Dell Chromebook 13 7310 review
A sleek and desirable XPS-style Chromebook - but at a price
Chromebooks are great with their speed, hassle-free nature and long battery life. But all of that has been in spite of, rather than because of the hardware released by the numerous PC manufacturers to date. Iffy low-resolution screens and suspect build quality tend to be the order of the day. This is finally starting to change though with Dell finally following the example of the Google Chromebook Pixel by releasing a Chrome OS laptop you that wouldn't be ashamed to be seen with in public.
The Chromebook 13 7310 follows the look of Dell's high-end XPS range of Windows laptops. The carbon fibre lid and dark grey metal of the base not only look stylish, but feel rigid, robust and very well made. It's not all unforgiving metal though - there's a soft-touch rubbery material on the palm rest for a bit of warmth. It's a world away from the cheap-looking and flimsy-feeling creaky plastic casings of most admittedly much cheaper Chromebooks. It weighs 1.6kg so it's easy to carry around all day.
As Dell is aiming this Chromebook at education and corporate users, there's a Kensington lock slot alongside the universally useful HDMI port and pair of USB3 sockets. Despite the expanse of metal on both sides of this laptop, there's only a micro SD slot rather than a full-size one. Although inconvenient if you want to regularly transfer photos from a camera, it's ideal for quickly transferring files to and from a micro SD equipped Android or Windows phone.
Most Chromebooks tend to have just good-enough image quality and lowly 1366x768 pixel resolutions that aren't well-suited for multitasking. Thankfully, the Dell Chromebook 13 7310 doesn't suffer from either problem. It's bright with good colour accuracy and contrast. It's not quite as good as the Google Chromebook Pixel, but it's not far off either.
The resolution of 1920x1080 pixels is high enough to not only watch HD movies in their full glory, but, more importantly, gives you enough room to work on two documents side-by-side. Squeezing 1080p into a 13in screen means everything can appear a little too small if you have less than perfect eyesight though.
Thankfully you can switch to a more comfortable if non-native resolution - 1536x864 is an oddity and isn't quite as sharp as the native 1920x1080 but it does make everything on-screen easier to read. We wish Dell offered a native 1440x900 or 1600x900 resolution screen as an option, but this is the next best thing. It's here where we miss the 12.85in Chromebook Pixel's 3:2 aspect ratio which lends itself well to its high 2560x1700 resolution - sharp with plenty of working room, but with everything still very legible.
The screen has a glossy sheen which helps pump up brightness at the expense of more glare caused by overhead lights reflecting off the glossy finish. It's not too bad though when compared to other laptops with a glossy finish, especially if you up the brightness to compensate.
Keyboard and touchpad
The quality of the keyboards on Dell's other laptops is surprisingly variable, ranging from merely okay to very good. Thankfully, the Dell Chromebook 13 7310's keyboard is top notch. The large backlit keys have plenty of travel and tactile feedback, so typing is a real pleasure. As expected, the touchpad is also very good - smooth and accurate with very responsive two-finger gestures.
There's the option to have a touchscreen on some cheaper versions of the Dell Chromebook 13 7310. We think that touchscreens generally aren't worth having in a traditional upright non-hybrid laptop - you'll only use it occasionally given how ergonomically awkward it is, especially as Chrome OS and most web apps aren't designed for touchscreen control.
Performance and battery life
Battery life didn't quite match Dell's claimed 12 hours, but the battery still lasted a respectably lengthy ten hours and 15 minutes when we used light to medium intensity web apps. This included Google Apps, Simplenote and WordPress with occasional forays into Spotify, YouTube and Pixlr.
The Dell Chromebook 13 7310 is more than capable of running those apps and more. Our review unit, the most expensive available, is heavily over specified for a Chromebook with 8GB of memory, a 32GB SSD and a 2.3GHz dual core Intel Core i5 5300U processor. It had no trouble running any of the web apps we threw at it, so it should serve you well for a long time to come.
The Dell Chromebook 13 7310 is a very impressive Chrome OS laptop. But unless you're developing a particularly demanding in-house hybrid cloud app and need the client hardware to run it, you're better off skipping this particular configuration in favour of one of Dell's cheaper, better value versions of the 7310. For example, the 556 ex VAT model with a Core i3 processor, 4GB of memory and a 16GB SSD will be more than good enough for most.
Even if you do need or want the processing grunt of the most expensive 13 7310, it's worth considering the slightly cheaper Chromebook Pixel unless you need the extended warranty service options that only Dell offers.
Dell’s latest ChromeOS laptop is a barnstorming Chromebook, but you’re almost certainly better off with a cheaper, less over specified configuration or, unless you need an extended warranty, a Google Chromebook Pixel
|Processor||Dual-core 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-5300U|
|Graphics adaptor||Intel HD Graphics 5500|
|Total storage||32GB SSD|
|Operating system||Chrome OS|
|Parts and labour warranty||One year collect and return|
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