Whether you're looking for a secondary laptop or a training-wheels PC for a child, the $349 Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 is a solid option. This 11-inch notebook offers better performance than you might expect at this price, in a colorful design. If only its battery life were longer and its display weren't so dim, it'd be a steal.
The plastic Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 comes in fun, playful colors that would fit in around the toys in a kid's bedroom: Bali blue, tango red, foggy night gray and Alpine white. Even if you're not a child, I'd advise against the gray and white models; the former looks like murky water, and the latter's hue tends to show all scuffs.
The notebook's 360-degree hinges feel sturdy and allows it to transition between laptop, tablet, stand and tent modes. So if you're curious about how Windows 10 operates with a touch screen, this is an affordable way to find out.
Weighing 2.9 pounds and measuring 0.8 inches thick, the Inspiron 11 is heavier than the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA (1.8 pounds, 0.5 inches) and the Lenovo Ideapad Miix 310 (2.4 pounds, 0.7 inches), both of which feature detachable designs. It's also heftier than the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 (2.4 pounds, 0.8 inches), its nontouch counterpart.
The Inspiron's USB 3.0 port, HDMI-out and microSD card reader sit on its left side. Its two USB 2.0 ports are on its right, alongside its headphone jack, Noble-brand security lock slot, and power and volume buttons.
The Inspiron 11's 1366 x 768 display is underwhelming, even for a budget laptop. When watching a Thor: Ragnarok trailer on this screen, I noticed a gray tone over the dark corners of an underground lair, and it dulled the Hulk's green skin. We don't expect to see a 1080p screen on a laptop this affordable, but I couldn't help but notice pixelation that appeared in smoke clouds during the trailer.
According to our colorimeter, the Inspiron 11 produces 69 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which is similar to the 67 percent reading we got from the nontouch Inspiron. That paltry score is below the 96 percent category average, as well as the marks from the Transformer Mini (93 percent) and the Ideapad Miix (84 percent).
We hope you like computing indoors, and away from sunlight, as the Inspiron 11 emits only 146 nits (a measure of brightness). That's lower than the 287-nit category average, the poor 196-nit reading we got from the nontouch Inspiron and the acceptably bright screens in the Transformer Mini (372 nits) and the Ideapad Miix (255 nits). This darkness hurts the notebook's viewing angles, as I saw its colors wilt at 30 degrees to the left and right.
Not-so-fun fact: The Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1's screen is the third-dimmest we've encountered since we started checking screen brightness, in 2009.
The Inspiron 11's touch screen is solid for the price, tracking my input accurately as I navigated the desktop. While it accepted Windows 10's three-finger navigation gestures, I noticed it lagged while I was doodling or dragging my finger to select a region of space.
Keyboard and Touchpad
While I wouldn't ask for it by name, the Inspiron 11's keyboard is decent considering the price. Testing it out on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I clicked my way to 70 words per minute, which is lower than my 80-wpm average. Its shallow keys have only 1.2 millimeters of travel (we prefer 1.5 to 2 mm), but they also require 69 grams of force to actuate, a mark within our accepted range (at least 60 grams).
Dell earns points for the Inspiron 11's keyboard layout, as both the Transformer Mini and the Ideapad Miix include annoyingly cramped keyboards that led to slower typing speeds and more errors.
The notebook's 3.9 x 2.1-inch buttonless touchpad offers a firm click to each touch. It also registers input quite well, as accurately as one you'd see on a model three times its price.
I don't expect to hear solid sound coming from the speakers of $350 notebooks, but the Inspiron 11 3000's audio was a pleasant surprise. The Inspiron filled our large conference room with a solid rendition of Sinjin Hawke's "Onset," featuring clear claps, accurate synth blasts and solid bass.
I kept the notebook's Dell Audio app set to the MaxxSense default, as the other settings muffled or distorted its audio.
The Inspiron 11's Pentium N3710 processor and 4GB of RAM enable a very modest amount of multitasking. I split its screen among six open Chrome tabs and a streaming 1080p YouTube video and didn't notice any lag. Without video, I saw stutter after opening a seventh tab.
The Inspiron 11's 3,179 score on the Geekbench 3 general performance test beats the 1,806 from the nontouch Inspiron (Intel Celeron N3060, 2GB of RAM); the 2,445 from the Ideapad Miix (Intel Atom x5-Z8350 CPU, 2GB of RAM); and the 2,411 from the Transformer Mini T102HA (Atom x5-Z8350, 4GB of RAM).
The 500GB, 5,400-rpm SATA drive in the Inspiron 11 duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 3 minutes and 48 seconds, for a rate of 22.6 MBps. That's near the 25.7-MBps rate from the Transformer Mini (128GB flash storage), and slower than 84.8 MBps for the nontouch Inspiron 11 3000 (32GB eMMC) and the 36.7 MBps for the Ideapad Miix 310 (32GB eMMC).
The Inspiron 11 took 12 minutes and 50 seconds to complete our OpenOffice productivity test (matching 20,000 names to their addresses). That's shorter than the times from the Transformer Mini (17:32), the nontouch Inspiron (13:14) and the Ideapad Miix (16:55).
The Intel HD Graphics in the Inspiron 11 pushed it to a 23,692 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark. That beats the scores from the Transformer Mini (16,176), the nontouch Inspiron 11 (13,297) and the Ideapad Miix (17,451), all of which use the same integrated Intel HD Graphics.
The Inspiron 11 2-in-1 won't support even modest gaming, as it ran Dirt 3 (set to medium) at 21 frames per second, a rate below our 30-fps smoothness threshold. The Transformer Mini (15 fps) did worse.
Don't expect to stay away from power outlets for long. The Inspiron 11 made it only 5 hours and 13 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which is far shorter than the 8:20 ultraportable average, as well as the times from the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA (12:08), the nontouch Inspiron (13:39) and the Ideapad Miix (12:24).
Webcam: Another meh-cam
Integrated webcams remind me of two-ply toilet paper: They're everywhere, and they're just barely suitable for their purpose. Sure, I'm recognizable in the selfie I shot with it in our office, but that photo has a slightly fuzzy texture I've come to expect from webcams.
You might prefer to use the Inspiron 11 on a desk, as its underside tends to heat up. After streaming HD video on the notebook for 15 minutes, our heat gun recorded a temperature of 98.5 degrees Fahrenheit on its bottom, which exceeds our 95-degree comfort threshold. Its touchpad (75 degrees) and G and H keys (92.5 degrees) stayed cool.
Software and Warranty
The Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 comes with the same amount of bloatware we expect from all Dell machines. That means useful Dell utilities, such as SupportAssist for system and warranty info, and Power Manager Lite for adjusting battery settings. And because it's a Windows 10 PC, you get Netflix, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Sling, and Minecraft, all to use or consider uninstalling immediately.
Dell offers three models of the Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1. The Intel Inspiron we tested costs $349 and has a Pentium N3710 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. The entry-level $259 model bumps you down to a Celeron N3060 CPU, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of eMMC storage -- specs shared by the nontouch Inspiron 11 3000.
For $399, you can max out the Inspiron 11 with a 7th Gen Intel Core m3-7Y30 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive.
If you're looking for an affordable convertible notebook, the Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1's decent performance is faster than its $350 price would have you believe. We also like the surprisingly good audio and fun color options. If only this system's battery life and screen brightness were better, this would be a very easy decision.
The Lenovo Ideapad Miix 310 lasts more than twice as long on a single charge, though you'd be trading away performance and getting a worse keyboard. If you don't need a touch screen, you should definitely consider the nontouch Inspiron 11 3000, though it is a bit slower. Overall, though, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 is a solid option for people looking for a secondary computer or their kid's first laptop.