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!
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.
Here are the specs:
|CPU||Intel Celeron N3060|
|RAM Upgradable to||4GB|
|Hard Drive Size||64GB|
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.