Some schools and parents swear by the Apple iPad, but Chromebooks have tons of appeal as go-to tech tools for school-age children thanks to significant buy-in from charitable foundations and school districts. Many of them gravitate toward specialized devices like the Dell Chromebook 11 (model 3100; $239 as tested). This inexpensive, rugged, no-frills laptop with an 11.6-inch screen is nearly everything a kids’ computer should be. Aside from some Wi-Fi issues we experienced in testing, it’s the best Chromebook you can buy for your youngsters without upending your budget.
Not Your Average Cheap Chromebook
Any cheap Chromebook can serve as a homework and remote learning platform in a pinch, and there are a ton of them. But many laptops in the $200-to-$300 range that run Google’s pared-down operating system feel cheaply made and skimp on features. The Chromebook 11 is one of the rare models in this price range that is actually pleasant to use.
The little Dell is not snazzy by any means, but it’s well-engineered. The exterior is made of textured black plastic that would look more at home in a corporate conference room than an elementary school classroom. That’s OK, though, because the plastic feels reassuring to the touch, like it’s going to shrug off a week’s worth of tiny, not-so-clean fingers pawing at it. Dell says the system is tested to survive 30-inch drops onto a steel surface, a standard that goes above and beyond the MIL-SPEC drop testing some premium laptops are subjected to.
Rubber bumpers protrude significantly from the bottom of the Chromebook 11, which help minimize the impact of inevitable bumps and drops. There are more protrusions around three of the four edges, which means the USB ports and headphone jack are recessed and thus further protected from damage. The rounded edges contrast with the staid black color to soften the Chromebook 11’s appearance somewhat. So does the bright, colorful Chrome logo recessed in the upper left corner of the display lid.
All of these physical protection features mean that the Dell is significantly larger and heavier than some other Chromebooks with screens that measure less than 13 inches. With the lid closed, it…