Core m3 processor. Includes HDMI port. Touch screen. Attractive design.
No 5GHz Wi-Fi. Slow 5,400rpm hard drive. Only 1,366-by-768 resolution screen. Relatively short battery life.
- Bottom Line
The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series 2-in-1 is a convertible-hybrid laptop that has a better processor and subsequently higher performance than rivals, but makes a few compromises to meet its relatively inexpensive price.
The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series 2-in-1 (3179) (starts at $249; $399 as tested) convertible-hybrid laptop has the power of an Intel Core m3 processor that outperforms lower-powered systems with Celeron or Atom CPUs. It's attractive and stylish, and certainly an option if you're on a budget. The design will particularly appeal to teenagers—and the price to their parents. However, compared with rivals like the Lenovo Yoga 710 (11"), it has much less battery life and makes a few other compromises to reach that sub-$400 price tag.
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A candy-like red color makes the machine hard to miss. Other color options include blue, gray, and white. The Dell logo on the lid is orange, contrasting with the candy-apple red body and burgundy hinges. It has a plastic shell, but that is par for the budget category. The laptop measures 0.82 by 11.48 by 7.95 inches (HWD) and weighs 2.84 pounds, a smidge larger in every dimension and about a half-pound heavier than the Lenovo Yoga 710 (11"), our current top pick for budget convertibles. Even so, you'd have no problem tucking the system in any school bag.
The Inspiron 3179's keyboard is smaller than full-size, but is comfortable to type on after a short familiarization period. It isn't backlit, but that's common for budget laptops. A wide one-piece touchpad is centered right under the keyboard where you'd expect it, and responds quickly to inputs, though you can also use the touch screen.
Convertible Laptop Means Flexibility
Thanks to its multi-mode hinge, you can flip the screen around completely to use it like a tablet. You can also use the system in tent or display mode to view videos or share the screen with a few friends. Other inexpensive laptops like the Lenovo Yoga 710, the Samsung Chromebook Plus, and the Dell Chromebook 3189 Education 2-in-1 also fold over for this extra bit of usability.
The 11.6-inch touch screen appears bright and clear in all modes, and the screen orientation automatically adjusts when you flip the body around. The LED-backlit LCD panel has a 1,366-by-768 resolution, lower than the 2,400-by-1,600 resolution of the Samsung Chromebook Plus' 12.3-inch screen or the 1,920-by-1,080 resolution on the Lenovo Yoga 710 (11"), so fonts are a little blockier, but that's not unreasonable at this price point. Viewing angles are very good, thankfully, and images are clearer when you look at the screen from off-center compared with less expensive laptops like the Lenovo Ideapad 110S. The touch screen is responsive to finger taps in tablet and stand modes, and we are able to use the system comfortably in tablet mode, folded over in the crook of one arm.
Port selection is very good, considering the limited real estate around the system's perimeter. On the left you'll find the jack for the AC adapter, an HDMI port, a USB 3.0 port, and a slot for the microSD card reader. On the right, you'll find a headset jack, a security lock port, and two USB 2.0 ports for your printer or wired mouse. 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 handle wireless connections. It should be noted that the Inspiron 3179 lacks 5GHz Wi-Fi, so you won't be able to connect to 802.11ac or -n routers that only operate on those frequencies. The Yoga 710 (11") and most chromebooks like the Asus Chromebook Flip support dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
A grille between the keyboard and the lid houses the speakers, which offer distortion-free output, even at full volume. However, you shouldn't expect any bass, as it's more akin to the sounds from the tiny speaker on a phone. You will be able to follow what's going on in a YouTube video, but if you're watching a movie or listening to music, we suggest plugging in a pair of headphones.
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The system comes with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB 5,400rpm SATA hard drive, both of which are de rigueur for budget laptops. The Inspiron 3179 boots at a slower pace than the Lenovo Yoga 710, which houses an SSD, and most chromebooks, which use flash memory, but you'll have a lot of local space for downloads. The Yoga 710 has half as much storage as the Inspiron 3179, even if its SSD is faster. It's covered by a one-year warranty.
Core m3, Somewhat Powerful
The base version of the Inspiron 3179 comes with an Intel Celeron processor, with much less memory and storage (2GB of RAM, and 32GB of eMMC flash storage). The $399 version reviewed here has an Intel Core m3-7Y30 dual-core processor. In our benchmark testing, the laptop performed admirably compared with rivals. It garnered a respectable 2,631 points on the PCMark 8 Work Conventional test, beating the Lenovo Yoga 710 (11") (2,451), the Lenovo IdeaPad 110S (1,657), and the Asus Transformer Mini (T102HA-D4-GR) (1,463).
It likewise was a top performer on multimedia tests like Handbrake (4:42), Cinebench (199), and Photoshop (5:02). It was on par with the Yoga 710 on these benchmarks, thanks to its similar, but older-generation, Core m3 processor. Both the Yoga and the Inspiron beat the Celeron-equipped IdeaPad 110S and the Asus Transformer Mini with its Atom x5 processor on the multimedia tests by a significant margin (notably by 10 minutes or more on the Photoshop test). Check our benchmark tables for the exact figures, but suffice it to say if you are going to be doing any photo editing on these budget laptops, we recommend the Core m3 processor.
Battery life is relatively anemic for the category. The laptop lasted 6 hours, 29 minutes on our rundown test. That was about an hour less than the IdeaPad 110S (7:36), but it had far less endurance than the Yoga 710 (11:12) or the Asus Transformer Mini (14:14). Chromebooks like the Samsung Chromebook Plus (8:54) and the Dell Chromebook 3189 Education 2-in-1 (11:39) also outlasted the Inspiron. You should be able to watch a few movies on a single charge, but you'll have to plug it in more often than other budget laptops and chromebooks for most other day-to-day tasks.
A Good Value
The convertible Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series 2-in-1 is inexpensive, has a decent amount of performance for a budget system, and is a good value overall. However, the Lenovo Yoga 710 (11") holds on to its top spot thanks to its higher-resolution screen, speedy SSD storage, and extra hours of battery life, even with a price tag that's $200 higher. If you need to stay under $500, alternatives include chromebooks like the Samsung Chromebook Plus and the Dell Chromebook 3189 Education 2-in-1, or the Windows-based Asus Transformer Mini.
Other Dell 2-in-1 Convertible Laptops
Joel Santo Domingo is the Lead Analyst for the Desktops team at PC Magazine Labs. He joined PC Magazine in 2000, after 7 years of IT work for companies large and small. His background includes managing mobile, desktop and network infrastructure on both the Macintosh and Windows platforms. Joel is proof that you can escape the retail grind: he wore a yellow polo shirt early in his tech career. Along the way Joel earned a BA in English Literature and an MBA in Information Technology… More »
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