Dell's Chromebook 13 is the first Chromebook made for grown-ups. Announced Thursday, this Chromebook is neither a $200 plasticky toy, like most consumer Chromebooks, nor a $1200 unattainable Pixel. It's built for corporate workers who need quality, durability, and a wide array of choices to fit various environments.
"Corporate users are saying. I need a professional device,'" Dell's Neil Raggio explained in a briefing with PCWorld. The Chromebook 13's high-quality materials include carbon fiber, which gives the display lid a little flexibility with a lot of toughness.
The display lid also has a rubber gasket around the top, where it'll be touched the most. On the main part of the unit you'll find magnesium alloy around the touchpad area, and aluminum throughout the rest of the body. The touchpad will be a glass-precision device similar to what you'll see in the higher-end Pixel.
When the Chromebook 13 ships September 17, it'll offer models starting at $399 up to $899. Configuration choices will start with an all-Intel lineup of Broadwell CPUs: the 1.5GHz Celeron 3250U, the 2GHz Core i3-5005U, or the 2.9GHz Core i5-5300U. You can also choose 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB of DDR3L RAM, and 16GB or 32GB M.2 SSDs.
Most Chromebooks have 11-inch displays, which are great for portability but awfully small and squinty for long hours of work. The Chromebook 13, as you might guess, will have a 13.3-inch IPS display, with your choice of an anti-glare screen or a touchscreen with Gorilla Glass. Both displays will have a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels (Full HD).
The display choice will affect the unit price and also the weight. The Chromebook 13 will weigh 3.2 pounds with the anti-glare display, and 3.58 pounds with the touchscreen.
Connectivity is more limited than I expected. You get 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, but ports include just one each of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, plus an HDMI 1.4 port and microSD. Where's the USB 3.1? Where's the USB-C like the Pixel has? Maybe later, said Kirk Schell, Dell's VP for commercial and client computing, in an earlier briefing with PCWorld.
Battery life will make anyone happy: Dell estimates 12-13 hours on a full charge from the 67Wh power pack.
Why this matters: Chromebooks have established themselves as light-duty consumer models and a surprisingly popular choice for school. But even in schools, said Google's Rajeth Sheth, teachers were asking for better-quality machines. Google needs this professional-quality Chromebook to make significant inroads into the corporate world as well as education, and Dell has everything to gain from offering a high-quality Chromebook choice to its enterprise customers. Even if you're not an office drone, you can buy a Chromebook 13 from Dell's website and enjoy a higher-quality experience than you've had up to now on most consumer machines.