Dell Chromebook 14 2-in-1 full review

For a long time, Chrome OS devices have mostly come in two varieties: small plasticky devices for the budget market, and Google’s own high-end Pixelbook way at the other end of the pricing spectrum. Dell is one of a handful of companies now hoping to carve out the middle ground, and its first attempt is the Chromebook 14 2-in-1.

Announced at IFA 2018, this is a 14in Chromebook that’s a laptop/tablet hybrid (does what it says on the tin, essentially) and boasts a couple of premium features you won’t find on many other Chromebooks. We went to take a look at Dell’s stand at the show, and here’s what we thought.

Dell Chromebook 2-in-1: Pricing and availability

The 14-in 2-in-1 Chromebook will cost $599.99 when it launches in the US on 23 October, but we don’t have any pricing or release date yet for Europe or the UK. Expect it to be similar though - costing more than your average Chromebook, but well below Google’s flagship.

Dell Chromebook 2-in-1: Design and build

Design and build are really where the Chromebook 14 2-in-1 stands out - not because it’s remarkable for a laptop, but simply because it is a bit unusual for a Chromebook.

First up there’s the size - with a 14in display (and still a bit of bezelling) this isn’t a small device, though of course that had its advantages when it comes to the screen. It’s fairly thick too, but that does mean Dell squeezes in a decent selection of ports - along with a volume rocker, in a small nod to the device's tablet side.

Perhaps most notably the body is all aluminium, in Dell’s new Urban Grey colour, which means it feels both sturdier and more premium than rival Chromebooks, which often feel cheaper than they are thanks to plastic construction. The inevitable downside is the weight - between the large screen and the metal body this thing doesn’t feel lightweight at just under 2kg, but the tradeoff will surely be worth it for some.

The whole thing basically feels less like a Chromebook, and more like one of Dell’s regular Windows Inspiron laptops: solid, dependable, sturdy, and maybe a little dull.

As the name gives away, this is also a convertible, meaning you can flip the screen back behind the keyboard and use it as an over-sized tablet. It feels a little unwieldy - but then so do all 2-in-1s with large displays - but the hinge feels secure and sturdy.

Oh, and the hinge boasts one final surprise: one of Dell’s new design tweaks, which hides exhaust fans within the hinges - here only on one side, since the relatively low-power processor doesn’t need that much cooling. We do have some slight concerns about longevity when you’re blasting hot air at the hinge all day - usually the weak point in any laptop construction - but hopefully Dell’s given that some thought.

Dell Chromebook 2-in-1: Keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard and trackpad in a Chromebook were never likely to be best-in-class, even at this slightly higher price bracket, and there are no real surprises here.

The touch pad is a nice size, but sits a little too far from the bottom edge of the laptop for my taste - I kept tapping the main body when I was trying to hit the trackpad itself, though this is probably just a question of getting used to it.

The keyboard is also a good size, but the typing action is a little soft - there’s no real click or bounce to the keys. As always, this is really a question of taste, but we’d be surprised if many people loved the keyboard here, though there’s not much to hate either.

Finally, in another of the device’s premium flourishes, Dell includes a small stylus which slides into the bottom-right of the device. The EMR pen is naturally most useful when the device is flipped into the tablet orientation, and it’s a pretty simple affair. It’ll never compete with expensive standalone stylii, but it’s not really meant to - this is for jotting notes and quick doodles, and it’ll do fine for that.

Dell Chromebook 2-in-1: Screen

The screen is another area Dell hopes to stand out. Not only is the display 14in - large for a Chromebook - but it offers Full HD, which is rare in these devices too.

Trade shows are a terrible environment to to properly assess displays thanks to some pretty variable lighting, but this seemed crisp, if a little dim - so if brightness is a priority for you, you might need to look elsewhere.

Dell Chromebook 2-in-1: Core specs and performance

No-one buys a Chromebook for the specs, but Dell has packed a bit more power in here than you might be used to. You can get it with an 8th-gen Intel Core i3 processor, together with 4GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage - again, much more than most Chromebooks bother with.

That’s a decent amount of power for a Chromebook - after all, Chrome OS is pretty lightweight to run - so we expect this thing will feel pretty nippy, even with that big screen taking up extra resources.

The specs also mean that this should happily handle the more intensive Android apps being given Chrome OS support, which is really where this device makes the most sense - throw in the tablet mode and included stylus and this could serve surprisingly well for design or creative work on the go.

Dell Chromebook 2-in-1: Connectivity and audio

Dell hasn’t skimped on the ports here, which is another nice tradeoff for the size. You get two USB-C sockets (one for charging) in addition to USB-A, MicroSD, and a headphone jack - so HDMI and ethernet are really the only things missing.

In terms of wireless, there’s 802.11ac Wi-Fi and support for Bluetooth - though Dell hasn’t confirmed which Bluetooth version it’s using.

Dell Chromebook 2-in-1: Battery life

As for battery, Dell is boasting of a 15-hour battery life from the 56WHr battery, which would impress us given the 14-inch display. We’ll test it properly ourselves whenever we get a model in for a full review.

Dell Chromebook 14 2-in-1: Specs

  • Chrome OS
  • 14-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS display
  • 8th Generation Intel i3-8130U processor
  • Intel UHD Graphics 620
  • 4GB RAM
  • 128GB eMMC storage
  • 56 WHr battery (built-in)
  • 1x USB-A 3.1
  • 2x USB-C 3.1
  • 1x 3.5mm headphone jack
  • microSD card reader
  • Full size, backlit chiclet keyboard
  • Bluetooth
  • 16.8mm x 329mm x 230mm
  • 1.81kg
  • Chrome OS
  • 14-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS display
  • 8th Generation Intel i3-8130U processor
  • Intel UHD Graphics 620
  • 4GB RAM
  • 128GB eMMC storage
  • 56 WHr battery (built-in)
  • 1x USB-A 3.1
  • 2x USB-C 3.1
  • 1x 3.5mm headphone jack
  • microSD card reader
  • Full size, backlit chiclet keyboard
  • Bluetooth
  • 16.8mm x 329mm x 230mm
  • 1.81kg