Dell In­sp­iron 11 3000

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

At this sort of price you may be wor­ried about the build qual­ity, but it’s re­as­sur­ingly solid. While made from plas­tic, no parts of it flex

£179 inc VAT • dell.com/uk

Dell wants to prove that a bot­tom-rung lap­top needn’t be an un­ap­peal­ing, chunky brick. The In­sp­iron 11 3000 is cheap, colour­ful and about as por­ta­ble as you could wish for. Avail­able in red, blue or white, it will at­tract more at­ten­tion than a MacBook.

De­sign

The In­sp­iron 11 3000 is small, light, but also a proper lap­top. A lot of the Win­dows de­vices you’ll find around this price are hy­brids. Here, the screen is firmly at­tached to the key­board base, and the brains sit in the base rather than the dis­play. There are ben­e­fits to a tra­di­tional de­vice like this. It’s not top-heavy, for ex­am­ple, so you can work with it on your knees with­out it want­ing to top­ple over as soon as you take your hands off it. Hy­brids rarely have great key­boards.

The Dell weighs 1.2kg, so it’s light enough to be car­ried about ev­ery­where with­out it feel­ing like a bur­den. It’s about half the weight of a ba­sic 15.6in lap­top.

At this sort of price you may be wor­ried about the build qual­ity, but it’s re­as­sur­ingly solid. While made from plas­tic, no parts of it flex as if they rely on a 1mm-thick piece of plas­tic to hold ev­ery­thing to­gether. The colour piz­zazz is wel­come too, and Dell has spent some time think­ing about how to best present the lap­top. Its lid is glossy, the in­te­rior mostly matt and the un­der­side a to­tally matt rough plas­tic with rub­ber feet.

With a fully colour-matched frame, the Dell looks the part. Only the key­board and screen sur­round are black. It earns top marks for prac­ti­cal­ity, while hav­ing a fun edge, too.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

One fact that might sur­prise some of you is that the In­sp­iron 11 3000 has much bet­ter real-world con­nec­tiv­ity than the 12in MacBook. You get two full-size USB ports (one USB 2.0, one USB 3.0), a full-size HDMI port, a mi­croSD slot and a head­phone jack.

Key­board and track­pad

This is Win­dows 10 lap­top has been de­signed to be car­ried around, so it’s good that the key­board and track­pad are both solid. The keys are just a shade smaller than full-size, but aren’t cramped or un­com­fort­able. Key feed­back is sur­pris­ingly good, too. They’re shal­low, but there’s a firm, crisp action to them and none of the spongi­ness you get with some bud­get ma­chines.

Be­ing an en­try-level ma­chine, the In­sp­iron 11 3000 doesn’t have a back­lit key­board, and size re­stric­tions mean some of the sec­ondary keys are slightly cut down a lit­tle. How­ever, no strange de­ci­sions have been made here, so you shouldn’t find the tran­si­tion too fraught. We did have to switch its key­board lay­out from US to UK, but this is a quick fix.

The de­cent track­pad is more of a sur­prise. It fol­lows the style of an Ul­tra­book pad, with in­te­grated mouse but­tons and a tex­tured plas­tic sur­face that at­tempts to feel like the frosted glass used in the most ex­pen­sive lap­tops. It’s im­pres­sive for a £179 ma­chine, and even the click action is spot on. It’s not too deep, nor too stiff and the dead zone at the top of the pad isn’t too large.

Like most Win­dows ma­chines, the Dell splits the pad into zones that de­ter­mine whether a click fires off the ‘left’ or ‘right’ mouse but­ton com­mand. Most of the pad is left but­ton, of course, with just the bot­tom-right area used for right-click­ing.

Dis­play

The 1.6in 1366x768-pixel LCD screen is ba­sic and does not com­pare at all well to sim­i­larly-priced tablets. It has a matt fin­ish, does not have a touch­screen and the hinge only ex­tends to around 135 de­grees (the ‘nor­mal’ lap­top max screen an­gle). This is a TN LCD screen rather than the IPS type found on more ex­pen­sive lap­tops and al­most all tablets. View­ing an­gles are con­se­quently nar­rower and colour per­for­mance is poor.

The Dell In­sp­iron 11 3000 cov­ers just 52.4 per­cent of the sRGB colour gamut, the stan­dard de­vised for mon­i­tors and print­ers back in

the 1990s. Colours don’t pop out of the screen, al­though our col­orime­ter shows that Dell has cal­i­brated the dis­play to make shades ap­pear more vivid, so our per­cep­tion of un­der­sat­u­ra­tion isn’t as bad as it could be.

This is not a beau­ti­ful screen, but it is a prac­ti­cal one. A matt fin­ish makes it easy to use out­doors, while re­spectable (for the price) 281cd/m2 max­i­mum bright­ness means you can use the In­sp­iron 11 3000 out­doors with­out what’s on-screen be­com­ing vir­tu­ally invisible.

You won’t want to watch films on the Dell ev­ery night un­less you have no other op­tion, but this is fun­da­men­tally the right kind of screen for a lap­top like this.

Per­for­mance

There’s only one rea­son why you should pause be­fore in­vest­ing in a lap­top this cheap: its per­for­mance. The In­sp­iron 11 3000 comes with a low-end CPU, an In­tel Celeron dual-core N3050. This is part­nered with 2GB RAM, again a bot­tom-rung spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

The re­sult is frus­trat­ing per­for­mance. Tap­ping on the Start menu but­ton, for ex­am­ple, might be met with a half-sec­ond pause as the apps dis­play pops-up. Busy, com­pli­cated web­sites feel slow, too. And al­most all web­sites are slower to load than on a Core i-se­ries lap­top or a de­cent phone. If you have any­thing re­motely com­pli­cated to do on your lap­top, you’ll need to find a ma­chine with a bet­ter spec­i­fi­ca­tion than this, prefer­ably one with at least an In­tel Core i3 CPU. We did, how­ever, find that the 32GB solid-state mem­ory caused less is­sues than the 500GB 5400rpm hard drive some en­try-level lap­tops use. It’s nim­bler, even if its speeds aren’t re­motely close to those of a proper SSD.

Avail­able stor­age is very poor as a re­sult – you can use just 8GB of the full 32GB stor­age. This meant we couldn’t per­form most of our usual tests. We were un­able, for ex­am­ple, to in­stall Thief, al­though even if we could the game wouldn’t be playable. A sim­i­larly-spec­i­fied ma­chine man­ages around 2- to 3fps.

If, how­ever, you’re look­ing for a ma­chine to write doc­u­ments, it’s an ex­cel­lent choice. Our £179 model didn’t come with a full Mi­crosoft Of­fice li­cense, but WordPad is al­ways on-hand (Win­dows’ built-in word pro­ces­sor) and there are many free al­ter­na­tives.

As it doesn’t have a hard drive or a pow­er­ful pro­ces­sor, it’s silent too, and it can awake from sleep in a cou­ple of sec­onds only.

Bat­tery life

What ce­ments the In­sp­iron 11 3000 as a use­ful ma­chine in spite of its lim­ited power is bat­tery life. When left to a light-de­mand task, it can last for a full day’s work. Our stan­dard bat­tery test in­volves leav­ing a lap­top play­ing a looped 720p video, and the Dell lasted eight hours 15 min­utes. This is pretty close to Dell’s claim of”up to nine hours 34 min­utes”, and means the In­sp­iron won’t die when you need it.

Thanks to its prac­ti­cal de­sign, we’ve also found it easy to slip the Dell In­sp­iron 11 3000 into our day-to-day rou­tine to use as a work ma­chine. When used for brows­ing, typ­ing and so on, it’ll also last a full day’s work with­out any trou­ble.

At this price, any­thing more than an au­dio dis­as­ter can be con­sid­ered a suc­cess, and the Dell 11 3000’s speak­ers are fine. Their sound takes on a slightly hard edge at max­i­mum vol­ume, but they don’t dis­tort hugely. The tone is also not reed-thin.

In a sim­i­lar vein, while the 0.9Mp cam­era’s grain is vis­i­ble even when you’re pre­view­ing the im­age in a win­dow that takes up half the screen only, it will still let you video chat with friends and rel­a­tives at 720p res­o­lu­tion.

Verdict

If you’re af­ter a bud­get lap­top that will let you work on the go and last all day, the In­sp­iron 11 3000 is one of your best op­tions. It’s com­fort­able to type on, has a prac­ti­cal screen and its bat­tery life is great among Win­dows lap­tops. Just make sure you’re ready for its ba­sic per­for­mance. Win­dows 10 is slow, mak­ing the Dell more suited for use as a word pro­ces­sor or for check­ing emails as you nip be­tween free Wi-Fi spots across town. If you can’t put up with a bit of lag, con­sider get­ting a Chrome­book in­stead.

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