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Our Verdict

Chromebooks are ready for the business world, and the Dell Chromebook 13's performance and hardy hardware proves it can handle itself.

For

  • Attractive carbon fiber lid
  • Exceptional battery life
  • Loud speakers

Against

  • Feels a little heavy
  • Dark screen, especially in sunlight
  • Competitors offer more features

Perhaps high-end Chromebooks were inevitable, but it looks like the systems like the Chromebook Pixel have started a new trend. Although many Chromebooks still offer budget hardware to run Chrome OS – a largely cloud-based operating system – manufacturers are starting to take things to the next level by offering specs and features you might find on a Windows machine.

Chromebooks are ready to be taken seriously in the business world, and the Dell Chromebook 13 joins the Chromebook Pixel and HP Chromebook 13 in making that point.

Dell Chromebook 13 review

It features an FHD screen, more memory, and more processing power than one might expect, or arguably need, from an average Chromebook. However, the Dell Chromebook 13 is designed to work in a fast-paced business or IT setting.

Perhaps it's overpowered, but the growing popularity of Chromebooks in recent years begs for some kind of upgrade, if for no other reason than to stand out from the previous generation. The Dell Chromebook 13 does just this, distinguishing itself in much the same way a BMW does in a parking lot full of Hondas.

Although it shares the same minimalistic focus on light productivity and web browsing as other Chromebooks, the high-resolution screen and spiffy internals indicate that Chromebooks are moving toward a higher class of computing.

Dell Chromebook 13 review

Design

If it weren't for the colored logo on the lid, one might not be able to tell that it's a Chromebook at first glance, and that might be the point. The black carbon fiber cover and magnesium alloy chassis suggest there are high-end components inside.

It's a very attractive notebook that fits in perfectly with Dell's other business-class machines. It's a classy setup that lets users be productive without necessarily breaking the bank.

Although, there are more powerful models available, the one I tested here is the base model with a 1.5Ghz Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of memory, and a 16GB solid state drive, which puts it in the same class as most other Chromebooks. However, the premium frame and 1080p screen basically doubles the price to $613 (about £484, AU$969).

That's still enough power to efficiently run Chrome OS, since it relies heavily on the cloud for storage and running apps. The internal storage is supplemented with a microSD slot and two USB ports (one of which is USB 3.0).

Dell Chromebook 13 review

Upgrading to Business Class

The Dell Chromebook 13's matte FHD 13-inch screen has excellent viewing angles and works reasonably well in sunny conditions. It also sports a backlit keyboard, which makes it convenient to work with in darkened rooms.

With everything, including the long-lasting battery, taken into consideration, we have a well-balanced and compact notebook that's ideal for both work and life. However, it does feel a little heavy for its size (3.23 pounds).

That said, it is about the same as the Chromebook Pixel (3.3 pounds) and is likely due to the metal chassis and size. By comparison, the HP Chromebook 13, made from aluminum, beats out both systems at 2.86 pounds.

Dell Chromebook 13 review

Web pages and cloud-based applications load quickly, but text often appears very small on the 13-inch screen, which made working with documents a pain. Unless you're keen on squinting a lot, there are some adjustments to make reading comfortable, including zooming in the browser or changing the default font size, but these may negatively impact how some pages look.

That being said, streaming video from YouTube and Netflix looks sharp at Full HD, although the picture can be a bit dark at half brightness. In fact, the brightness has to be turned up all way in sunlit spaces. Otherwise, the picture ends up looking almost solid black.

Dell Chromebook 13 review

Slim speaker grilles are located on the bottom of its tapered sides, so the sound comes out clearly and loud, especially on solid surfaces. If you don't find all that satisfactory, there's always the option of plugging in headphones.

If you want to step up your entertainment experience altogether, then you can use the Chromebook's HDMI port to a secondary display for big screen viewing and presentations.