The Dell Chromebook 3189 has a plain, but respectable, gray plastic aesthetic. The cover has a Dell logo in the center and a Chrome logo in a top corner, while the other top corner has a three-color light that can be used (after downloading a Chrome Extension available for free in the Chrome Webstore) to communicate with the teacher without disrupting the other students. The corners of the computer are rounded and the entire outside edge is covered in a rubberized strip to help protect it from bumps and shocks.
The hinges are stiff enough to keep the lid in place as you bend it back into tablet, tent or stand modes, but loose enough for a young person to move, without straining. The deck carries the same gray aesthetic as the lid.
Dell’s laptop is a good size for fitting into elementary and middle schoolers’ hands and bags. The Chromebook 3189 measures 12 x 8.2 x 0.9 inches, and weighs 3.2 pounds. The outer dimensions are about the same as the Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA, which measures 11.9 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches and weighs only 2.6 pounds, but the C302CA’s screen is 1 inch larger than the 3189’s (12 inches versus 11 inches for the 3189). The Acer Chromebook R 13 measures 12.8 x 8.9 x 0.6 inches and weighs 3.2 pounds, and has a 13-inch screen; the Dell Chromebook 3180 measures 11.9 x 8.1 x 0.8 inches, weighs 2.8 pounds, and has the same size screen as the Chromebook 3189, at 11 inches.
On the left side, there are two USB 3 ports, a full-size HDMI port, an SD card reader and the AC power jack. On the right side, is a combination headphone/microphone jack, a charging status light, a power button, a volume button and a Noble Wedge security slot.
The Chromebook 3189 is designed to take more than a little abuse. According to Dell, its laptop passed a number of MIL-SPEC tests, including those for shocks, vibrations and extreme temperatures. During its lab testing, Dell dropped the machine 26 times onto plywood from a height of 30 inches and it kept working. The laptop also has a spill-resistant keyboard to help it survive liquids.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Chromebook 3189’s keyboard felt good to type on, although the slightly concave keys could make it more difficult for someone with adult-size hands or long fingernails. I typed 75 words per minute on 10fastfingers.com with a 1.5 percent error rate, virtually the same as my usual 77 words per minute with a 1 percent error rate. The keys have a reasonable 1.4mm of vertical travel and require 63 grams of actuation force, which are both slightly above the category average.