11-inch laptops are still quite in demand. But this new Inspiron from Dell falls short in processing power.

It’s a new year, and we’re looking forward to new technologies and better performing devices. But at the same time, our day-to-day computing needs are pretty much handled mainly by PCs, mostly laptops. But as we have been spoilt by slim, light and compact form factors, 11-inch laptops still have our attention.

Though they are small, they still give us the feeling of wholesome computing with a full keyboard, trackpad, a good battery life and the overall comfort of familiarity. And that’s the reason why laptops still sell despite some really powerful tablets in the market.

We’ve seen some good examples from HP, Asus and Acer lately, and now we have the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series, running on Windows 8, to see how it fares against the competitors.

Design and build

There is nothing striking about the Inspiron’s design as such – it’s got typical laptop looks, and has tapered edges that remind you a bit of the old Dell Studio models. Thankfully, that’s where the resemblance stops because those were quite the porkers, being heavy enough to make your shoulders cry.

This new Inspiron weighs all of 1.4 kgs, and that’s quite acceptable for a laptop of this size. At less than an inch thick, it’s got that right width that you’d expect from a budget laptop these days. What’s not acceptable is to still give out huge bricks for power adaptors. Why should only the top-end laptops and convertibles get the sleek chargers, is our question.

The exterior is actually quite good to look at. What Dell has done, is give the Inspiron 11 the soft-touch rubber treatment. It’s actually got a light coating of non-slip matte rubber coating on the exterior, which is better than smudge attracting gloss lids that many other laptops have. But the best part is that in spite of the coating the lid still looks like it’s made of metal.

What we didn’t like was the heat dissipation. The exhaust port is hidden under the screen hinge, and that sometimes acts as an obstruction. The bottom of the laptop can get uncomfortably hot if you decide to watch a movie in bed or work on the couch. You may want to get a small laptop table to prop it up on and the use this Inspiron.

Specs and performance

Dell’s choice of processor and memory size doesn’t go down well for the performance that is expected of it, considering the competition. The Inspiron 11 packs an Intel Celeron 2955U processor (2M Cache) that clocks in at 1.4 GHz. To augment it, the memory is 2GB (that’s the configuration we got in our test unit). This falls seriously short if you try to go anywhere beyond the simplest tasks. For example, you could be working on a document and surfing the internet for data, but if you decide to minimize the two and start watching a movie, the Inspiron starts slowing down.

The Intel HD Graphics system isn’t good enough to handle certain processes, such as photo editing or putting together a home movie. The laptop slows down to an extent where you’d get very, very annoyed. On Novabench, our choice of benchmarking software, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series scored just 314 points. This is quite a low score.

But thankfully, the Dell Inspiron 11 has a very good screen and audio output, which makes it a very good entertainer. The 11.6-inch LED Backlit Touch Display comes with Truelife and has a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, which is standard for laptops in this price range. The brightness is good, but the screen tends to get a lot of glare with the slightest amount of sunlight. The touch response is quite good, and we liked the colour reproduction. The speakers aren’t too loud, but are good enough to entertain two or three people indoors. With Waves MaxxAudio, the audio output is of good fidelity.

The keyboard and trackpad are pretty spacious, despite the small form factor, and the palmrest is great for long working hours. There are ample ports too, with two USB 2,0s, one USB 3.0, one each of HDMI, 3.5mm headset, RJ45 LAN and SDMC reader ports.

But the best part about the laptop is its battery life. During our tests, we could easily squeeze out 7 hours on an average, that too with multiple tasks on a single run.

We say

Sure, the Inspiron has a good battery life and that means good entertainment for long hours. If you want a laptop for just a few basic needs and entertainment, only then does the Inspiron 11 makes sense. It just doesn’t pack processing power for serious multitasking.

Rs 32,990 onwards

Love – Long battery life; light and compact form factor

Hate – Bad processing power; poor heat management

(This article was published on December 30, 2013)
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