been pretty impressed by the Dell Chromebook 11″ 2-in-1, and if I was a student or a teacher I would be happy to use this or to distribute them to my students. Yes, there are some weaknesses when viewed in the eye of the Tech Specialist, and those who require a machine for high-end work.

However, the question I wanted to answer was is this Chromebook any good out of the classroom as well. In answer to that question: yes, it would be if all you use your laptop for is web browsing using apps and watching media, then this will work for you with the added benefit of being rugged so you don’t have to worry about it being bumped around and the occasional drop. The flexibility of it having multiple use modes is a massive plus feature, and makes it useful as a living room laptop/tablet.

Is it enough to pull me from a full Windows 10 machine? Well no, but it is enough to make me sit up and take notice of Chromebooks again. It has reinvigorated me to the possibilities that they offer, and I will be on the lookout for one again in the future.

Well done Dell for a quality product both for the classroom and out of it.

If you are interested in getting hold of one of these Chromebooks then you can buy one now from Dell for £289.99 inc VAT.

I have always liked Chromebooks, as they offer a lot of computing power and bang for your cash. Dell has been making these laptops for while, and in this latest iteration of the Chromebook 11" they have taken the skills they have learned from the enterprise range and from making rugged machines for businesses, and melded them together. The Dell Chromebook 11" 2 in 1 is designed with education needs firmly at the forefront, so whilst it may not be the sleekest looking Chromebook around it, is easily one of the more durable ones. It is priced at £289.99 on Dell's website, and whether it is worth that price is something that I hope to find out during this review. I have had the pleasure of using the Dell Chromebook 11 for the past few weeks in order to ascertain whether this is as useful outside of the classroom as it is inside one. Now to be honest I have not entrusted this to be used my son who is in primary school, as I dread to think what sort of condition it would return to me in! What I have done is use this out and about with me, whilst I have been on the go... and I have not been keeping it wrapped up in cotton wool either. I did treat the device with the appropriate level of care for a review device, as I do have to return it to Dell at the end of my testing! Design This laptop is quite simply not going to win any awards for its design. It is big for the screen size, and quite chunky. In fact, when it is compared to my XPS 13 2-in-1, it is about the same footprint even though these screens are massively different. The screen on the Chromebook 11" is as the name suggests, 11.6" and it has a very large bezel around the sides of it. In places, these bezels measure up to an inch in thickness. Those of you out there who like skinny bezels on your laptop need to look elsewhere. These large bezels, on the other hand, are here for a very good reason, they act as a form of impact protection. They also provide a good space for children to hold the device when it is in tablet mode. Again, this thing has been designed for use in the classroom and will be used by kids with their grubby and sometimes (read a lot of) the time slippery hands. It is for this reason that the edges of the laptop are covered in a grippy rubberised material which is easy to hold, and will also help if the device is dropped! Going back to that screen, this was for me one of the hardest things to get used to in the review process. The resolution on this laptop is really low at 1366 x 768. Just as a comparison, I am coming from a 4k panel on my XPS. This being said,…

Dell Chromebook 11" 2 in 1 - Review

Design - 80%
Hardware - 75%
Software - 90%
Value for money - 75%

80%

Avery capable and good Chromebook for both work and play and a great price.

80
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