It didn't take long for computer manufacturers to bring the hybrid design of Lenovo's Yoga series down to more affordable prices. The Dell Inspiron 11 3000, for example, takes the nearly $1,200 XPS 11 and strips it back to just essentials for less than $500, but without sacrificing the 360-degree hinges for its laptop-to-tablet-and-back-again design.
Like its competition, the 11 3000 has decidedly entry-level components. In the US, Dell has two configurations: one with a dual-core Intel Celeron N2830 and one with a quad-core Pentium N3530. These basically replace Intel Atom processors in this type of ultraportable and it's for the better, delivering more performance with improved power efficiency.
There is $50 separating their "market value" prices ($450 for the Celeron and $500 for the Pentium), though different deals come and go and at the time of this review the Celeron was $400 and the Pentium was $480 with all other specs -- 4GB of memory, integrated Intel HD graphics, and a 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive -- being the same.
The 11 3000 2-in-1 is currently unavailable on Dell's UK site (there's just the XPS 11 as yet), but in Australia you can pick up the Celeron configuration for AU$599 -- oddly enough, with dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which isn't available in the US version.
Considering its price, the 11 3000 is a classy-looking laptop. No, it's not made from aluminum, but the plastic body is made to look like it from afar and it feels solid, not cheap. Though the hinge design adds some thickness to the system, it's still just under an inch thick (21 mm) with the rest of the body measuring 11.8 inches wide by 7.9 inches deep (300 by 202 mm).
At 3.1 pounds (1.4 kg) it's not heavy, but with all that weight packed into a relatively small package, it might feel a little more hefty than you would think. The weight becomes more noticeable when using it as a handheld tablet, so it's really best if you want a full-time laptop and a part-time tablet.
|Dell Inspirion 11 3000||Lenovo Yoga 2 (11-inch)||HP Pavilion 11 x360|
|Price as reviewed||$500, AU$599||$450, £400, AU$999||$475, £329|
|Display size/resolution||11.6-inch 1,366x768 touchscreen||11.6-inch 1,366x768 touchscreen||11.6-inch 1,366x768 touchscreen|
|PC CPU||2.16GHz Intel Pentium N3530||2.16GHz Intel Pentium N3520||2.16GHz Intel Pentium N3520|
|PC Memory||4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz||4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz||8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz|
|Graphics||32MB Intel HD Graphics||32MB Intel HD Graphics||32MB Intel HD Graphics|
|Storage||500GB 5,400rpm HDD||500GB 5,400rpm HDD||500GB 5,400rpm HDD|
|Networking||802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 (64-bit)||Windows 8.1 (64-bit)||Windows 8.1 (64-bit)|
Open the laptop and, well, it looks like a typical clamshell laptop. The 1,366x768-pixel IPS touchscreen gives you wide viewing angles -- pretty important given the two-in-one design -- which the similarly configured HP Pavilion x360 doesn't have . Below the screen is a Windows logo key that can be set to go to Start menu or Desktop.
The keyboard is about as far forward as possible, leaving a fair amount of room below it for resting your palms and the wide touchpad. The keys are just big enough and there are no awkwardly small ones, so typing is accurate and comfortable: it shouldn't take much time, if any, for you to adjust to using it.
Key travel is good, so you won't feel like you're typing on flat board, and the keys are responsive and soft without feeling mushy. There is some flex toward the middle of the keyboard, but unless you're really hammering on it, it shouldn't be an issue.
The touchpad is OK, but you might want to crank up the palm rejection setting to help tame unwanted cursor movement. You may also want to shut off left and/or right-edge swiping and stick to the touchscreen for those. In fact, with the laptop's small size and the keyboard so far forward you may find yourself not using the touchpad as much as you would without a touchscreen anyway.
Since it can be used as a tablet, Dell put the power button and a volume rocker on the right side along with a USB 2.0 port, an SD card reader, and security slot. On the left you'll find the headphone/mic jack; one more USB 2.0 port as well as a USB 3.0 with sleep charging; a full-size HDMI output; and the power input. Wireless options include Bluetooth 4.0 and 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi with a single antenna, not the newer 802.11ac and not dual-band.
There is also a speaker on each side that's capable of pumping out some pretty good audio. They won't blow away a decent set of headphones or desktop speakers, but they aren't the thin, tinny-sounding stereo speakers you might expect to find.
The configuration I tested was powered by the 2.16GHz Intel Pentium N3530 processor. Though its status as a quad-core CPU doesn't mean much, it is better than an Intel Atom processor, both in performance and battery life. Again, Dell offers a slightly less powerful dual-core Intel Celeron configuration at a slightly lower cost.
The slow-spinning 500GB hard drive is nice to have for storage, but doesn't do performance any favors. A cold boot takes about a minute and launching software isn't exactly fast either. However, if you haven't yet been spoiled by the speed of a solid-state drive, you probably won't notice. (On the upside, the 11 3000 isn't completely sealed like higher-end ultrabooks, allowing you to easily remove the bottom panel for memory or storage upgrades.)
Still, it's not a system you want to try to do too much with all at once. It had little problem handling basic home office tasks or streaming movies and music while Web surfing or playing casual games. If you do a lot of photo or video editing or want to play 3D games at even reduced settings, you'll want to spend more and get something with a fourth-generation Intel processor and better integrated or discrete graphics.
Battery life was unexpectedly excellent, handily beating out similarly configured laptops we've tested. On our video playback battery drain test, the Inspiron 11 3000 reached 7 hours and 41 minutes. With some power management or, better yet, a change to a less power-hungry SSD, you should be able to reach 8 hours.
The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 might not be a powerhouse, but if your computer needs don't go too far beyond basic home office or student work and nongaming entertainment, it's a great option. The design's versatility is nice to have, you can upgrade memory and storage yourself, and it has a long battery life to boot.
Dell Inspirion 11 3000
Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.16 Intel Pentium N3530; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 500GB, 5,400rpm HDD
Lenovo Yoga 2 (11-inch)
Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.16GHZ Intel Pentium N3520; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 500GB HDD
Lenovo Ideatab Miix 2
Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 128GB SSD
HP Pavilion 11 x360
Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.16GHZ Intel Pentium N3520 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz;32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 500GB HDD
Acer Aspire Switch 10
Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3745; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 64GB SSD