- Bright, responsive touch screen
- Good basic 2-in-1 device
- Keyboard, chassis not designed well
- Performance not up to par for streaming video
- No SSD option
The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series 2-in-1 notebook PC is an inexpensive device (starting at $399.99) that works for people who just need basic functionality. That said, it's not designed for power users, business people, or gamers.
Times are tough when it comes to budget laptops these days. People shopping for a low-priced notebook PC have always wanted “good enough” performance but in a world full of very capable smartphones and tablets it’s hard to deliver performance and features that are “good enough” on a budget and still deliver more than a cheaper device. That’s where Dell’s Inspiron 11 3000 series fits in; this 2-in-1 hybrid notebook and tablet tries to walk that thin line between giving you more than a budget tablet while keeping the price as low as possible.
Build and Design
The Inspiron 11 2-in-1 notebook comes in a neat and compact package that for the most part fits easily into most bags. The Inspiron measures 0.83 in. x 11.81 in. x 7.93 in., and weighs 3.07 lbs., including the touch screen.
Right off the bat, Dell made several disappointing design decisions with this 2-in-1.
First, the power button is on the side of the bottom right hand corner of the device. This is not at all intuitive for laptop users because most power buttons are on the keyboard, display or even on the upper right hand corner of the keyboard.
Second, the Inspiron’s chassis seems cheap, despite its rounded edges, which gives it a softer look and feel. When the 2-in-1 is closed, it leaves a gap between the keyboard and display. Ideally it’d shut completely, but the slight gap makes the laptop easier to open. The Inspiron 11 has a nice silver matte sheen but the chassis’ plastic texture creates the impression of a low-quality unit.
Third, there’s a constant rubbing sound while typing caused by our wrist’s motion against the wrist pad while typing. If the chassis was smoother, the noise level wouldn’t be apparent.
When the device is in notebook mode, there’s a Windows toggle button that brings you to the Windows 8.1 Start menu home screen. Push it again, and it’ll bring you back to the last app you were working on. This is almost unnecessary because there’s already a Windows home screen button on the keyboard. Although the toggle button is necessary in tablet mode, it would have been nicer if it laid flat on the screen to create a sleeker look.
On the bright side, the hinge holding the keyboard and display is very tight and prevents the screen from shaking wildly when using the touchscreen. This is a solid improvement over similar devices, which tend to be flimsy at best.
Flipping the screen back 360 degrees to turn the Inspiron 11 into the tablet mode isn’t particularly smooth because of the strong hinges. But the tight hinges also serve to use the keyboard as a kickstand for the tablet stand mode. It’s useful for watching videos, swiping through PowerPoint slides, or even reading eBooks at a desk. Typing with the on-screen keyboard while in the tablet stand mode was steady and worked well.
The screen and keyboard aren’t detachable, which makes the Inspiron 11 2-in-1 too heavy to work in tablet mode for long periods of time. No one would want to carry 3 lbs. in the crook of their arm for hours on end.
Input and Output Ports
On the right hand side, the device includes one USB 3.0 port next to a SD card reader slot. On the left side are two closely placed USB slots, an HDMI port, power adapter port, and speaker/headphone port. Unfortunately the close placement for the two USB slots makes it tough to plug in and remove an external device unless they are small.
Screens and Speakers
Overall, the HD screen was relatively bright and touch was responsive. The device’s 11.6-inch LED backlit touch display sports an HD resolution of 1366 x 768 and wide-angle viewing (IPS) capabilities. The display holds up well in direct and indirect lighting. Additionally, the viewing angles are extremely wide so you have an excellent view of the screen from almost any direction, but that is what you expect from an IPS display. There’s still some glare on the display surface when the device is taken outside, but that’s also to be expected.
The Inspiron’s speakers aren’t particularly noteworthy as it produced a thin sound without a headset. This isn’t surprising given the price, but it some tablets and phones sound better than this 2-in-1.
The QWERTY rubber keyboard is standard with no surprises on the layout. The one bonus is that there are dedicated buttons for muting, raising, and lowering the sound.
However, the keyboard is disappointing overall. The rubber keys don’t feel responsive, due to weak feedback which can take to some getting used to. The material doesn’t produce much sound, which is a nice change from the clattering on other devices. The “1” key is barely responsive, though it’s unclear if this is a design problem across the board or with our test unit.
The multi-touch touchpad itself worked well. However, it seemed unusually large on the device as because takes up the center of the bottom third of the keyboard. This makes it easy to accidentally activate the touchpad when typing; a problem that could have been avoided with a smaller touchpad or better placement.