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Dell Chromebook 11 (3120) Review

Sascha Mölck (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 08/04/2015

Enduring. Dell's small Chromebook attracts attention with its long battery life and decent input devices. The robust casing makes up for the odd shortcoming.

For the original German review, see here.

Even non-savvy users can easily use Chromebooks: Open, log in, and go. There is no need of grappling with the laptop's software or configuration, either. Dell now has a new 11.6-inch model in its lineup with the Chromebook 11-3120 that is primarily aimed at educational institutions. The device is powered by Intel technology. Our review reveals whether the laptop is convincing.

Not only Chromebooks, such as Lenovo's N20 or Acer's CB3-111, are among the rivals of Dell's laptop, but also Windows-based netbooks like Acer's Aspire ES1-131 or Asus' X200MA.

Dell Chromebook 11-3120 (Chromebook Series)
Graphics adapter
Intel HD Graphics (Bay Trail), Core: 311-792 MHz
Memory
4096 MB 
, DDR3L, soldered
Display
11.6 inch 16:9, 1366 x 768 pixel, TN LED, glossy: no
Storage
16 GB eMMC Flash, 16 GB 
, 9 GB free
Connections
1 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: combo audio, Card Reader: SD
Networking
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.0
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 20.3 x 297 x 218 ( = 0.8 x 11.69 x 8.58 in)
Battery
43 Wh Lithium-Ion, 11.1 V, 3800 mAh
Operating System
Google Chrome OS
Camera
Webcam: HD webcam
Additional features
Speakers: stereo, Keyboard: chiclet, Keyboard Light: no, 12 Months Warranty
Weight
1.245 kg ( = 43.92 oz / 2.74 pounds), Power Supply: 340 g ( = 11.99 oz / 0.75 pounds)
Price
300 Euro

 

Case & Connectivity

Dell's Chromebook is completely composed of black-gray plastic. The surfaces are roughened. Dell targets schools/universities with its Chromebook, and thus the laptop has to be quite enduring. Three sides of the lid and the base unit are enclosed in a rubber frame that protects the device against bumps. Dell states that the laptop has been tested in compliance with US military standards. Whether these standards have also been met is not confirmed, although the  low price suggests that it was not possible to fulfill these standards.

The base unit exhibits the usual shortcomings that we know from other laptops: The casing can be dented slightly on the keyboard's right and left. Overall, the base unit could be more stable for our taste. The hinges keep the lid firmly in position and do not rock. They also allow opening the lid by 180 degrees.

Accessing the laptop's innards is quite easy. After releasing 7 screws on the underside, the base tray can be removed with a thin putty knife. However, it would only be necessary to open the casing to replace a defective  battery, which is easily done.

Regarding interfaces, the laptop does not feature any highlights. Only one of the two USB ports supports USB 3.0. An HDMI port is present for connecting to a monitor. On the right side of the casing is a recess for a SIM card. However, our review sample does not have either 3G/LE or a SIM card slot. It is possible that suitably configured Chromebook models will be launched.

Input Devices

Dell's Chromebook is equipped with an unlit chiclet keyboard. The flat, roughened keys have a short drop and pleasant resistance. The keyboard does not yield while typing on it. Overall, the keyboard conveys a pleasing typing experience and  is suitable for prolonged typing sessions. A ClickPad is has been installed as a mouse replacement. It has a surface area of approximately 10 x 5.7 cm (~4 x 2.2 in). The smooth surface facilitates gliding with the fingers. The pad features a short drop and clear pressure point.

Input devices
Input devices

Display

Dell's Chromebook is equipped with a matte, 11.6-inch screen that has a native resolution of 1366x678 pixels. The screen has a brightness of 258.1 cd/m². This rate is acceptable in view of the laptop's price. However, a higher rate is preferable because a small mobile device like the Chromebook will probably be used at various locations, and under different lighting conditions. The contrast (364:1) could be better, and is slightly too low even in the low-cost sector.

244
cd/m²
254
cd/m²
256
cd/m²
256
cd/m²
273
cd/m²
266
cd/m²
246
cd/m²
276
cd/m²
252
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 276 cd/m² Average: 258.1 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 88 %
Center on Battery: 273 cd/m²
Contrast: 364:1 (Black: 0.75 cd/m²)

Dell has installed a viewing angle dependent TN screen in the Chromebook. Consequently, the screen is not legible from every position. Outdoor use is generally possible, but not in too bright sunlight. The laptop is more comfortable in shadowy surroundings.

The Chromebook outdoors.
The Chromebook outdoors.

Performance

Chromebooks are primarily made for office and Internet applications. Dell's laptop has more than enough computing power for these applications. Dell does not offer its Chromebook in Germany. Potential buyers will have to order one from other European countries. The device is available for example, in Great Britain and France.

Processor

Intel technology is inside the Chromebook. The laptop is powered by a Celeron N2840 dual-core processor (Bay Trail). The CPU clocks at a base speed of 2.16 GHz, which can be boosted to 2.58 GHz via Turbo. Intel specifies a TDP of 7.5 watts for its processor.

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System Performance

The system boots up quickly and runs smoothly - as we are used to from Chromebooks. The scores of the various benchmarks that we have performed correspond to the processor's power. They differ slightly from Chromebooks based on the same processor, such as Acer's CB3-111, because a newer Chrome OS version is preloaded on Dell's Chromebook. A comparison with Windows-based netbooks is somewhat more difficult because we use Internet Explorer on these devices. Depending on the test, either the IE 11 or the Chrome browser has an advantage.

Sunspider - 1.0 Total Score (sort by value)
Dell Chromebook 11-3120
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840, 16 GB eMMC Flash
554.4 ms * ∼14%
Acer Aspire ES1-131
HD Graphics (Braswell), N3050, 32 GB eMMC Flash
378.8 ms * ∼9% +32%
Asus X200MA-BING-KX366B
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2830, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E680
319 ms * ∼8% +42%
Lenovo N20 Chromebook
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2830, 16 GB eMMC Flash
548.2 ms * ∼14% +1%
Acer Aspire ES1-111-C56A
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840, 32 GB eMMC Flash
521 ms * ∼13% +6%
Acer CB3-111
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840
535 ms * ∼13% +3%
Samsung Chromebook XE303C12-A01US
Mali-T604 MP4, 5250 Dual, 16 GB eMMC Flash
736.8 ms * ∼18% -33%
Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311-T0B2
GeForce ULP K1 (Tegra K1 Kepler GPU), K1, 32 GB eMMC Flash
634.6 ms * ∼16% -14%
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 - Total Score (sort by value)
Dell Chromebook 11-3120
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840, 16 GB eMMC Flash
3842.8 ms * ∼6%
Acer Aspire ES1-131
HD Graphics (Braswell), N3050, 32 GB eMMC Flash
7633.2 ms * ∼13% -99%
HP Stream 11 X360
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840, 32 GB eMMC Flash
4366 ms * ∼7% -14%
Lenovo N20 Chromebook
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2830, 16 GB eMMC Flash
4233.5 ms * ∼7% -10%
Acer CB3-111
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840
4115 ms * ∼7% -7%
Samsung Chromebook XE303C12-A01US
Mali-T604 MP4, 5250 Dual, 16 GB eMMC Flash
5476 ms * ∼9% -43%
Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311-T0B2
GeForce ULP K1 (Tegra K1 Kepler GPU), K1, 32 GB eMMC Flash
4696.6 ms * ∼8% -22%
Octane V2 - Total Score (sort by value)
Dell Chromebook 11-3120
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840, 16 GB eMMC Flash
8229 Points ∼17%
Acer Aspire ES1-131
HD Graphics (Braswell), N3050, 32 GB eMMC Flash
4059 Points ∼8% -51%
HP Stream 11 X360
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840, 32 GB eMMC Flash
5518 Points ∼11% -33%
Lenovo N20 Chromebook
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2830, 16 GB eMMC Flash
7397 Points ∼15% -10%
Acer CB3-111
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840
7486 Points ∼15% -9%
Samsung Chromebook XE303C12-A01US
Mali-T604 MP4, 5250 Dual, 16 GB eMMC Flash
4943 Points ∼10% -40%
Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311-T0B2
GeForce ULP K1 (Tegra K1 Kepler GPU), K1, 32 GB eMMC Flash
6843 Points ∼14% -17%
Peacekeeper - --- (sort by value)
Dell Chromebook 11-3120
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840, 16 GB eMMC Flash
1571 Points ∼25%
Acer Aspire ES1-131
HD Graphics (Braswell), N3050, 32 GB eMMC Flash
651 Points ∼11% -59%
HP Stream 11 X360
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840, 32 GB eMMC Flash
1537 Points ∼25% -2%
Lenovo N20 Chromebook
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2830, 16 GB eMMC Flash
1593 Points ∼26% +1%
Acer CB3-111
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840
1637 Points ∼26% +4%
Samsung Chromebook XE303C12-A01US
Mali-T604 MP4, 5250 Dual, 16 GB eMMC Flash
1005 Points ∼16% -36%
Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311-T0B2
GeForce ULP K1 (Tegra K1 Kepler GPU), K1, 32 GB eMMC Flash
1255 Points ∼20% -20%
Browsermark - 2.1 (sort by value)
Dell Chromebook 11-3120
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840, 16 GB eMMC Flash
2389 points ∼8%
Lenovo N20 Chromebook
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2830, 16 GB eMMC Flash
2245 points ∼7% -6%
Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311-T0B2
GeForce ULP K1 (Tegra K1 Kepler GPU), K1, 32 GB eMMC Flash
2119 points ∼7% -11%
WebXPRT 2015 - Overall Score (sort by value)
Dell Chromebook 11-3120
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840, 16 GB eMMC Flash
118 Points ∼15%

* ... smaller is better

Storage Device

The system drive is an eMMC memory module with a capacity of 16 GB. The user has about 9 GB of that available. The incorporated memory card reader is not really suitable for expanding the storage capacity permanently since cards cannot be completely inserted; half the card juts out of the reader. Alternatively, data can be stored in the cloud. Chromebook buyers receive 100 GB of storage on Google's Drive cloud service.

Graphics Card

Intel's HD Graphics core is responsible for graphic output. The GPU supports DirectX 11 and clocks at up to 792 MHz. The installed GPU is the weakest performing graphics core that Intel currently has in its lineup. It supports the integrated Quick Sync technology, and thus YouTube videos are rendered smoothly in Full HD resolution.

Emissions & Energy Management

Temperature

The Chromebook does not actually get warm. We measured just over 30 degrees Celsius (~86 degrees Fahrenheit) in some measuring points on the casing. Since we cannot perform the usual stress test for Windows devices on a Chromebook, we loaded Dell's laptop by running Google's Octane v2 benchmark in a loop and a Full HD video simultaneously.

Max. Load
 32.6 °C
91 F
33.9 °C
93 F
29.9 °C
86 F
 
 31.8 °C
89 F
31.2 °C
88 F
30 °C
86 F
 
 29.7 °C
85 F
27.3 °C
81 F
29.1 °C
84 F
 
Maximum: 33.9 °C = 93 F
Average: 30.6 °C = 87 F
28.7 °C
84 F
33 °C
91 F
33 °C
91 F
27.9 °C
82 F
32.1 °C
90 F
30.9 °C
88 F
27.2 °C
81 F
27.8 °C
82 F
28.5 °C
83 F
Maximum: 33 °C = 91 F
Average: 29.9 °C = 86 F
Power Supply (max.)  30.8 °C = 87 F | Room Temperature 24.7 °C = 76 F | Voltcraft IR-360

Speakers

The stereo speakers in Dell's laptop are situated above the keyboard. They project towards the user, and produce a decent sound that lacks bass. It is even possible to listen to them for prolonged periods. External speakers or headphones can also be connected to the laptop.

Power Consumption

The Chromebook does not need much energy. The idle power consumption is below 5 watts - as we are used to from Chromebooks. The power consumption climbs up to 10.2 watts under load (simultaneously running Octane V2 and rendering a Full HD video). This is also a normal rate for the hardware platform installed here.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0 / 0.2 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 3 / 4.3 / 4.6 Watt
Load midlight 9.6 / 10.2 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Runtime

We simulate opening websites in the real-world Wi-Fi test using the "Balanced" profile and a screen brightness of approximately 150 cd/m². Dell's laptop managed a runtime of 9:26 hours - a very good time.

Battery Runtime
NBC WiFi Websurfing Battery Test 1.3 (Chrome OS 44.0.2403.90)
9h 26min
Battery Runtime
WiFi v1.3 (sort by value)
Dell Chromebook 11-3120
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840, 16 GB eMMC Flash
566 min ∼199%
Acer Aspire ES1-131
HD Graphics (Braswell), N3050, 32 GB eMMC Flash
554 min ∼194%
Asus X200MA-BING-KX366B
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2830, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E680
285 min ∼100%
WiFi (sort by value)
HP Stream 11 X360
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840, 32 GB eMMC Flash
396 min ∼66%
Lenovo N20 Chromebook
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2830, 16 GB eMMC Flash
532 min ∼88%
Acer Aspire ES1-111-C56A
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840, 32 GB eMMC Flash
329 min ∼54%
Acer CB3-111
HD Graphics (Bay Trail), N2840
568 min ∼94%
Samsung Chromebook XE303C12-A01US
Mali-T604 MP4, 5250 Dual, 16 GB eMMC Flash
240 min ∼40%
Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311-T0B2
GeForce ULP K1 (Tegra K1 Kepler GPU), K1, 32 GB eMMC Flash
604 min ∼100%

Pros

+ Matte screen
+ Low temperature development
+ Good battery life
+ Silent operation
+ Decent keyboard

Cons

- 1-year warranty only

Verdict

In Review: Dell Chromebook 11-3120. Test model courtesy of Dell Germany.
In Review: Dell Chromebook 11-3120. Test model courtesy of Dell Germany.

The Chromebook 11-3120 combines the functionality of a portable typewriter and a browsing machine. The laptop has good input devices and can boast with a robust casing. This is essential since the laptop has been designed for use in schools. The very good battery life also emphasizes this. One battery charge is enough for a day at school or university. The matte screen will not win any awards. Although the brightness is acceptable for the price range, its contrast could be higher.

Apart from the screen, the laptop does not have any real points of criticism. Therefore, it can be said that Dell's Chromebook is overall successful.

Users who prefer Windows should take a look at our review of Acer's Aspire ES1-131. Acer's 11.6-inch netbook can easily keep up with the Chromebook in terms of performance and battery life.

Dell Chromebook 11-3120 - 07/29/2015 v4(old)
Sascha Mölck

Chassis
78 / 98 → 80%
Keyboard
77%
Pointing Device
81%
Connectivity
52 / 80 → 65%
Weight
72 / 35-78 → 86%
Battery
92%
Display
80%
Games Performance
0 / 68 → 
Application Performance
58 / 87 → 67%
Temperature
93 / 91 → 100%
Noise
100%
Audio
44 / 91 → 48%
Camera
40 / 85 → 47%
Average
72%
81%
Netbook - Weighted Average

Pricecompare

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Dell Chromebook 11 (3120) Review
Sascha Mölck, 2015-08- 4 (Update: 2015-08- 4)