Schools need cheap options to outfit their students with computers, and the Dell Latitude 11 for Education (starting at $379) is a clear attempt to fill that need. It's a full PC that runs Windows 10 and includes a 250GB hard drive to store homework locally. It's tough enough to withstand bumps and drops. However, this notebook's Intel Celeron N2840 CPU and 2GB of RAM are sluggish even when nothing is running. Despite the system's great keyboard and loud speakers, it's hard to recommend this laptop to students or to teachers who want to outfit classes with tech.
The Dell Latitude 11 for Education has a utilitarian design that is meant more for protection than to show off. The entire chassis is made of black plastic with rubberized black edges for shock absorption, and the lid is unadorned, with the exception of Dell's logo and an LED light.
The light glows to let teachers know when the notebook is connected to the internet, but there is no app to change the light's color like there is on the Dell Chromebook 11. Raising the lid reveals the 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 display surrounded by a thick, ugly bezel and an island-style keyboard.
The Latitude is on the heavy side for 11-inch notebooks, at 3.2 pounds and 11.9 x 8.4 x 0.9 inches. The 2.2-pound Lenovo IdeaPad 100s and 2.4-pound Aspire Cloudbook 11 (both measure 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.7 inches) are Windows machines that are far lighter, while the 2.6-pound Asus Chromebook C202 (11.5 x 7.9 x 0.9 inches) is also a featherweight in comparison.
However, Dell claims that the Latitude is MIL-STD-tested against drops, shocks and extreme temperatures, so it should be able to handle life in a backpack just fine.
The sides of the Latitude are lined with the bare-essential ports. On the left side of the notebook are an Ethernet jack, an HDMI output and a USB 3.0 port. On the right are a headphone jack, an SD card slot, a USB 2.0 port and a lock slot.
The 11-inch, 1366 x 768 display on the Latitude is dim. I had to pump up the brightness to view the screen comfortably when I watched the trailer for Doctor Strange. In the video, a sorcerer's yellow cloak didn't pop against gray buildings, like it does on better screens, and it was harder to make out the cracks and deformities around the evil Kaecilius' eyes.
Dell's panel has an average 269 nits of brightness. Other 11-inchers were worse, as the IdeaPad 100s (243 nits), Aspire Cloudbook 11 (250 nits) and Chromebook C202 (250 nits) were all even dimmer.
The Latitude's display covers 66 percent of the sRGB color gamut, outperforming other 11-inch notebooks, including the IdeaPad 100s (62 percent), Aspire Cloudbook 11 (59 percent) and Chromebook C202 (58 percent).With a Delta-E color accuracy score of 3.8 (0 is best), the colors on the Latitude 11's screen aren't that precise. The Ideapad (3.3) and Chromebook C202 (2.8) had lower scores than the Latitude. Only the Aspire Cloudbook (3.9) was less exact with its colors.
Keyboard and Touchpad
I wouldn't mind writing some research papers for class on the Latitude. The keyboard has a comfortable 1.6 millimeters of travel and requires 51 grams of force to press down, providing crisp feedback. I typed at my average 107 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, with my standard 2 percent error rate.
The 4.1 x 2.3-inch touchpad is smooth and accurate, and I had no issues moving windows around with two- and three-finger pushes and pulls.
The front-facing speakers on the Latitude get surprisingly loud for a laptop of this size. When I listened to Daft Punk and Julian Casablancas' "Instant Crush," the computer filled our midsize conference room with loud, clear sound. I could easily distinguish the bass, the synths, the snappy drums and Casablancas' vocals.
I opened up the Dell Audio app to play with the MaxxSense Pro presets, but found that the default music setting was perfectly fine.
Here's the rub: Everything good about the Latitude 11 can be dismissed, because this laptop is absolutely lousy for getting anything done. Our review unit -- with its 2.16-Ghz Intel Celeron N2840 CPU, 2GB of RAM and a 250GB, 7,200-rpm HDD -- was incredibly sluggish. Even opening and closing individual programs produced a little bit of lag. Having more than one Chrome tab open at a time slowed the system down, making this a single-task machine at its best.
On the Geekbench 3 overall performance benchmark, the Latitude notched a score of 1,811, falling short of the $200 IdeaPad 100s (2,195; Intel Atom Z3735F CPU). The $189 Aspire Cloudbook (1,285; Intel Celeron N3050 CPU) fared worse.It took the Latitude 2 minutes and 49 seconds to transfer 4.97GB of mixed-media files, which translates to a rate of 30.1 megabytes per second. The Ideapad 100s (31MBps) and Aspire Cloudbook (35MBps) were both faster.
The Latitude paired 20,000 names and addresses in our OpenOffice spreadsheet macro in 15 minutes and 15 seconds. That's behind the Aspire Cloudbook (14:54), but faster than the IdeaPad 100s, which took 22:05 to complete the test..
The Latitude 11 doesn't make up for its low power with longer battery life. It lasted a paltry 7 hours and 22 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuously browsing the internet over Wi-Fi. The Latitude's competitors lasted far longer. The Aspire Cloudbook endured for 8:04; the Chromebook C202 survived for 8:23, and the IdeaPad 100s ran for 9:48.
The 720p camera takes detailed photos, but they're very grainy. I could see the pixels in a selfie that I took at my desk, but I could make out individual hairs and my dimple. The colors were accurate, too, with the orange stripes on my shirt popping against the blue and white plaid.
For something so tiny, the Latitude gets awfully hot. After I streamed 15 minutes of HD video from YouTube, the bottom of the laptop reached 104 degrees Fahrenheit, 9 degrees hotter than our comfort threshold of 95 degrees. The center of the keyboard hit 90.5 degrees, and the touchpad was a more comfortable 86.5 degrees.
Software and Warranty
The Latitude comes with a mix of Dell's own software and unwanted bloat. Dell included its Power Manager software, Digital Delivery for updates and extra software, and SupportAssist for scheduled hardware scans and technical help.There's quite a bit of junk packed in, too, including Farmville 2: Country Escape, Twitter, Netflix and Pandora.
Dell sells the Latitude 11 for Education with a one-year warranty. See how the company did on our Best and Worst Brands and Tech Support Showdown.
Our $379 review unit came with a 2.16-Ghz Intel Celeron N2840 CPU, 2GB of RAM and a 250GB, 7,200-rpm HDD.
For $549, you'll get an Intel Pentium N3540 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB, 7,200-rpm HDD. The additional RAM could greatly reduce the lag we experienced when multitasking.
The Dell Latitude for Education is a cheap Windows PC for schools, and it has excellent speakers and a solid keyboard. But it is so slow that getting actual work done on this machine is a chore.
You can do better for less. Schools looking for a durable student laptop with strong performance should consider the Asus Chromebook C202, which runs the lightweight Chrome OS, has an excellent keyboard and can survive a ton of abuse. Those who want a lightweight, budget Windows 10 laptop should consider the Lenovo IdeaPad 100s (starts at $200), which has better performance, a more attractive design and far longer battery life.