You may have noticed the influx of hybrid devices - each professing to be the only computer you will ever need. A recent example is the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, touted by its maker as a laptop replacement.
While the line between tablets and laptops has blurred, no company has yet cracked the magic formula. Lenovo's Yoga series has probably come the closest, although the Yoga feels more like a conventional laptop with an extra tablet mode.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dell's latest attempt, the Inspiron 11 3000 Series 2-in-1, takes after the Lenovo Yoga. It has a flexible hinge which rotates 360 degrees, allowing it to switch between laptop and tablet.
However, unlike the high-end Yoga, Dell's Inspiron is affordable at just $699. This is made possible by using cheaper, less powerful components: an Intel Pentium processor instead of an Intel Core chip, as well as a standard 500GB hard drive instead of a solid-state drive (SSD).
The good news is that Dell has not skimped on the touchscreen. The 1,366 x 768-pixel screen resolution is standard for an 11-inch display, but the use of in-plane switching technology ensures wide viewing angles.
Another pleasant surprise is the keyboard, which offers a decent amount of key travel. Despite the relatively compact form factor, the keys are comfortably spaced. However, the keyboard exhibits a fair bit of flex, especially in the middle.
For those less familiar with Windows' edge-swipe gestures, Dell has useful short-cut keys for the Settings, Share and Devices menus.
To accommodate its tablet form, the Inspiron has a volume rocker and a power button at the side. The keyboard is automatically disabled when the machine is in tablet mode. However, at 1.4kg, you do not want to use it as a tablet for long.
Frankly, the real problem with the Inspiron is that it looks too classy.
When I see a dinky little laptop, I half expect mediocre performance. However, I expect the handsome Inspiron, which looks like it has an aluminium chassis, to perform decently.
Unfortunately, the limited (4GB) memory, slow hard drive and Pentium processor frustrate.
Apps load more slowly than you would expect and the interface always feels like it is trying to catch up.
Upgrade the Pentium chip to an Intel Core i3 processor for an additional $100 if you can afford it. This will not transform the Inspiron into a super computer, but every little bit helps. In fact, that is the extent of the customisation available. You cannot add more RAM or change to an SSD.
Dell got the battery life right. It lasted 6hr 30min in our video-playback battery test, which has volume and screen brightness at the maximum.
The Inspiron 11 is affordable and has good battery life, but speed is not its forte.
This article was first published on Oct 1, 2014.
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