MEGATech Reviews: Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series Michael Kwan September 23, 2014 MEGATech Reviews A couple of months ago, fellow MTNer Dylan asked me for some advice about buying a new laptop. He wanted a new one mostly for work purposes, but he was also interested in getting a tablet for reading his favorite digital comic books. I told him that a convertible device might offer the best of both worlds. As great as the new Microsoft Surface Pro 3 may be, though, it is on the pricier side of things for what it is. Maybe he should have just waited a bit longer and considered the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series instead. It’s far more affordable and it’s just as happy doing the laptop-to-tablet-and-back-again dance. The Everyday Tablet and Laptop First announced at Computex earlier in the summer, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series is meant to be more of an entry-level offering that still provides the more premium form factor of being both a tablet and a notebook. The keyboard portion doesn’t detach from the screen; instead, you get a hinge that effectively flips a full 360 degrees. You can close it up like clamshell, as you would with a regular notebook PC, but you can also flip it all the way around so the screen lays flat on the other side. When you pass the 180-degree point, the keyboard and trackpad get deactivated to prevent accidental key presses. Although this is an 11.6-inch (1366×768) device that measures just 19mm thick, the Inspiron 11 3000 Series is heavier than it looks at just over three pounds. There’s some heft to it and this gives you a little more confidence about the build quality. I did find there was some flex to the chassis, particularly the screen half, so I wouldn’t be too rough with this machine. As the Inspiron 11 3000 Series (they need a catchier name!) is geared more toward the budget-oriented end of the product scale, the specs are simply adequate. The model that we’re testing has a Pentium Quad Core N3530 chip, while the version that’s $50 cheaper gets a Intel Celeron Dual Core N2830. The rest of the specs are identical, including 3GB of DDR3L-1600 RAM, Intel HD graphics, integrated 3-cell 43WHr battery, 500GB 5400rpm HDD, wireless-N, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0 + 3.0, 720p webcam, HDMI 1.4a and Windows 8.1 64-bit. Productivity with the Inspiron 11 3000 Series Let’s not fool ourselves. The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series is not going to be a powerhouse and you’re not going to do much in terms of heavy lifting with it. However, if you are using it primarily for web surfing, video watching, word processing and that sort of thing, it holds up quite well. Perhaps I’ve gotten used to seeing an HDD activity light on my computers, but I did find the absence of such a light to be a little frustrating on this unit. I’d try to open a program and it would look like nothing is happening, only to have the program open up a few seconds later. With a tablet, apps open almost instantaneously, but that’s not the case when you’re running full-blown Windows. I did find the overall experience more pleasing than with the Dell Venue 11 Pro, largely because of the more unified design. The keyboard itself is surprisingly comfortable and well-spaced, despite being on an 11.6-inch unit. I was able to type up blog posts just as easily as I would on my desktop and the added utility of a touchscreen was a nice addition. Performance is undeniably sluggish at times, particularly when compared to notebooks that are easily more than double the price of this Inspiron. As a budget daily driver, this Dell should still get you through your commute. The Screen and Hinge The biggest appeal to the Inspiron 11 3000 Series, of course, is its form factor. The hinge is similar in many ways to the Yoga series from Lenovo. What this means is that you can have a few different “modes” for how you want to use it. You can set it up like a regular notebook and you can flip the screen around entirely to be a thicker tablet; even the power button, volume keys and side-firing speakers are configured for this orientation. The two additional modes can have you flip the screen in almost a reverse-notebook fashion (they call it a tablet stand) such that the display is closest to you and the device rests on the keyboard. You can also get the unit to stand up like a tent, which is more picture frame-like. During the brief testing period, I found the hinge to stay quite robust, but we can’t say for sure how well it’ll hold up to prolonged use and abuse. What I can say is that the viewing angles and brightness on the IPS display are hardly perfect. It will take a little fiddling to find your sweet spot. Benchmarks: PCMark8, 3DMark11, Street Fighter IV As can be expected, the benchmark scores achieved by the Inspiron 11 3000 Series aren’t exactly breathtaking. They’re more in the “good enough” kind of range for basic daily tasks, achieving just 1077 in the PCMark 8 Home Conventional 3.0 test. Similarly, it earned 1271 and 15296 in the Cloud Gate (for notebooks and home PCs) and Ice Storm (for mobile devices and entry-level PCs) tests in 3DMark 11, respectively. My expectations for the Street Fighter IV benchmark were virtually non-existent. Even so, the rank of E with an average frame rate of 19.41fps wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been under the default benchmark settings. That’s roughly in the same range as last year’s Samsung 700T ATIV Smart PC Pro tablet. MEGATechie Affordable Flexibility or MEGATechie Flippin’ Mad? If your plan is to do any sort of real photo editing, multimedia work, or even light gaming, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series really isn’t going to cut the mustard as your primary machine. If you are looking for a thin (but not exactly light) notebook that doubles as a Windows tablet and can be an excellent “second screen,” then this could be the ticket. The best usage case that I had during my time with the machine was to keep up with all the NFL scores on Sunday, either in tent mode or tablet stand mode. The Inspiron brand is defined by two key characteristics: easy and connected. In that regard, the Inspiron 11 3000 Series is a winner. If it were much more expensive, it wouldn’t be nearly as compelling. But considering that it starts at $399.99 for the version with Intel Celeron Dual Core N2830 and from $449.99 for the Pentium Quad Core N3530 model as tested, the Inspiron 11 3000 Series is a very affordable and versatile secondary computer for a myriad of possible usage scenarios. Share This With The World!