Dell's latest education laptop is -- no surprises here -- a Chromebook. Starting at $289 ($329 as tested), the Chromebook 5190 is an affordable laptop running Chrome OS with over 10 hours of battery life and some rugged features to keep it from getting beaten up when it's jammed in a locker. But it doesn't have a touch screen except for one configuration, and Chrome's Android app support practically demands it. That may lead you to upgrade, or to find another school notebook.
Design and Durability
The Chromebook 5190 is nothing special to look at. It has a utilitarian design that knows what it is: a cheap laptop aimed at life in a school. It's a black plastic block with a silver Dell logo; the Chrome emblem in the top left-hand corner is the only pop of color on the thing.
The edges are covered in a rubberized material that Dell says can withstand 30-inch drops onto steel. Dell also claims that the laptop is MIL-STD-810G tested against shocks, drops and more, which means it should survive falling out of a student's backpack or being tossed in the car on the way home from school without much issue.
Opening the laptop reveals an 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 display ringed by a thick bezel, with an island-style keyboard surrounded by a plastic deck. The company claims the keyboard can survive up to 12-ounce spills, just in case a student has an accident with a juice box.
Each side of the laptop has a USB Type-C port (you can charge on either side) and a USB 3.0 port. The left side also features a microSD card reader and a headphone jack, while there's a Noble lock slot on the right side.
Weighing in at 2.9 pounds and 12 x 8.2 x 0.8 inches, Dell's Chromebook is slightly larger but no heavier than competitors. The Acer Chromebook 11 N7 C731T is 2.8 pounds and 11.7 x 8.3 x 0.9 inches, the Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook measures 3 pounds and 11.7 x 8.1 x 0.8 inches and the Samsung Chromebook 3 is a lighter 2.5 pounds and 11.4 x 8 x 0.7 inches.
The 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 display on the Chromebook 5190 isn't the sharpest out there, but it's on a par with other cheap competitors. I watched a 1080p trailer for Venom, and the display was bright enough even in the darker scenes, though Venom's white eyes and sickly red tongue didn't look as haunting in contrast to the black alien symbiote as it does on better monitors.
Dell's display covers 73 percent of the sRGB color gamut, tying Lenovo and coming 1 point ahead of the Acer (72 percent). The average Chromebook display covers 80 percent of the gamut (thanks to premium machines like Google's own Pixelbook) and the Samsung fell behind at 63 percent.
The Dell measured 258 nits of average brightness on our light meter, falling behind the average (268 nits) and the Samsung (259 nits), but more luminous than both the Lenovo Flex (227 nits) and the Acer (235 nits).
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Chromebook 5190's keyboard offers just 1.3 millimeters of travel and requires 74 grams of force to press. Despite that shallow travel (we prefer 1.5 millimeters or more), I didn't bottom out. In fact, my only problem is that the keys are not only made of cheap plastic, but they feel like it. On the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I reached 108 words per minute, within my usual range, but with a 3 percent error rate rather than my usual 2 percent.
I found the 3.8 x 2.1-inch touchpad to be the slightest bit stiff, especially when right clicking. But it was otherwise completely responsive, including for Chrome gestures like swiping with three fingers to switch between tabs.
The speakers on the Chromebook 5190 are surprisingly loud. When I listened to Earth, Wind & Fire's "September," it filled my New York City apartment with ease. The vocals, drums and guitars were clear, as were the horns, but the keys have a tendency to get lost in the mix and the bass was basically nonexistent. There's no software on the Chromebook to adjust the speakers (which isn't a strike against it -- that's the case on most, if not all, Chromebooks).
Dell's Chromebook has an Intel Celeron N3450 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of EMMC storage. That's not exactly a powerhouse, but it can keep enough tabs open for some homework. I had 15 tabs open in Google Chrome, including one streaming an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, but there were a few performance hiccups here and there as I opened up more tabs.
On the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, the Chromebook earned a score of 4,193. That's lower than the Chromebook average of 6,060, but that average includes high-end consumer-focused notebooks, like Google's Pixelbook.
MORE: Best Chromebooks Available Now
On the WebGL Aquarium benchmark, the Chromebook could display 500 fish at 46 frames per second (fps). That's higher than the average (33 fps), the Lenovo (37 fps) and the Samsung (23 fps) but not as good as the Acer (51 fps).
Chrome OS is Google's lightweight operating system that consists primarily of its browser, Chrome. There is a desktop and a taskbar that will be familiar to Windows users, but the browser is where most of the action happens.
Chromebooks can now run Android Apps from the Google Play Store, though those tend to be built for touch screens. They'll work with a mouse (I played some Super Mario Run on this Chromebook), but they're better served on 2-in-1s. Additionally, in our testing we've found that not all Android apps play nice with Chromebooks yet, and some act up or don't work at all.
Dell's Chromebook will last a whole school day and still be ready for some homework. It ran for 9 hours and 50 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test 2.0, which continuously browses the web, watches videos and runs through a gamut of graphics benchmarks. The competitors ran our old battery test, which just browses the web. On this test, the Acer (10:38) lasted longer, but the Flex (7:57) and Samsung (9:44) didn't have the same kind of endurance.
MORE: Longest Battery Life Laptops
The 720p webcam on the Chromebook 5190 made me look like the Cheshire Cat. When I took a photo with it while using the laptop in my apartment, I appeared purple, though my brown T-shirt remained the proper color, as did the poster on the wall behind me.
It's detailed enough for a simple school project, but that project won't look great.
Don't worry about junior burning their lap, because the Chromebook 5190 runs cool. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video from YouTube, the laptop measured 89 degrees Fahrenheit on the bottom, 85 degrees at the center of the keyboard and 79 degrees on the touchpad. That's all well below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Warranty & Support
Dell sells the Chromebook 5190 with a one-year warranty. See how the company performed on our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands ranking.
How Much Does a Chromebook 5190 Cost?
The Dell Chromebook 5190 we reviewed costs $329 and comes with an Intel Celeron N3450 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of EMMC storage.
The base model is $289 but has just 16GB of storage and a Celeron N3350 processor. A maxed-out model has a touch screen, the N3350 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 16GB of storage for $339.
The Dell Chromebook 5190 is an affordable laptop with Google's minimalist operating system and just under 10 hours of battery life. It's no powerhouse, but will handle a few browser tabs in a classroom with ease. If you want something with a sleeker profile, the Samsung Chromebook 3 is the way to go, but it's an older model than the Dell and the performance isn't as good. If you want a touch screen for those Android apps but don't want to upgrade, there's the Acer Chromebook 11.
But if the student in your life needs long battery life and only uses a keyboard and mouse, there's a place in their backpack for the Chromebook 5190.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag