Hands-on with Dell's budget touch-screen Inspiron 11

At $349, this 11-inch ultraportable aims to bring tablet buyers back to laptops.

Dan Ackerman
Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times

Dell plans to fight for the attention and dollars of on-the-go consumers who may be considering a low-cost tablet or even phablet. The company's new 11-inch Inspiron 11 laptop takes prices back to the Netbook era, starting at $349 for touch screen and AMD processor, in a body that's 21mm thick and weighs 3.15 pounds.

Intel-powered versions of the Inspiron 11 start at $379, and CPU options include Intel's latest Haswell fourth-generation chips, although it'll be interesting to see how different CPU choices affect the price.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

In our brief hands-on time with the system, it was definitely a classic plastic clamshell, but I'd certainly call it upscale for a sub-$400 computer.

The interior is matte black, with a very large clickpad-style touch pad that looked like it could work on any of Dell's more expensive systems. The back of the lid, a dull matte gray in the version we saw, was inoffensive enough to work in an office or coffee shop.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Dell claims more than 8 hours of battery life, thanks to a 50Whr battery, and you can get up to 4GB RAM and a 500GB HDD, neither of which is on the high end of the scale, but should be fine for whatever you would plan to do with a $400 11-inch laptop.

The aggressive price is certainly interesting, especially with so many PC makers, from Sony to Apple to HP, emphasizing 11-inch laptops this year.

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