Dell Chromebook 11 review

Introduction

For business users that are looking for a viable alternative to the traditional Windows or Apple OS based laptop, the Dell Chromebook 11 is a budget laptop device that may be worth considering.

Many computer manufacturers of Windows devices are beginning to release Chromebooks which run on Google’s Chrome operating system.  Dell has recently jumped on board with the new Chromebook 11 which, like other models of Chromebooks, is a browser powered device.

Chrome OS has been around for a few years now and the Chromebook represents one of the simplest computers on the market today.  The device is cost effective, high performance, designed with a sturdy build, and has a battery that lasts all day on a single charge. Every Chromebook runs on Chrome OS and uses Google Drive which is Google’s cloud service and an operating system that is browser focused.

Up until the inception of the Dell Chromebook 11, Chromebooks were known as a budget device with displays that were barely high definition and components that were focused on saving power.  Because of the device being categorised as a budget machine, consumer expectations of device capability was rather low as well.  However, Dell has made a sincere effort to raise the expectations by bringing a new design and upgraded features to the table.

What is the Chromebook 11 Design Like?

The new Dell Chromebook 11 has a simple and sleek design with a chassis that is made up of a classy matte plastic material in a charcoal colour.  Despite the fact the majority of the chassis is made of plastic, the construction is very sturdy with a rubber coating that outlines the 11.6-inch screen bezel and keyboard portion of the device.

The rubber material makes the Chromebook 11 feel like the gripping on a smartphone.  It also adds a cushiony feel that feels sturdier than plastic when you rest your hands on the device during use.  Dell also blended the plastic and rubber material in a way that offers a fresh new design that takes the Chromebook 11 away from the traditional rectangular design of previous Chromebooks.

The Chromebook 11 design and aesthetics make it obvious that Dell went to great lengths to change the consumer’s perceptions and expectations of a budget device.  The Chromebook feels and looks just as high quality as the other Windows devices manufactured by Dell and has the most durable build of any Chromebook to date.

The quality construction also means that the Chromebook 11 is a bit on the hefty side but is still quite portable at 2.9 pounds and size dimensions of 11.6 x 7.9 x 0.91 inches.  Although it does not look like an Apple laptop, it also does not feel like a cheap budget device either.

The lid is also expertly crafted so it stays virtually fingerprint free and the entire device is designed with close knit edging to prevent flexing during use. This is what makes the Chromebook 11 stand out from other Chromebooks on the market where the manufacturer cut corners on the design in an effort to reduce the cost.

Chromebook 11 - front and back

What are the Specifications?

Dell designed the Chromebook 11 with an 11.6 inch display which is slightly smaller than other Chromebooks on the market.  The display offers a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution which is less than the Chromebook manufactured by Samsung.

However, the display is still a decent quality high definition touch LCD screen with respectable viewing angles and works well for browsing the Internet, getting things done on the go, and viewing multimedia.  The screen bezel measures in at about 0.75 inches which means Dell may have been able to eke out more screen real estate without sacrificing device durability.

Dell Chromebook 11 from side

Other specifications include:

Processing Performance and Storage

Depending upon the Chromebook 11 model you choose, each model is equipped with an Intel Celeron processor running at 1.4GHz.  The lower end model offers 2GB of DDR3L Random Access Memory (RAM) where the higher end models offer 4GB of DDR3L RAM.  There is also a 16GB Solid State Drive (SSD), an Intel high definition graphics processor, SD card slot for additional storage, and access to 100GB of Google Drive for up to two years.

Port Connectivity

The Dell Chromebook 11 is designed with one HDMI port, one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0 port, and a 3.5mm combination headphone/microphone jack.  You also have access to an SD card slot and a Kensington lock slot for improved security.

Dell Chromebook 11 external ports

Camera

On the top of the screen which offers a 180-degree LCD hinge, you will find a high definition webcam with 720p resolution for conducting video chats and videoconferencing sessions.

Wireless

The Chromebook 11 is equipped with two wireless LAN (Local Area Network) 2 x 2 options and offers 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi capability.  There is also access to Bluetooth 4.0 for connecting Bluetooth enabled peripherals.

Audio

The front facing dual speakers have a rather impressive sound quality that is void of the typical tin sound you experience with compact devices.  The speakers are capable of pumping out the bass and provide a well-balanced sound quality capable of filling a small room.

Keyboard

Dell Chromebook 11 keyboardFor a device of this size and budget, typing on the keyboard is a surprisingly pleasant experience.  The keys are evenly spaced and generously sized to minimise typing errors.  The top row of keys are dedicated to specific navigation functions in addition to adjusting the volume, power controls, and display settings.  The only drawback is the keyboard lacks backlighting which is not exactly a deal breaker for the price, but still worth mentioning.

The touchpad is sized at 4.0 x 2.25 inches which provides a generous amount of space for performing gestures and pressing on any part to click.  Additionally, you can use swiping motions to switch back and forth between web pages and double click with two fingers to right click on screen components.

Battery

The three cell 43WHr battery provides more than enough life to carry you through the workday without having to recharge.  When streaming a video with the display set to just under 50 percent brightness, the battery can last just over seven hours.  This is significantly longer than other Chromebooks on the market.

What is Chrome OS Like? How Does it Work?  How is it Different?

When it comes to adjusting to Chrome OS, there is not a huge learning curve as there might be when switching from Windows 7 to Window 8.1 for the first time.  The Desktop offers a simple design with a button on the lower left hand side that resembles the Start button function in Windows.  When you click on the button, it displays all of the apps you have installed on the device.

Next to the button that launches the apps, you will find easy access to the Chrome web browser button which provides a shortcut for opening the browser.  Additionally, if you want to create a shortcut for any app, simply click on it and drag to the taskbar.  Then it is not necessary to click on the button and then access the app from the panel to open it.

On the bottom right hand side of the screen you will find the clock along with a series of icons for viewing the battery level, wireless connection, and the current user.  When you click on the user icon, this allows you to access the settings for your wireless network, device accessibility, volume levels, system, and Bluetooth, as well as statistics for the battery, device shutdown and lock, and the Help section.

The Chromebook 11 also provides you with a Guest account that allows another person to use your device without gaining access to your files and information.  The guest user will only be able to use the basics and will not be able to install apps.

What makes Chrome OS different from other traditional operating systems is it is not very functional without access to the Internet.  Users who switch to Chrome OS must be able to learn to function with cloud services and the operating system tends to feel like you are always using a web browser.  This is not bad, but it is something to be aware of if you have never used Chrome OS.

Chrome OS screen shot

Apps

In terms of apps, the Google Store provides you with access to more than 32,000 apps that you can download and install on the Chromebook 11.  Additionally, the Chromebook 11 comes with a variety of preinstalled apps that can be accessed by clicking the button in the lower left hand corner of the screen or by pinning them to the task bar at the bottom of the screen.

A few of the apps such as the gaming apps, operate on HTML 5 which creates some limitations.  But, overall you will find a nice selection of apps that serve a broad range of purposes for both work and play.  For business users, you also have access to Google Docs, Slideshows, and Spreadsheets which makes the Chromebook 11 a viable option for getting you through your workday.

Although Chrome OS is heavily reliant on an Internet connection, Google has still provided a decent selection of apps that are capable of functioning in the offline environment.  This helps to expand the capabilities of Chromebook 11.

As of currently, there are literally hundreds of apps available in the Google Store that are capable of functioning without an Internet connection.  In some cases, this means you may be required to configure a few simple settings to allow the app to work offline. Other apps may require you to open them while you have an Internet connection to enable them to work when you are offline.

What are the Pros and Cons?

Overall, the Dell Chromebook 11 represents a significant improvement for a design and construction that has remained somewhat stagnant since Chrome OS was first introduced a few years ago. Here are a few pros and cons to round out the review:

Pros

  • Stylish design is both sturdy and durable.
  • Keyboard and touchpad offers spill protection.
  • High quality speakers are exceptional for a device of this size.
  • 180 degree LCD hinge provides versatility.
  • Zippy performance helps you to easily get through daily tasks.
  • Impressive battery life carries you through the day without a single recharge.
  • Price which ranges from £237 to £327 is a great value for the money.

Cons

  • The Chromebook 11 is a bit hefty when compared to other devices of this size.
  • Display provides some glare in certain environments.
  • Screen resolution could be improved.
  • Fans tend to be a bit on the noisy side.

When you compare the Chromebook 11 to other similar devices on the market, it offers two USB ports and has maintained the same functional features the Chromebook is known for.  However, this time around Dell has set a new precedent by releasing a Chromebook that comes closer to the expectations of business professionals that are looking for an affordable way to get things done on the go.

Final verdict. Very good. 

For a device in the price range of £237 to £327, the Dell Chromebook 11 is great value with its sleek and durable design, snappy performance and impressive audio, and nice variety of productivity apps. Plus, Dell has managed to raise the bar for Chromebook while still maintaining affordability and functionality in a device that does not appear as though it was manufactured on a budget.

About the Author

Our IT Department is a professional IT services company with offices based in Central and East London. We provide fully managed onsite and remote IT services to SMEs in London and the surrounding counties. Visit our website for more information on our range of IT services.

All images used in this review are property of their respective owners. We would take our own but they wouldn’t look as good!

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