The demand for Chromebooks has skyrocketed over the last year thanks to the global pandemic with so many people working and studying from home. Unfortunately, not everyone has the privilege to rely on a stable Wi-Fi connection, which can be catastrophic for kids in remote learning environments. That's where Dell wants to come in with its new Chromebook 3100, its first education-focused Chrome OS machine to come with an optional mobile network connection.
Just looking at the Chromebook, it becomes glaringly obvious that it was built with durability, stability, and cost-efficiency in mind. It's not a pretty machine, with black, plain plastics all around and huge bezels surrounding the non-touch 11.6-inch 1366x768 anti-glare screen. Dell says the keyboard is spill-resistant and that the laptop can survive 30-inch drops on steel and "thousands of 4-inch micro-drops from multiple angles," so even the clumsiest kid should have difficulties breaking it.
The Chromebook 3100 comes with an Intel Dual Core Celeron processor, accompanied by 4GB of RAM and 16 or 32GB of storage. The big 42WHr battery should provide the low-power setup with up to 14 hours of screen-on time, though we assume Dell didn't test this on an LTE connection, which usually pulls more energy than Wi-Fi. You can charge the Chromebook via USB-C, but the LTE version only comes with one single port, which is borderline offensive, though it might just be enough in the context it's supposed to be used in. The Wi-Fi-only model can be configured with two USB-C ports, and all variants have a headphone/microphone combo jack.
|Display||11.6-inch HD (1366x768), non-touch anti-glare|
|Software||Chrome OS, auto update expiration date: June 2026|
|CPU||Intel Dual Core Celeron Processor|
|RAM||4GB LPDDR4 2400MHz|
|Battery||42WHr, up to 14 hours of battery life, 65W USB-C charging|
|Connectivity||Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 9560, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, optional Intel XMM 7350 Global LTE
1 or 2 USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports (only 1 available on devices configured with LTE), headphone/microphone combo jack
|Miscellaneous||Spill-resistant keyboard, integrated webcam|
|Measurements||Width: 11.96” / 303.9mm
Height: 0.82“ / 20.8mm
Depth: 8.19” / 207.9mm
Starting weight: 2.85 lbs. / 1.29 kg
|Price||Pricing to be announced in spring 2021|
Depending on the price, the new Dell machine might certainly be interesting for schools wanting to equip their less fortunate students with reliable internet connectivity, but I can't see the LTE-equipped laptop being valuable in many other contexts. If you're just looking for a machine to browse the internet, you might just want to stick with the Wi-Fi version and avoid paying for an LTE plan.
The Chromebook 3100 is mostly aimed at the education market, but it looks like you'll be able to buy it for personal use later this year. Dell wants to announce pricing and availability in spring 2021.