The Blog of Charles Daniels

Dell Inspiron 11-3000 - Review

Posted 2016-10-09

Dell Inspiron 11-3000 - Review

Introduction

I recently purchased a Dell Inspiron 11-3000 2-in-1. Specifically, the model number is Dell Inspiron 11-3148. I was able to get a deal via Woot, paying $325 shipped. I selected this particular model for a number of reasons, namely...

In general, I am pleased with it, and would consider it a good value for the price I payed. I should probably point out a few things before continuing though...

The "guts"

The specs on my model are...

As a system, the whole thing is performant and generally as responsive as a 5200RPM drive will permit. The screen is nice and bright, although the 720p resolution is a little disappointing. I have so far had a difficult time maxing out the CPU. The addition of hyperthreading is nice, and CPU-bound tasks tend to be reasonably quick.

However, the wifi adapter is somewhat problematic. While drivers are available currently in Arch which work, performance is adequate but not great, and custom kernels will not work (eg. the -ck kernel precompiled for Haswell broke the wifi, and I could not be bothered to build the ck kernel myself with the correct driver included). Additionally, the wifi card while removable, seems to be of a non-standard form factor, meaning replacing it with another card is probably not possible. (if anyone can point me towards a better card using the same connector, please let me know!)

Additionally, the lack of an integrated Ethernet port is irritating, and necessitates the usage of an external USB Ethernet adapter.

Fit and finish

Overall, I am also pleased with the "fit and finish" of the system as a whole. Most of the media keys work properly out of the box (mute, volume up, volume down, play/pause, and the brightness keys all generate correct XF86 key codes when pressed). Even the volume buttons on the side work properly without modification. The keyboard deactivates correctly when the screen is rotated into tablet mode (although the track pad does not). The touchscreen also works out of the box, and while it does not support multi-touch under Linux, two-finger right click works properly.

The keyboard and track pad are nice as well. They keyboard and it's function key mappings are fairly sane, and the keys have a nice feel to them - a mixture of springy and squishy. I would have to say the keyboard on this thing is one of my favorite laptop keyboards aside from the old-school ThinkPads. The track pad is nice and large, and quite responsive. Two finger scrolling works well if enabled, as does two-finger right click and three-finger middle click. While I still think the Force-Touch track pads on current Apple computers are my favorite, this one would have to be the best non-Apple track pad I have used in some time.

There are a few small issues however. For one, X does not change orientation when the screen is rotated, although this is almost certainly a Linux issue, not a hardware problem. Some of the other special keys are not recognized correctly (which does not bother me, as I would not use them anyway). Additionally, the track pad is very sensitive, which made me accidentally register clicks by brushing it while typing frequently, until I disabled tap to click (I don't like the way "disable track pad while typing" works currently).

Software setup

Other than needing a USB Ethernet adapter to install Arch, the installation was pretty painless. I had no issues disabling secure boot, and Arch boots quite happily via legacy boot. I tested Cinnamon and Mate, and both worked well, recognizing and utilizing the media and brightness keys correctly out of box.

Ultimately, I settled on i3, as usual. My config files (namely ~/.i3/config) are already up in my dotfiles repo. I have also since made a small addition - running an xfce4-session within i3 so that my track pad, preferred applications, and power management settings work properly. This change hasn't been committed at time of writing, but can be accomplished by adding exec xfce4-session to ~/.i3/config.

The verdict

Overall, the Dell Inspiron 11-3000 2-in-1 is a great piece of hardware, which I am generally pleased with (with the exception of the wifi). It works very well with Linux, well enough to be my daily-driver, although it certainly also demonstrates the shortcomings of Linux on convertible devices - an area I expect we will see significant improvements to in the coming years.