Dell Inspiron 11 3000 review
Dell wants to prove a bottom-rung laptop needn’t be an unappealing, chunky brick. The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 is cheap, very colourful and about as portable as you could wish for.Available in bold red and blue as well as white, it can attract more attention than a MacBook if you want it to. See also: Best cheap laptops you can buy.
Also see: Best Laptop Deals
Updated December 2016: Originally Dell discounted the 11 3000 to a lowly £179.99 but the recent changes in exchange rates have pushed this price to £249.
Dell Inspiron 11 3000 review: Price
This is the cheapest laptop Dell currently makes. You can buy the Inspiron 11 3000 for £249, making it a low-cost laptop. It's a bit like a modern resurrection of the netbook. Remember them? Never mind... it's better than a netbook.
There aren't lots of options or versions to choose betwee because the Dell 3000 11 zones right in on the buyer looking for something this affordable who doesn't want the pain of deciphering specifications. Your main choice, then, is the colour. Dell sent us the deep red version, but there are also blue and white versions.
Dell does make this laptop with a 500GB hard drive, but that's not available in the UK. This means you'll have to make do with only 8GB - that's the free space left on the 32GB of solid-state storage. You can, of course, hook up an external hard drive, USB flash drive or use an inexpensive microSD card. (See the best microSD cards to buy.)
Dell Inspiron 11 3000 review: Design
The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 is like an ultra-affordable take on the 12-inch MacBook, itself an unofficial offshoot of the MacBook Air range. It's small, it's light, but it's also a proper laptop.
A lot of the Windows devices you'll find around this price are hybrids, like the Asus Transformer T100. Here, the screen is firmly attached to the keyboard base, and the brains sit in the base rather than the display. It's not a tablet or 2-in-1.
While not as trendy as a hybrid, there are still real benefits to a trad device like this. It's not top-heavy, so you can work with it on your knees without it wanting to topple over as soon as you take your hands off it, for example. Hybrids rarely have great keyboards too.
The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 weighs 1.2kg, light enough to be carried about everywhere without it feeling like a burden. It's about half the weight of a basic 15.6-inch laptop.
At this sort of price you may be worried about the Dell Inspiron 11 3000's build quality, but it's reassuringly solid. While all-plastic, no parts of it flex as if they rely on a 1mm-thick piece of plastic to hold everything together.
The colour pizzazz is welcome too, and Dell has spent at least some time thinking about how to best present the laptop. Its lid is super-glossy, the interior mostly-matt and the underside a totally matt rough plastic with rubber feet.
It’s cute, but not “kids only” cute.
With a fully colour-matched frame, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 looks the part. Only the keyboard and screen surround are black. It earns top marks for practicality while having a fun edge too.
Dell Inspiron 11 3000 review: Connectivity
One fact that might make some of you chuckle is that the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 has much better real-world connectivity than the 1000 MacBook 12in. You get two full-size USB ports (one USB 2.0, one USB 3.0), a full-size HDMI port, a microSD slot and a headphone jack.
You could easily use this as a portable movie player, plugging into a TV. This might come in handy if you take the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 on a work trip abroad only to find your hotel TV only seems to broadcast in languages you don't understand.
There's also just enough connectivity to turn the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 into the brains of a desktop PC setup, although it doesn't really have the power to do this very well.
Dell Inspiron 11 3000 review: Keyboard and trackpad
This is a roving Windows 10 PC to its bones, so it's good that the keyboard and trackpad are both solid. The keys are just a shade smaller than full-size, but we do not find them cramped or uncomfortable. This review was typed on the machine, with no more errors or radically slower speed than when using a 15.6-inch machine.
Key feedback is surprisingly good too. They're quite shallow, but there's a firm, crisp action to them and none of the sponginess you get with some budget machines. We're impressed.
Being an entry-level machine the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 has no keyboard backlight, and size restrictions mean some of the secondary keys are slightly cut down a little. However, no strange decisions have been made here, so you shouldn't find the transition too fraught. We did have to switch its keyboard layout from US to UK, although this is a quick software fix.
The rather good trackpad is more of a surprise. It apes the style of an Ultrabook pad, with integrated mouse buttons and a textured plastic surface that attempts to feel like the frosted glass used in the most expensive laptops. The feel is great for a £179 machine, and even the click action is spot-on. It's not too deep, not too stiff and the dead zone at the top of the pad isn't too large.
Like most Windows machines, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 splits the pad into zones that determine whether a click fires off the 'left' or ‘right' mouse button command. Most of the pad is left button, of course, with just the bottom-right area used for right-clicking.
The Dell Inspiron 11 3000's small size makes getting used to the exact zoning less of an issue than it is in some much larger machines.