You'll be surprised by what you can get for $199 these days. Take the candy-colored Dell Inspiron 11 3000, an 11-inch notebook with epic battery life and solid audio. The display is on the dim side, but overall, this Dell is a great choice for a secondary machine or your kid's first PC.
Design: Fun colors
Dell makes the plastic Inspiron 11 3000 in kid-friendly red, white and blue designs. We tested the former, which is a shade that reminds me of a kid's race-car bed.
The notebook's glossy lid attracts as many eyes as fingerprints (tons) with a matte, off-tone Dell logo in the center of its lid. Inside, the power button is located near the top-right corner of a recessed full-size keyboard.
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Weighing 2.4 pounds and measuring 0.8 inches thick, the Inspiron 11 is lighter and thinner than the Acer Chromebook 11 N7 (2.8 pounds, 0.9 inches), but thicker than the Lenovo Ideapad 110S (2.4 pounds, 0.7 inches).
Dell placed the Inspiron 11's SD card reader and its ports for power, USB 3.0 and HDMI on the left side. Its USB 2.0 port, headphone jack and Noble security lock slot are on the right.
Display: Max brightness required
The Inspiron 11's display gets the job done, but it isn't great for entertainment. When watching The Defenders trailer on the notebook, I noted that Luke Cage's wooden headboard looked too dark and Danny Rand's iron fist rendered with too much orange. While we're not surprised to see a 1366 x 768-pixel panel in a $200 laptop, it's another reminder of "you get what you pay for." On the other hand, the screen was good enough for me to read web pages and write in Google Docs.
According to our colorimeter, the Inspiron 11 produces only 67 percent of the sRGB spectrum. That's close to the marks from the Ideapad 110S (70 percent) and the Chromebook 11 (72 percent).
The Inspiron 11 is definitely not a laptop you'll use outdoors. The panel emits only up to 196 nits of brightness. That's dimmer than the Ideapad 110S (213 nits), the Chromebook 11 (235 nits) and the 291-nit category average. Although it was bright enough for me to read text and write on it, its colors darkened significantly when I viewed the screen from 20 degrees to the left or right.
Keyboard and Touchpad: Surprisingly OK
The Inspiron 11's keyboard isn't perfect, but it does enable solid typing. When I took it out for a test on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I click-clacked my way to 71 words per minute, which is below my 80-wpm average. Although its keys require an acceptable amount of actuation force (74 grams; we want at least 60 g), they're a little too shallow, with only 1 millimeter of travel (we look for at least 1.5 mm). While I wish it were deeper, I can appreciate that the deck doesn't flex -- a problem that plagued the Ideapad 110S.
The Inspiron 11's 3.9 x 2.1-inch buttonless touchpad accurately tracked my input and recognized three-finger Windows 10 app navigation gestures. While it felt stiff-to-the-click at first, my fingers soon accepted how much force it took to depress.
Audio: More than I expected at this price
I knew $200 headphones sounded good, but it turns out that $200 laptops can sound pretty great, too. The Inspiron 11 filled our large conference room with a strong rendition of Fall Out Boy's "Young And Menace," that featured accurate bass, clear vocals and sweet synths.
I recommend you keep the preloaded Dell Audio utility's default presets (speaker enhancement on, MaxxSense preset) to hear the best audio from the budget machine.
I hope you like doing one thing at a time, as the Celeron N3060 CPU and 2GB of RAM in the Inspiron 11 do not enable good multitasking. I caught the machine slowing down after trying to open a second tab in Chrome while a YouTube video played in the first one. Without streaming video, it took five simultaneous tabs to make the Inspiron 11 stutter.
The Inspiron 11 earned a low 1,813 on the Geekbench 4 general performance benchmark, which is close to the 1,847 earned by the Ideapad 110S (which features the same CPU and RAM).
The Inspiron 11's JetStream score of 49.4 (bigger scores are better) is similar to the 49 from the Chromebook 11 (Celeron N3060, 4GB of RAM) but lower than the 57.2 from the Ideapad 110S.
The 32GB eMMC hard drive in the Inspiron 11 needed 1 minute to duplicate 4.97GB of multimedia files, for a speed of 84.82 MBps. That's slightly faster than the 73.75 MBps eMMC drive in the Ideapad 110S.
The Inspiron 11's time of 13 minutes and 14 seconds on the OpenOffice macro test (matching 20,000 names to addresses) is a bit faster than the 13:23 mark from the Ideapad 110S.
We hope you like Windows Photos and Candy Crush Soda Saga. The Inspiron 11 enables only minor image editing or gaming, as it earned a superlow 13,297 on the Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test. That's lower than the 19,265 from the Ideapad 110S.
At this price, it would be very hard to find a laptop that offers longer battery life than the Inspiron 11. The notebook lasted 13 hours and 39 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web browsing at 100 nits), which beats the runtimes of the Ideapad 110S (7:22) and the Chromebook 11 (10:38).
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As with most laptops we see these days, the Inspiron 11 packs a 0.9-megapixel webcam that's barely suitable for Skype calls. So although I'm recognizable in the selfies I shot in our office, there's a lot of visual noise on the wall behind me, my skin and my sweater. Further, the red wall has too much yellow in it, and I can see blotches of dark distortion in my green sweater.
This Inspiron 11 may come in a hot shade of red, but it stays cool during use. After we streamed 15 minutes of HD video on the notebook, our heat gun picked up temperatures on its touchpad (74 degrees Fahrenheit), G and H keys (84 degrees) and underside (87.5 degrees) that all fell below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Software and Warranty
Yes, you can get a full-fledged Windows 10 machine for $199. And although some people would argue that a similarly priced Chromebook can do just as much as this sluggish PC, Chrome OS doesn't have the full Microsoft Office suite, which schools often require.
The silver lining of the Inspiron 11's paltry 32GB of storage is that it doesn't offer enough space for Dell to load it with (much) bloatware. It does pack everything we expect to see in a Dell, including the company's Power Manager Lite battery settings utility and SupportAssist system info tool. You also get Candy Crush, Sling and Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition, which you'll want to delete to reclaim the notebook's precious storage space.
The Inspiron 11 3000 comes with Dell's standard one-year limited hardware warranty, where Dell pays for shipping and the customer supplies the box. Check out how Dell did in our 2017 Best and Worst Brands and Tech Support Showdown rankings.
The Inspiron 11 3000 comes in two configurations, and the company offers both in red, white and blue designs. The $199 entry-level model we tested packs an Intel Celeron N3060 CPU, 2GB of RAM and a 32GB eMMC hard drive. Dell also sells the notebook with 4GB of RAM for $249.
We're astonished to see 13-plus hours of battery life from a $199 laptop, as well as audio that sounds this sweet. And while I don't love the display, it's acceptable at this price. If you can live within the limits of Chrome OS, an alternative would be the $229 Acer Chromebook 11 N7, which offers an excellent keyboard and similar performance. The Lenovo Ideapad 110S is currently on sale for $159, though it doesn't last as long on a single charge. Overall, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 is a smart choice for users with modest demands and tight budgets.