Dell Chrome­book 13 (7310)

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

In re­cent years Dell has im­pressed with its range of con­sumer Chrome­books, so much so that the Dell Chrome­book 11 sits at the top of our Best Chrome­books 2016 chart (page 124). Now the PC man­u­fac­turer has re­turned with a slightly dif­fer­ent beast aimed squarely at the busi­ness mar­ket. The qual­ity of the build ma­te­ri­als has gone up, as has the price, so we take a look at the Chrome­book 13 (7310) to see how all that ex­pense pays off.

Price

Dell is of­fer­ing the Chrome­book 13 in five dif­fer­ent con­fig­u­ra­tions, all of which fea­ture the same chas­sis, ports and 13.3in HD dis­play. The main differences ap­pear in the selec­tion of CPU, RAM, and SSD.

The base model comes loaded with an In­tel Celeron 3215U CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 16GB SSD, all for £580. If you pre­fer In­tel’s Core range of pro­ces­sors, then the next model up in­cludes the same ap­point­ments as the base unit but swaps the Celeron for an In­tel Core i3-5005U 2GHz Broad­well CPU, bump­ing the cost up to £670. The same ma­chine with a 32GB SSD and touch­screen dis­play is priced £770.

Mov­ing to the top of the range mod­els sees a 2.3GHz In­tel Core Sky­lake i5-5300U, 8GB of RAM, and a stately 32GB SSD, for a grand sum of £1,030, with the ad­di­tion of a touch­screen bring­ing the price up to £1,095 in to­tal. Our re­view unit is the high-end touch­screen vari­ant.

These prices mean the pre­mium model is more ex­pen­sive than Google’s own Pixel (2015), which has al­ways been seen as the benchmark for Chrome­books. Even though that ma­chine is now al­most one year old, and still costs £999, it’s sur­pris­ing to note that some of the spec­i­fi­ca­tions are higher than that of the Dell. The Pixel (2015) ships with 16GB of RAM and 64GB of flash stor­age, plus its gor­geous screen runs at a res­o­lu­tion of 2560x1700 rather than the 1920x1080 found on the Dell, al­though the Pixel’s 3:2 ra­tio isn’t for ev­ery­one.

Of course when you get into this pricey ter­ri­tory, then you need to have a com­pelling rea­son to use a Chrome­book. The cheap sim­plic­ity that makes them so appealing to users can now be seen as a lim­i­ta­tion, es­pe­cially when pre­mium ma­chines such as the Mi­crosoft Sur­face Pro 4, Ap­ple’s MacBook Pro, and even Dell’s own XPS 13 are avail­able for around the same price.

De­sign

There’s no deny­ing that the Dell Chrome­book 13 (7310) is a pre­mium device. This is im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent by the car­bon fi­bre coat­ing on the lid, which feels sturdy and rub­bery to the touch. Lifting up the dis­play re­veals a mag­ne­sium al­loy chas­sis in a slate grey that looks both pro­fes­sional and slightly cool. It’s also a nice change from the never-end­ing sea of MacBook Pro clones that fre­quent PC man­u­fac­tur­ing at the mo­ment.

The back­lit key­board is a cu­ri­ous af­fair. While it’s great to type on and of­fers a fine tac­tile ex­pe­ri­ence, we’re con­vinced that it’s smaller than it seems. The keys look tiny even though they’re not, as our hastily found ruler proved, but it’s a cu­ri­ous trick on the eyes that per­plexed us for a good while. Maybe the spaced out look, the darker back­ground, of even the shape of the keys them­selves are the cul­prits? We couldn’t work it out, but in the end it didn’t mat­ter as our fingers found their way around and we en­joyed typ­ing on the plat­form even for long pe­ri­ods.

Dell has opted for a glass track­pad on the device and it’s a very good de­ci­sion. The smooth sur­face is ex­cel­lent, putting it up there with the MacBook Pros of the world in terms of re­sponse and ac­cu­racy. In truth it could be a tad big­ger, but we’re split­ting hairs at this point as it is a great per­former.

Of course, you won’t need to use it as much as you might think if you

opt for a model with touch­screen ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the dis­play. On our re­view unit multi-fin­ger ges­tures were sup­ported, al­low­ing us to zoom in and out of web pages with ease and, im­pres­sively, no vis­i­ble stut­ter­ing or de­lay. Scrolling through sites and se­lect­ing op­tions are all ac­com­plished with speed and ac­cu­racy, mak­ing the touch­screen some­thing you start to rely on af­ter very lit­tle time with the ma­chine.

The 13.3in dis­play it­self is good, cer­tainly for a Chrome­book. It doesn’t match the lus­cious­ness of Google’s Chrome­book Pixel (2015), but the 1920x1080 res­o­lu­tion is clear, colours are bright, and im­ages look crisp on the screen. Scal­ing is some­thing of an is­sue though, but that’s more of an is­sue for ChromeOS (and of­ten Windows too). In the Chrome browser you can set a gen­eral zoom level for when you’re read­ing web­sites, but the in­ter­face el­e­ments – icons and menu op­tions – look very small due to the high res­o­lu­tion. This isn’t ex­actly a bar­rel of fun un­less your eyes are laser sharp. There may be a way to in­crease the size, but so far it’s some­thing we haven’t dis­cov­ered. Thank­fully you don’t spend a lot of time us­ing menus in ChromeOS, but a sim­ple way to ad­just this would be wel­come.

We’ve no­ticed Chrome­books fea­ture an in­creas­ing amount of ports lately, and this Dell hosts a re­spectable num­ber of use­ful aper­tures. On the right­hand side there is a USB 2.0 port and the small square open­ing of a No­ble Lock Slot. By con­trast, the left flank houses op­tions for USB 3.0, HDMI 1.4, mi­croSD, 3.5mm head­phone jack, and the pro­pri­etary charging con­nec­tion. It’s a shame that Dell didn’t fol­low the Google Pixel and opt for a USB-C charging port, but the com­pany is far from alone in this.

Con­nec­tiv­ity is han­dled by an In­tel Dual Band Wire­less AC-7260 net­work­ing card, which al­lows for Wi-Fi 802.11ac, and is ac­com­pa­nied by a Bluetooth 4.0 LE wire­less card.

Usu­ally when we’ve reviewed pre­mium lap­tops in re­cent years they’ve tended to be slim and sleek ul­tra­book style de­vices. The Dell is rea­son­ably svelte, com­ing in at 382x253x20mm, but could shave off a bit of weight to re­duce the 1.72kg that makes it a lit­tle heav­ier than the Google Pixel, Ap­ple MacBook Pro and Acer Chrome­book 13. It’s not a heavy­weight or any­thing like that, but for a device that is meant to travel, it could be lighter.

Per­for­mance

In gen­eral op­er­a­tion this device moves along at a brisk clip, un­fet­tered by us open­ing mul­ti­ple tabs, stream­ing video, and lis­ten­ing to mu­sic. Of course, no sane per­son would use a ma­chine in this fash­ion, but we were glad to see lit­tle in the way of per­for­mance dips while this ca­coph­ony was in full force. Web pages open quickly, load­ing im­ages with­out hes­i­ta­tion, and things just tick over very nicely in­deed. The un­der-chas­sis speak­ers do a de­cent job of pro­ject­ing sound at quite loud lev­els, al­though the typ­i­cal lack of bass that plagues lap­tops is also present here.

We ran a se­ries of tests to see de­ter­mine the Dell com­pares to other Chrome­books we’ve reviewed, the speedy feel of the ma­chine was backed up by the re­sults.

On SunSpi­der 1.0.2 (which we know is old, but gives a di­rect com­par­i­son with the re­sults from ma­chines we’ve tested), the Dell scored 219.2ms, which makes it the fastest Chrome­book we’ve seen so far, and tak­ing a large chunk out of the 313ms that the Google Pixel (2015) man­aged. JetStream also pro­duced im­pres­sive re­sults with a score of 164.62, Oc­tane re­turned 26568, while Mozilla’s Kraken benched 1070.2.

Add this to the whop­ping 10 hours and 46 min­utes of bat­tery life that the Dell achieved in our looped video test and you can see that this sets a new benchmark for per­for­mance when it comes to Chrome­books.

What you do with all that power is a ques­tion mark that hangs over the device. Our re­view model costs just over £1,000, and for busi­nesses to spend that kind of money on a Chrome­book rather than a Mac or PC, the IT depart­ment will need some co­he­sive ar­gu­ments. Much of this might re­volve around Google’s Chrome­book Man­age­ment Con­sole, which al­lows sys­tem ad­min­is­tra­tors to de­ploy and con­trol apps, along­side gen­eral device man­age­ment, simultaneously for a huge num­ber of Chrome­books all via a web-based con­sole.

Pro­duc­tiv­ity is also a real thing on Chrome­books, as Google’s own range of of­fice apps con­tin­ues to ex­pand and im­press, with Mi­crosoft loy­al­ists also able to ac­cess Of­fice via the web if they must have it. Off­line ca­pa­bil­i­ties are also ma­tur­ing well, mean­ing that you can still work on doc­u­ments while on a plane or in non-Wi-Fi friendly ar­eas.

Ver­dict

This is a con­fus­ing ma­chine. On one hand it’s an im­pres­sive per­former that’s stur­dily built and con­veys a cer­tain amount of style and pro­fes­sion­al­ism. But we can’t shake the feel­ing that where the Chrome­book Pixel had a few wow fac­tors – the dis­play and in­dus­trial de­sign – that al­most tempted you to spend £1,000, the Dell just seems ex­pen­sive. That’s un­fair in some ways, as you’re get­ting a fast and durable device that will be up for the rigours of the road, which in the case of most busi­nesses is far more im­por­tant than how it looks or makes you feel. If a Chrome­book is what you want, rather than a pre­mium PC or MacBook, then the fig­ures and the bot­tom line says the Dell, but our hearts want the Pixel. Maybe that’s why we’re not busi­ness­men. Mar­tyn Casserly

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.