Computing

Dell Chromebook 11 Touch: A Comprehensive Review

Introduction: A Personal Connection

My relationship with my Dell Chromebook 11 has been nothing short of pure bliss for the past six months. I take it with me everywhere – to work, on business trips, and even to bed (to check emails, of course!). So, when the new Dell Chromebook 11 Touch arrived, my excitement was palpable. However, after spending just a few minutes with the device, I felt like I was using a laptop that was unfamiliar to me.

A Revamped Design for Education

The older Dell Chromebook 11 had a perfectly fine design, but for some reason, Dell decided to completely revamp it for the newer version. This iteration is primarily meant for educational use, so it features a sturdier body constructed with tougher plastic. It’s equipped with a more budget-friendly dual-core Intel Celeron N2840 processor, running at a base clock of 2.1GHz. With 4GB of RAM and a 16GB SSD, the Chromebook 11 Touch offers the standard features of a Chrome OS laptop. However, the question remains: Will it appeal to anyone other than students?

Rugged Enough for a Classroom

Compared to the Chromebook 11, the Touch model appears and feels bulkier, but this actually works in its favor. Unlike its predecessor, which creaked and strained when held, the newer version opens and closes easily, without putting any strain on the device even when twisted. While the bezel is roughly the same size as the older model, the addition of a barrel hinge allows the newer Chromebook to lay flat. This feature, however, makes the screen feel smaller.

The hinge, though, has its own set of issues. Initially, it may not seem particularly useful in most situations. Nevertheless, since this Chromebook is designed with educational use in mind, Dell claims there are several reasons to be able to lay the notebook flat on a desk or table in a classroom setting. Frequent use in this manner would result in wear and tear, as evidenced by the table-induced scratches on the bottom of my review unit.

On that note, if maintaining a clean-looking computer is a priority, it’s best to steer clear of this Chromebook. Its matte black finish looks fantastic out of the box, but it quickly attracts fingerprints, lint, and even oil from your palms. This is not an ideal characteristic for a computer that may end up covered in sticky, messy kid hands on a daily basis.

Dell asserts that the new Chromebook is built to military specifications for spills and drops. The sealed keyboard and trackpad make it spill-resistant, and the overall system feels durable enough to endure a fair amount of punishment.

Ports and Connectivity

The Dell Chromebook 11 Touch offers the usual set of connections for a Chromebook. On the left side, you’ll find a USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port, a 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack, and a full-sized SD card slot. The right side houses a Kensington lock slot, a USB 2.0 port, and a covered slot for a WWAN card. Just like most Chromebooks, this model does not include an optical drive.

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In terms of wireless connectivity, the Dell Chromebook 11 Touch is equipped with 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. These features are always welcome on an affordable notebook, regardless of the operating system it runs.

Keyboard and Trackpad: The Good and the Twitchy

One of the standout features of the new Chromebook 11 Touch is its keyboard. The chiclet keys offer a quiet yet satisfying click, springing back up effortlessly. In fact, they respond so well that the Chromebook sometimes struggles to keep up with fast typing. The key spacing is similar to the previous model but with a stiffer action. Running your fingers over the keys doesn’t cause any movement.

On the other hand, the trackpad has a smoother surface than the rest of the laptop, but it can occasionally be a bit too sensitive when it comes to selecting and clicking in unintended areas. It has a wide footprint, which can interfere with typing, as you need to ensure you don’t accidentally touch it with the underside of your hands or thumbs. Moreover, touch sensitivity is low within a quarter inch or so of the edges.

Incorporating the right-click functionality into the trackpad eliminates the need for a separate button. While this reduces the size of the device, it often confuses the system, creating ambiguity between single and double clicks. Navigating and selecting from various fields can become cumbersome, requiring the use of tab and arrow keys. Furthermore, dragging doesn’t always work smoothly, often necessitating multiple attempts to achieve the desired outcome.

Our review unit features a multi-touch display, which works well. However, Chrome OS currently lacks optimal touchscreen support. Zooming in and out through pinch gestures is a notable compatibility highlight. However, navigating by tapping the screen is a hit-or-miss experience, particularly when there are numerous links that you might accidentally touch.

Display and Audio: A Mixed Bag

Unfortunately, one of the main drawbacks of the older Dell Chromebook 11 carries over to the new model – the display. The 11-inch LCD screen boasts a resolution of 1,366 x 768, resulting in around 142 pixels per inch. This resolution is adequate for web browsing, document editing, Twitter browsing, and Reddit surfing. However, when it comes to watching HD videos, the difference becomes evident compared to a 1080p or higher resolution display.

Colors are generally fine, with vibrant greens, blues, and reds exhibiting good definition. However, blacks fall short and appear shimmery even when viewed head-on. Fast-moving objects and motion blur are presented well, especially during video playback. Since this Chromebook is intended for educational purposes, the fact that it won’t be conducive to frequent gaming is actually a positive attribute. The wide viewing angle ensures that students can easily see the screen, even when off-center.

The speakers on the Dell Chromebook 11 Touch are loud, making them ideal for a noisy classroom with multiple laptops in use simultaneously. Positioned at the front of the hinge, they work well when you’re sitting right in front of the device, and the sound carries reasonably even when turned up to full volume. While bass performance is lacking, the mid-range sounds good, and treble is clear when necessary.

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Performance: Sluggishness Persists

Equipped with an Intel Celeron N2840 dual-core chip clocked at 2.16GHz, the Dell Chromebook 11 Touch is no slouch. The touchscreen version, which comes with 4GB of RAM and a 16GB SSD, relies on an integrated Intel GPU from the Intel HM77 chipset for graphics processing. However, despite the ample 4GB of RAM, the system can feel sluggish. Even with just a couple of tabs open, typing at full speed in Google Docs becomes a laborious task. Frequently, letters, spaces, and capitalizations fail to register immediately, requiring subsequent corrections.

Delays can also be observed in other areas. Playing music on Spotify or using a productivity app like Trello in a separate tab noticeably slows down even basic tasks such as deleting characters from a word document. There is no valid excuse for this, as the dual-core processor should easily handle lightweight Chrome OS operations.

According to the Peacekeeper browser test, the Dell Chromebook 11 Touch performed as expected. It achieved a score of 1560, falling in the same range as the Toshiba Chromebook 2 and slightly ahead of the Lenovo Chromebooks from late last year, the Yoga 11e and the N20p. However, it still lags far behind the Acer C720P-2600, which scored 2,909. Nevertheless, most other Chromebooks do not reach the latter’s level of performance either.

Design and Portability: A Familiar Size

One of the greatest advantages of an 11” laptop is its portability. It easily fits wherever you need it to – in your backpack, under your arm, or even in motion (although we don’t recommend that). In terms of size, the Dell Chromebook 11 Touch is almost identical to its predecessor from late last year, with the only added bulk coming from the 180-degree barrel hinge. It weighs about 2.8 pounds, the same as the older Chromebook.

During our Peacekeeper battery test, the Dell Chromebook 11 Touch outperformed several similarly equipped Chromebooks. It managed an average battery life of about 7 hours and 55 minutes on a single charge, with only one tab running the benchmark. This provides an extra hour of usage compared to the Lenovo N20p and Acer Chromebook 15, and a three-hour advantage over the more powerful Acer Chromebook C720P.

Silent and Cool Operation

The Dell Chromebook 11 Touch, like many other fanless Chromebooks, consumes minimal power. While idling at 50 percent brightness, it draws a mere 4.4 watts. Even at 100 percent brightness, it settles at around 5.7 watts.

During the Peacekeeper benchmark, it did consume slightly more power. At full brightness, there were some fluctuations, but it averaged just under nine watts. This consumption is lower than what is typically observed in many laptops during idle periods when the screen brightness is set to half.

With a low-power Intel Celeron processor and an SSD, the Dell Chromebook 11 Touch doesn’t require any fans for cooling. Consequently, it operates silently. Even in a quiet room, we couldn’t discern any difference in noise level compared to the ambient environment, even during the first half of the Peacekeeper browser test.

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Since the device doesn’t necessitate fan cooling, it doesn’t generate much heat either. Even after several minutes of benchmarking, it remains cool to the touch.

Warranty and Support

The Dell Chromebook 11 Touch comes with a limited warranty and support services. For additional peace of mind, Dell offers the option of premium warranty services and Next Business Day technical support for up to four years. These direct access warranty services are especially important given the intended educational use of the Chromebook.

Conclusion: It’s Not for Everyone

A good Chromebook is like a Swiss Army Knife – a versatile tool that can be swiftly deployed to handle small tasks as and when needed. If you already purchased the old Dell Chromebook 11 for your teenager last Christmas, Dell’s Chromebook 11 Touch is more suited for their younger sibling to ward off any potential jealousy.

The previous Dell Chromebook 11 was incredibly popular and frequently sold out on Dell’s website. It offered excellent performance with the ability to handle a dozen open tabs, a great screen, and long battery life. The new version, however, takes a different approach. If you were a fan of the old Chromebook 11, this new model may not meet your expectations.

As an education-focused laptop, it does bring certain advantages to the table. It boasts a rugged body capable of withstanding tough conditions and minor spills. The loud and clear speakers are perfect for short videos or presentations. The battery life is reasonable, almost lasting an entire school day without needing to be plugged in. However, as an everyday laptop, this model falls short, especially when compared to its older sibling’s accomplishments.

In terms of value, the story remains the same. The Dell Chromebook 11 Touch, priced at $329 for the touchscreen version with 4GB of RAM, is only $50 cheaper than last year’s Intel Core i3 model of the Dell Chromebook 11. For individual buyers, the older version offers better performance. However, if you’re purchasing a dozen Chromebooks for your classroom, the Chromebook 11 Touch’s rugged design and lower price point will save you from numerous headaches.

Highs

  • Rugged design
  • Excellent keyboard
  • Clear and loud speakers

Lows

  • Performance lacks luster
  • Attracts debris
  • Trackpad sensitivity issues

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The Dell XPS 15 outshines the MacBook Pro with one major advantage
  • Dell’s first Windows 11 ARM laptop is priced like a Chromebook
  • The best 15-inch laptops for 2023
  • Chromebooks may soon incorporate Windows 11’s best multitasking feature
  • Dell’s new XPS 13 2-in-1 rivals the Surface Pro, minus the headphone jack

Please note that this article is focused on OnSpec Electronic, Inc.’s product, the Dell Chromebook 11 Touch. For more information about OnSpec Electronic, Inc., please visit their official website here.

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