Dell Chromebook 11 review
The Dell Chromebook 11 is a low-price Chrome OS-powered laptop, and like the majority of Chromebooks it’s suitably small, compact and good-looking. It’s also cheap, relative to a regular general-purpose laptop, but as it’s a Chromebook there are limitations that you have to accept, such as a primary reliance on the internet and an incredibly low-capacity SSD.
To its credit, Dell has made the device look stylish without having to apply a high price. The dark grey plastic shell is understated and wouldn't look out of place on a more expensive corporate laptop. The Chromebook 11 weighs 1.3kg, and is 21mm thick. This means it’s certainly portable, and will easily fit in a school bag or rucksack, but isn’t as svelte as we’d like. Even though the Chromebook’s chassis is made out of several different plastic components, they fit together well and we struggled to find any weak points in the various joins.
The touchpad on the device is small, but it's responsive to both taps and clicks. It doesn't recognise any gestures beyond two-finger scrolling and two-finger clicks, but it's reliable enough for normal inputs.
The Chromebook 11 has a decent complement of connection ports, with two USB3 ports, a HDMI graphics output, an SD card reader and a headphone jack. Happily, the HDMI port can output Full HD video should you connect it to a Full HD monitor.
In real terms, the device is capable of running with dozens of tabs open without much objection. Chrome OS tends to forget about open tabs, meaning it has to reload them from a cache stored on its 16GB SSD. Unlike some Chromebooks, this process only takes a couple of seconds on the Dell Chromebook 11.
The Chromebook 11’s screen is fairly typical of super-cheap laptops, and in our tests the 1,366x768-resolution TN panel could only display 58 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut. Viewing angles are also poor, but no worse than those of any other Chromebook we've used.
Battery life is certainly good, with the Chromebook 11 lasting 9 hours and 30 minutes in our battery test. This is the best result we've ever seen for a Chromebook by some margin. It lasted two hours longer than the Toshiba Chromebook CB30-102, which was the previous best performer.
The Dell Chromebook runs Chrome OS, an operating system dependent upon web-based applications and cloud storage to be useful. Ideally, you'll be connected to the internet throughout your time with the device, but when your connection drops the device is still useful. While almost all of its applications run in the web browser, some, such as Google Docs and Sheets can also run when you're not connected to the internet. The changes you've made to documents will be synchronised with Google Drive when your internet connection returns.
You may want to change how you share documents with friends and colleagues if you adopt the Chromebook way of life. While it’s possible to save files to a USB flash drive, it’s much easier to share documents by sending a link via email or private message. If you allow it, they'll also be able to edit the document to add their feedback or correct errors, and you'll see those changes reflected in real time.
If you like your media, you’ll be happy to know that it's easy to listen to music and watch videos stored on a USB drive thanks to Chrome OS’s built-in media player and an easy-to-use file explorer.
Chromebooks provide a cheap means of using Google's services and apps, and the included 2-year, 100GB subscription to Google Drive storage adds extra value, as it would normally cost around £1.20 per month.
The Dell Chromebook 11 is a good addition to the Chromebook range. Its solid performance, combined with the ever-improving Chrome OS and sturdy build quality, make it a good buy. However, if you're after an 11in Chromebook, you're better off with the cheaper Acer C720 Chromebook, or you could get the 13in Toshiba Chromebook CB30-102 for around £35 more. Also, Intel Core i3-based Chromebooks will soon be available, which are likely to be significantly faster. You may, therefore, wish to wait before you buy a Chromebook.