Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 (2016) Series Review
This cute 2-in-1 has some drawbacks, but still manages to charm.
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Dell's been on a winning streak recently, whether it's something like the high-performing XPS 15, the excellent XPS 13 (one of our favorite ultrabooks), or even a reasonably-priced laptop like the Inspiron 7000 series models.
Even its low-end 2016 Inspiron 3000 models made a positive first impression thanks to a curvy, colorful design. This Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 (MSRP $229.99, $449.99 as tested) has a similar design, with the addition of a screen that can flip all the way around, transforming it into a tablet-like device in a pinch.
Even though it's priced fairly, you'll know you're working on a low-end machine every time you open it up. The screen on the Inspiron 3000 2-in-1 is just drab, and its trackpad isn't stellar either. On the positive side, you get a very decent keyboard, plenty of ports, and a big 500 GB hard drive in the more expensive versions.
About the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1
Dell sells three major variants of the Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1. We tested the top-of-the-line version, which is listed below in bold:
•11-inch, Intel Celeron N3060, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB eMMC storage (MSRP $249.99)
•11-inch, Intel Pentium N3710, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB hard drive (MSRP $369.99)
• 11-inch, Intel Core m3 6Y30, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB hard drive (MSRP $449.99)
It should be noted that all versions of the Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 are available in four colors (Bali Blue, Alpine White, Tango Red, and Foggy Night Gray). We tested the most expensive version, with Intel's Core m chip inside a blue body:
•Intel Core m3 6Y30 dual-core processor
•4 GB DDR3L 1600MHz RAM
•1366 x 768 LED LCD touchscreen
•500 GB 5400 RPM SATA hard drive
•Intel HD Graphics 515
•WiFi 802.11ac/Bluetooth 4
•32 Wh Battery
What We Like
Cute design, nice keyboard
Now, it might not be to everyone's taste, but I adore the design of the Inspiron 3000 series computers. Cheap doesn't have to mean ugly, and Dell's put a bunch of great touches on this inexpensive model to make it look and feel a lot better than some of its competition.
In a world of silver and gray computers, Dell's dared to put out a line of compact PCs that feature bold colors and pleasing curves. Featuring all the ports you'd need, the Inspiron 3000 series doesn't sacrifice functionality just for the sake of minimalism. There's even a microSD slot—crucial if you decide to get the model with only 32 GB of internal storage.
For instance, the Inspiron 3000 unit I'm typing this on has a nice little keyboard. Even though the keys are a little small when compared to a standard ultrabook, the buttons themselves have enough travel, and the top deck of the laptop has very little flex, even while typing vigorously.
Plenty of (slow) storage
As long as you skip out on the $229 version of this computer, Dell gives you a capacious hard drive as standard. While we normally recommend a speedy SSD for the best experience, Dell has given you the option to get a whole lot of storage instead here.
The 500 GB hard drive that the Pentium and Core m versions pack give you the storage space you need for your photos, movies, and music. The only drawback is that the drive that Dell's picked for these models is a slow 5400 RPM unit. It's par for the course as far as entry-level laptops go, but especially in the Core m version, it's gonna make the system seem slower than its actual specs might suggest. You're getting capacity, not blazing speed.
If your budget means you can only afford the base model that has 32 GB of storage, at least you have the option of getting more room via a microSD card. Generally, though, that model is much less suited to be your only computer.
What We Don't Like
You get a washed-out, cheap-looking display
When I think of a tablet, I think of a device that's great for viewing content, whether that be dark Netflix shows or reading e-books. Devices like the Surface Pro 4 or even the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S straddle the line between laptop and tablet really well, putting a lot of effort into the way that content looks on the device.
Unlike those premium-grade displays, the LCD in the Inspiron 3000 2-in-1 series is poor for just about every kind of content. Its shallow viewing angles and dim backlight add up to disappointing black levels and subdued colors. What's more is that the 1280 x 768 screen resolution easily feels cramped when trying to multitask.
Especially at the $450 price of the Core m-based unit we reviewed, this display is behind the curve. When you're shopping for a budget device, there's always a catch or a corner that gets cut, and on the Inspiron 3000, the screen is where you're missing out.
Trackpad is the same as the $179 version, not great for $449
When I tried out the base-model Inspiron, I thought it had a trackpad that could be occasionally squirrelly. It's not the worst unit I've ever used, but given that Dell's been using Microsoft's precision trackpad drivers in its mid-range and high-end Inspiron laptops, and of course in its XPS laptops. Those trackpads are much more responsive, and offer more reliable palm rejection.
Especially in our $449 Core m-based test unit, it was disappointing to find it saddled with the same trackpad as a $179 laptop. It's an understandable corner to cut in a cheap notebook but if that's an important aspect to you, spend a little more to get a better Dell with the improved trackpad.
A little laptop with a little bloatware
Like other Dells we've tested recently, there's a little bit of bloatware. McAfee, for instance, is preinstalled with a trial that'll run out after a while. A 20 GB Dropbox offer will pop up from time to time if you don't uninstall it.
There's also an annoying quirk we've seen from other Dells where the audio driver's sound enhancement is enabled by default, even when using headphones. It makes everything from YouTube videos to podcasts sound awful, and I notice right away every time. Turn it off for the best audio performance.
Should I Buy It?
Yes, but only if it's on sale.
This Dell didn't have us as smitten as its cute-as-a-button design suggested, since bloatware and a cheaper-than-necessary trackpad both left me cold. But, it's hard to find a halfway decent 11.6-inch model these days, and if you don't have need for an anodized rose gold case, then the Inspiron 3000 2-in-1 could be the laptop you're looking for.
I'd recommend steering clear of the top-tier Core m version, just because it's a little expensive for what you're getting from the washed-out display and other budget-grade components in this notebook. A better buy is the Lenovo Yoga 710 11-inch, as it has a nicer screen, nicer build quality, and a solid-state drive. All of these aspects of the Lenovo make the Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 feel a little chintzy.
If you've fallen for the adorable looks of the Inspiron, I think that the mid-tier, $369 quad-core Pentium version is the way to go. Unless the Core m version is on deep discount (I've seen it for as little as $330 already this year), grab the Pentium-based model and call it a day.