In the growing sea of Windows 8 2-in-1 laptops, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 convertible makes a statement . The $399 ($479 as tested) hybrid features an 11.6-inch touchscreen, Intel N-series CPU, 4GB of RAM and 500 GB hard drive wrapped in an attractive silver chassis. The Inspiron 11 3000 is comparably priced to similar hybrids from both Lenovo and HP, but is it better?
The design of the Inspiron 11 3000 belies its $400 price tag. The plastic chassis is coated with a smooth silver finish, giving it an aluminum-like feeling. The soft white indicator lights is another nice touch. The keyboard is inset from the palm rest and stands out with its black keys against the silver paint.
At first glance, the Inspiron 11 3000 looks like a normal laptop, but the oversized hinges hint at its ability to rotate the screen 360 degrees into tablet mode. In this mode, the keyboard is disabled and the user will rely instead on the 11.6-inch touchscreen.
To help facilitate its tablet nature, there is a small Windows button below the display that will let you summon Modern UI or switch back to desktop view. The extra large one-inch bezel along the bottom gives the screen a somewhat ungainly appearance. We appreciate that Dell was trying to give the screen more height while in laptop mode, but we wish they had figured out a more attractive way to do it.
The system features stereo speakers, with mesh grilles located on either side. The right side also has the power button and hard-to-press volume rocker. We often found ourselves reaching for the function keys to adjust volume instead of using the dedicated rocker. We also wish there was a power button on the deck, as this is a laptop-first device.
At 11.8 x 7.93 x 0.83 and 3.1 pounds, the Inspiron 11 3000 is heavier and thicker than the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 (11.7 x 8.12 x 0.67 inches and 2.8 pounds) and slightly smaller than the HP Pavilion x360 (12.12 x 8.46 x 0.86-inch and 3.1 pounds). You could easily slip this system in a slim messenger bag.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the Inspiron 11 3000 is crisp and responsive. The keys have a travel distance of 2.2mm and an actuation of 60 grams. We were able to hit 65 words per minute on our typing test, not far off our 70 wpm average.
We also like the soft white Caps Lock indicator light just left of the key. Our main issue with the keyboard is the bowing near the center, which makes a sticky-sounding click when pressed. It also creates more keyboard flex than we would like.
The 4.1 x 2.4-inch touchpad has a nice smooth feel, but was occasionally unresponsive to mouse movements and gestures like two-finger scrolling. The clicking felt a little stiff, too. While we were able to use the touchpad for everyday use, it was a mediocre experience.
Display and Touchscreen
The 1366 x 768 11.6-inch touchscreen on the Inspiron 11 3000 is good, but not great. When we watched an episode of FX's "The Americans," we enjoyed the muted tones of the 1980's furniture and Keri Russell's various wigs and disguises look detailed and realistic.
While the Inspiron 11 3000's 183-nit display is brighter than the dim HP Pavilion x360 (151 nits), it was outclassed by the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 (342 nits) and the ultraportable average of 253 nits.
Color reproduction from the Dell's panel was fairly strong, with the Inspiron 11 3000 capable of displaying 81.7 percent of the sRGB spectrum. That's more than the HP Pavilion x360 (57), the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 (68 percent) and the ultraportable average of 67 percent.
However, color accuracy was below average, as the Inspiron 11 3000's Delta-E rating of 9.3 (closer to 0 is better) was worse than the HP Pavilion (7.4), the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 (6.6) and the category average of 6.1.
The touchscreen was a pleasure to use, and because of the somewhat unresponsive nature of the touchpad, we found ourselves using the Inspiron 11 3000 in tablet mode anytime we didn't need the keyboard. The hinge is reassuringly stiff, and we don't have any concerns about it standing up to hundreds of transitions between laptop and tablet modes.
The stereo speakers on the Inspiron 11 3000 do an adequate job of putting out sound on such a small system. Like most ultraportables, bass was on the weak side, but volume and audio quality was good. When listening Nujabes's "Counting Stars," we noticed at max volume the audio sounded strained, especially the mid tones which were a little harsh.
On the Laptop Mag audio test, the Inspiron 11 3000 produced 82 decibels measured from 23 inches away. This was very similar to the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 (83 dB) and the ultraportable average of 82 dB, but behind the HP Pavilion x360 (90 dB).
The Inspiron stays fairly cool under pressure, at least on top. On the Laptop Mag heat test (15 minutes of streaming video from Hulu), the touchpad maintained a chilly 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with the area between the G and H keys reaching 87 degrees. We consider anything above 95 degrees uncomfortable. The hottest spot on the system was the underside, which reached 99 degrees F.
Ports and Camera
The Inspiron 11 3000 has the usual assortment of ports for a laptop of this size. On the left side there are two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, headset jack and power jack. On the right is the lone USB 3.0 port, SD Card reader, volume rocker and power button.
The 720p camera on this Dell struggled to take a good picture. 720p photos taken in our office looked dark, blurry and grainy. Images varied wildly for shots taken in the exact location but at different times of the day (even indoors).
Our Dell Inspiron 11 3000 review unit featured a 2.16-GHz Intel Pentium Quad Core N3530 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 500 GB 5400 rpm hard drive. The low-power Intel N3530 is not the most robust processor, but it did just fine handling six tabs open in Internet Explorer and Chrome, one of which was a 1080p streaming video.
On Geekbench 3, which measures general performance, the Inspiron 11 3000 scored 3,395. This was ahead HP Pavilion x360's 3,248 (2.17-GHz Intel Pentium N3520), but behind the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11's 3,348 (also Intel N3520), and the category average of 4,154.
The Inspiron 11 3000's 500 GB 5400 rpm drive transferred 4.97 GB of media files in 2 minutes and 47 seconds for a transfer rate of 30.5 MBps. This was faster than the HP Pavilion x360 (26 MBps) but slower than Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 (38 MBps)
On Laptop Mag's Open Office test, which matches 20,000 names and address, the Inspiron 11 3000 finished with a time of 15:22. This was faster than both the HP Pavilion x360 (16:34) and the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 (16:19).
With its Intel HD graphics, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 can handle casual games just fine, but nothing much more demanding. When we played Blizzard's Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft on medium settings, the Inspiron 11 3000 performed adequately in both laptop mode using the touchpad, and tablet mode with the touchscreen. We did notice some slight stuttering, but gameplay was otherwise strong. Bonus: you can't get this game on Android yet.
The Inspiron 11 3000 managed 20 fps in "World of Warcraft" at its native res and auto settings. This was exactly the same as both the HP Pavilion x360 and the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 but lower than the ultraportable average of 35 fps. On 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, the Inspiron 11 3000 scored 20,361, slightly better than the HP Pavilion x360 (19,423) and the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 (20,283).
The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 lasted 6 hours and 14 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits). This runtime is shorter than the ultraportable average of 8:03 but significantly longer than hybrids in the same price range. The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 lasted about an hour less (5:19), while the HP Pavilion x360 (3:43) isn't even in the same league.
Don't be fooled by Dell's product page; there are actually only two different configurations of the Inspiron 11 3000. The first is the $399 base model featuring a 2.16-GHz dual-core Intel Celeron N2830 CPU. The second model is our $479 review unit, featuring a 2.16-GHz quad core Intel Pentium N3530 processor. Both models have the same 4GB of RAM and 500 GB 5400 rpm hard drive. The other two configurations just have a longer warranty or Dell Bluetooth speaker that accounts for the price difference, but both systems can be ordered with your choice of warranty.
Software and Warranty
We appreciated the clean software load on this Dell. The only additional software that comes pre-loaded on the Inspiron 11 3000 is a free, 12-month subscription to McAfee LiveSafe, a trial for Microsoft Office and an link to the Amazon store pinned to the taskbar.
The Inspiron 11 3000 is one of the most affordable 2-in-1 hybrids on the market. We like the handsome and sturdy silver design, which flips easily into tablet, stand or tent mode. The Inspiron 11 3000 also offers longer battery life than its low-cost competitors, as well as punchy speakers. The only notable drawbacks are the finicky touchpad and awkward power button placement.
In this price range, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 has a slight edge over the Dell in terms of performance and design, but it doesn't last as long on a charge. As long as you have modest performance needs, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 is the budget-friendly 2-in-1 for you.