John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Dell Inspiron 11 laptop review

I recently bought a new Dell Inspiron 11 3147 for my daughter for university. This is another of these oddly designed units you can flip around and pretend it’s a tablet. It makes no attempt to recess the keys of the keyboard (unlike the Lenovo Yoga) so they are exposed ready to be abused when it’s in tablet mode. They do disable the keyboard at least when in this mode. And have intelligently added a Windows hard key onto the front of the screen. I can’t say I’m a fan (or even see a whole lot of point) of this tablet mode, but one can always choose to not use it so decided to not write this one off because it has this feature. What drew me to this device is a combination of good portability (size/weight) as well as reasonable power and battery life. As a university student there are times when one is not close to a power outlet. Let’s talk about specs:

Intel® Pentium® Processor N3540 (2M Cache, up to 2.66 GHz)
4GB Single Channel DDR3L 1600MHz (4GBx1) (which according to some YouTube videos can be upgraded to an 8G DIMM by removing the back of the unit)
500GB 5400 rpm SATA Hard Drive
11.6-inch HD (1366 x 768) Truelife LED-Backlit Touch Display with Wide Viewing Angle (IPS) touchscreen
43 WHr, 3-Cell Battery (integrated)
802.11bgn + Bluetooth 4.0, 2.4 GHz (looks like no 5GHZ)

Full size HDMI™ 1.4a, SD Card Reader, USB 3.0 (1), USB 2.0 (2), Security slot

Multi-Touchpad with integrated scrolling & gestures

Weighs 1.39kg and measures 19mm x 300mm x 201.5mm


Physically the design is clean and well thought out. The display bezel is small and the screen bright. The touch screen is responsive enough. The keyboard feels good and is easy to type on. The The touchpad is fine and detects taps just fine. As always I am not fond of touchpads (I prefer the old style IBM track sticks) but this is an industry wide decision so it is what it is. Obviously you can easily add a bluetooth or wireless mouse.

The order was bought Mar 24th, shipped Mar 27th (3 days) and arrived Mar 31st (7 days). It was shipped from the US using Purolator.

Initial power on was smooth, once I figured out where the power button is. It is oddly placed on the front ride side of the base unit. Be sure and not hit it when in tablet mode. I would have preferred it on or near the keyboard but then I guess that too could have got hit. So it is what it is. Once initial Windows setup is done your onto patches and here comes a HUGE patience test. For a model that is brand new, and could not be that long from when it was produced it needed 86 Windows updates to be downloaded and installed. Sheesh. And one of the things I have always found is that Atom based processors (which this is in spite of naming) are REALLY slow on Windows update for some bizarre reason. To the point that it took over 5 hours from power on to patches installed. Holy crap. Dell really could have helped this process by having a more current image. But that said, this is not uncommon.

Outside of patches the N3540 seems like an ok processor. Giving a good trade off between power consumption and processing power. I would put this somewhere near an i3 (likely slightly below). There are lots of comparisons out there you can read to help you sort out what is best for you.

4G of memory is reasonable and as far as I am concerned a minimum. If it can be upgraded to 8 in the future all the better (not that I can confirm or deny that to be possible on the one I have until I take off the back).

The achilles heal of all PCs today is the hard drive. This one is no exception. At only 5400 RPM it is no speed demon. Why more companies do not offer the option of an SSD is beyond me. I would pay (as long as it was a reasonable price). SSDs are more durable (no moving parts), draw less power, generate less heat, have no such thing as seek time (making swapping a whole faster) and are faster than rotating media. The size of the hard drive for me is virtually irrelevant. I do not keep a lot on my local laptop drive anyway. And I need more I can always carry a USB stick. Speed wise it was quite surprising at 77.8MB/s write and 74.5 MB/s read. But the 5400 RPM does show itself more as the system gets busy and the seek time starts to come into play.

Industry wide 1366×768 is a very common resolution. This includes models from 11 inch to 15 and larger. At 135 pixels per inch on an 11 inch display and down to 100 pixels per inch for a 15.6 inch display (compared to 263 on an iPad) this is really becoming limiting. So this particular tablet does not set itself above the masses in ppi. The 768 can be quite limiting with some screens in Windows not fitting properly, and some web sites not fitting as well as one might hope. But all in all it is an adequate display.

As always with Windows 8.1 the onscreen keyboard is dumb as a stump and keeps popping up even with a physical keyboard present. The easiest solution is to disable the touch keyboard and hand writing panel service from the control panel services interface. Why Microsoft do not make it easier to disable the onscreen keyboard is beyond me.

This system is not entirely silent in that it does have a fan. And the area on the bottom side of the laptop where the processor is gets noticeably hot. Hot enough to be noticeable even through pants.

I was pushing the unit pretty hard doing installs and the battery went down 31% in under 2 hours giving it a projected battery life of only 4.5 hours. Not great for a machine in this category. The adapter for this is a whopping 19.5V * 3.34A or 65.13 watts. A typical tablet charger is around 18W. This charger took it from 52% to 79% in 35 mins. A projected full charge would occur in around 2.2 hours. Wow. Super fast charge. This is the benefit of using a proprietary barrel charger instead of a micro USB charger.

There’s only one LED on device (well one plus one for when the camera is on). It is in the front corner of the unit. Not easily seen.

All in all this is a good laptop. Nothing outstanding but a good work horse. For the price it’s a reasonable deal.


April 5, 2015 - Posted by | Windows tablets

1 Comment »

  1. Great research i like your post

    Comment by Shahid | July 31, 2015 | Reply

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