These days, you don't have to pay a huge premium to get a hybrid laptop. Starting at just $249 ($449 as tested), Dell's Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 combines competent performance with a colorful design and a 360-degree hinge that allows it to bend back into tablet, tent and stand modes. The 2015 edition of this laptop had a starting price that was $80 higher and a bland, gray chassis. However, in reaching an even more affordable price, the Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 compromises on screen quality and battery life.
In an improvement over 2015's boring silver model, the 2016 Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 comes in eye-catching "Bali Blue" and "Tango Red" as well as the banal "Alpine White" and "Foggy Night Grey." Its glossy, plastic shell may show off fingerprints, but it also offers a sturdy feel. The Inspiron 11's 11.6-inch display revolves on zinc- alloy hinges that enable you to use it in laptop, display, tent and tablet modes.
The hybrid's volume and power buttons sit flush on the front of its left side, which is unfortunate, as it's too easy to accidentally turn off the computer, which I did multiple times during testing.
Weighing 2.8 pounds and measuring 0.82 inches thick, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 is heavier and thicker than the Microsoft Surface 3 with its Type Cover (1.95 pounds, 0.53 inches) and the Lenovo Ideapad Miix 310 (2.4 pounds, 0.71 inches), heavier than the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA (2.61 pounds, 0.73 inches) and thinner than the Acer Aspire Switch 10 E (2.82 pounds, 1.01 inches).
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Dell placed HDMI and USB 3.0 ports, as well as an SD card reader, on the left side of the Inspiron 11. The headphone jack, dual USB 2.0 ports and a Noble lock slot are on the right side.
In a huge step backward from last year's model, the 2016 version of the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 has a dim screen with very limited color reproduction. When I watched a Suicide Squad trailer on the notebook's 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768-pixel display, I noticed that the panel reproduced the warm orange glow in El Diablo's flaming hands but muted the blues and reds of Harley Quinn's outfit. Pixelation, as well as a white cast that washed out the display, combined to bleach Gotham's normally dark and foreboding sewers and prisons.
According to our colorimeter, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 produced a slim 56 percent of the sRGB spectrum. That's less than the Surface 3 (99 percent), the Ideapad Miix 310 (84 percent), the Transformer Book Flip TP200SA (69 percent), the Aspire Switch 10 E (70 percent) and the average for ultraportables (123 percent), which includes more expensive notebooks. Last year's model displayed a much stronger 81.4 percent.
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The Inspiron 11's display doesn't show accurate color, either; it earned a score of just 3.79 on the Delta-E test (in which closer to 0 is better). The Surface 3 (3.11), Ideapad Miix 310 (0.79), Transformer Book Flip TP200SA (0.3), Aspire Switch 10 E (0.42) and average ultraportable (1.46) recorded better scores.
Whereas last year's screen offered a bright 308 nits, the new Inspiron 11 3000 emits only 208 nits, making it dimmer than the Surface 3 (407 nits), the Ideapad Miix 310 (255 nits), the Transformer Book Flip TP200SA (243 nits), the Aspire Switch 10 E (263 nits) and the average for ultraportables (287 nits). The Inspiron 11 isn't good for group viewings, as color darkening and reflections muddied its display at 45 degrees to the left and right.
Keyboard, Touch Screen, Touchpad
The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1's keyboard, touch-screen display and touchpad provide acceptable, but not stellar, input options. When I tested out the hybrid's keyboard on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I clicked my way to 74 words per minute, which isn't too far from my 80-wpm average.
The notebook's slightly shallow keys offer 1.37 millimeters of travel and require 54 grams of force to actuate. Those measurements are shy of what we hope to find in ultraportable notebook keyboards (1.5 mm and 60 grams). In testing, I found the keys were decent enough for me to write short bursts, but they didn't feel responsive enough for long writing sessions.
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The Inspiron 11's 10-point touch screen quickly and accurately registered my scrolling and navigation gestures. It also kept up with my fingers as I speedily doodled in MS Paint.
The Inspiron 11's 3.9 x 2.1-inch buttonless touchpad gave a solid feel to each click, and it allowed for smooth two-finger scrolling as I navigated through web pages. The touchpad also did a fine job of recognizing the three-finger Windows navigation gestures.
The speaker strip at the top of the Dell Inspiron 11 3000's keyboard deck delivered a lot of volume, filling a large conference room with a strong rendition of Kid Cudi's "Pursuit of Happiness." The track's bass thumped well, synths came through accurately, and vocals sounded clear and crisp.
The Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 includes the Dell Audio sound presets utility, and we suggest sticking with the MaxxSense preset; the Music preset muddied vocals, and the Movies option distorted bass.
Armed with an Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor and 4GB of RAM, our review configuration (the fastest model available) of the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 provided enough speed for moderate multitasking. After I split its display among a streaming YouTube video and a dozen tabs (including a Slack channel, the Google Doc of this review, Gmail and TweetDeck), I saw no lag or pause as I moved among tabs and scrolled around articles. Adding a 13th tab, though, added momentary waits throughout usage.
The Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 earned a decent score of 2,345 on the Geekbench 3 general performance test, which places it above the Celeron N3050-powered Transformer Book Flip TP200 (1,315) and alongside the Atom CPU-powered Ideapad Miix 310 (2,445) and Aspire Switch 10 E (2,123). The Atom-x7-Z8700-powered Surface 3 (3,531) and the average ultraportable (12,751) earned higher marks.
The Inspiron 11's 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive copied 4.97GB of multimedia files in 3 minutes and 5 seconds, for a rate of 27.18 MBps. That trails behind the Surface 3 (33.7 MBps), the Ideapad Miix 310 (36.7 MBps), the Transformer Book Flip TP200SA (34.15 MBps) and the Aspire Switch 10 E (41.7 MBps).
The Inspiron 11 took 6 minutes and 16 seconds to finish our OpenOffice macro test, which matches 20,000 names to their addresses. That's a shorter time than those posted by the Surface 3 (13:31), the Ideapad Miix 310 (16:55), the Transformer Book Flip TP200SA (15:32) and the Aspire Switch 10 E (25:49), but longer than the category average (3:48).
The Inspiron 11's integrated Intel HD 515 graphics can support light gaming, such as the casual arcade racer Asphalt 8, but it doesn't have enough horsepower for demanding games. The Inspiron 11 scored 42,354 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark, which leaves the Surface 3 (24,840), Ideapad Miix 310 (17,451), Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200 (18,154) and Aspire Switch 10 E (8,557) in the dust, but still falls behind the category average (116,049).
The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 doesn't last long on a charge. It took only 5 hours and 30 minutes for the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous web surfing on Wi-Fi at 100 nits) to drain its juice.
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Although that is longer than the category average (4:20), it fell short of the runtimes posted by the Surface 3 (8:01), the Ideapad Miix 310 (12:24), the Transformer Book Flip TP200SA (10:56) and the Aspire Switch 10 E (8:28). Last year's model lasted and hour and 12 minutes longer.
The Dell Inspiron 11 3000's 0.9-megapixel webcam shot fuzzy, washed-out selfies of me that showed little detail. Its low-res image quality practically erased the giant scar on my forehead and the black stitching of my shirt.
You'll likely feel the heat if you use the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 in your lap for extended periods. The hybrid's underside hit 105.5 degrees Fahrenheit after it streamed 15 minutes of HD video. While that temperature broke our 95-degree comfort threshold, its touchpad (81 degrees) and keyboard (94 degrees) did not.
Dell gave the Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 a mostly clean installation of Windows 10, adding only a couple of its proprietary utilities. Power Manager Lite offers settings Dells claims will extend the life of your battery by optimizing power usage, and Support Assist packages a system checkup utility with links to customer support.
Dell offers the Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 in three different configurations, starting with a $249.99 entry-level model that has an Intel Celeron N3060 processor, 2GB of RAM and a 32GB hard eMMC hard drive. The $319.99 model gives you a Pentium N3710 processor; 4GB of RAM; and a 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive. The $449 top-of-the-line version we reviewed upgrades the midrange model to an Intel Core m3-6Y30 CPU.
All four models are available in each of the four colors: "tango red," "Bali blue," "foggy night gray" and "alpine white." For $20 extra, you can tack on a year of accidental damage protection.
The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 is an attractive-looking hybrid at a fairly attractive price, but beneath its shiny red or blue surface are serious screen and endurance compromises its competitors don't force you to make. If you want longer battery life and a better screen, you may want to consider the $299 Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA, which is significantly brighter and lasts nearly twice as long on a charge. If you can afford to spend a bit more, another option is Microsoft's far-superior Surface 3, which costs $529 ($80 more than our review unit) with its keyboard cover attached. However, if you want a low-cost 2-in-1 with a strong sense of style and you can live with its drawbacks, the Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 is worth considering.