Of all the Chromebooks that were announced this year, it was the new Dell Chromebook 13 range that caught our eye. Unlike most Chromebooks, it’s not really low-end and cheap, but’s also not quite as extraordinarily priced as the Chromebook Pixel. It sits somewhere in between, right in no-man’s land. The cheapest model will set you back $429, while the most expensive is around $650 currently. In the UK, prices range from £484 to £856…
It just so happens Dell sent us the highest spec touchscreen-equipped model with 8GB RAM, 32GB storage and an Intel Core i5 processor. In our early experience with it, we can’t see why it’s necessary to go with the most expensive. All models have the same impressive build quality, the all have a 13-inch full HD display and at least 4GB RAM and 16GB storage. Where you might notice a difference is in performance. The bottom end Chromebook has a Celeron processor, while the two mid-tier models have a Core i3 chip.
As far as build quality it goes, it’s hard to think of anything else on the Chromebook market that comes close to Dell’s fit, finish and materials that isn’t the Chromebook Pixel. Unlike 90% of Chromebooks, the 13-inch Dell has a carbon fiber finish, and is built from a magnesium alloy. It also happens to have one of the nicest, smoothest glass trackpads I’ve used. The outer shell (on top) has a soft, grippy texture, while the bottom is a cool, grey metal which slants towards the edges.
If there’s one design oversight, it’s one I’ve seen on a few notebooks over the years: There’s no lip, or indent, to make opening the lid easier. What’s more, the hinge is actually pretty stiff, and doesn’t open with ease. Still, I’d rather have a durable, well-made laptop which opens slowly and with a slight struggle, than a light, flimsy plastic machine with a hinge that’s as loose as Donald Trump’s grasp on British culture.
There’s a lot to love about the Dell Chromebook, but it’s the little design choices here and there that impressed me most. Unusually, the stereo speakers are placed on the underside of the notebook. But, because they’re built in to the tapered edges, sound doesn’t get muffled. Rather, the audio fires on to the surface it’s sitting on, and back at you, creating a pretty immersive audio experience. Granted, this works better on hard surfaces than soft ones. Still, I liked it.
The screen is another huge plus point on first impressions. It’s full HD resolution makes it sharp, but colors, brightness and contrast are all fantastic. I’ll be spending more time with the Chromebook over the next few days and weeks, and will bring you full thoughts once I’ve collected them in a coherent manner.
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