Once upon a time, in another day and age, there were Dell Chromebooks. If you’re new to the ChromeOS world, that may come as a bit of a surprise since Dell hasn’t put out a new Chromebook in more than two years. Even then, the last few devices from Dell have been solely focused on education and enterprise customers with most recent consumer model being the Dell Inspiron 14 that was released all the way back in 2018. Considering most major ChromeOS makers launch a new flagship every year, that makes Dell’s devices borderline antiques in the ever-evolving world of consumer PCs.
If you look back even further, Dell was once a major player in the Chromebook space. Way back in 2014, Dell was among the first companies to make a Chromebox mini PC. Then, in 2015, Dell released what many ChromeOS fans revered as one of the greatest Chromebooks of its day. Officially named Chromebook 13 7310, real Chromies affectionately called it by its board’s codename, Lulu. Dell dubbed it a business-class laptop and at that time, it was one of the most well-rounded devices you could get your hands on. As a matter of fact, Google’s very pricey Chromebook Pixel was about the only other device on the market at that time that offered up a powerful, premium experience. The Dell cost significantly less and therefore, was really the go-to consumer Chromebook of its day.
Heading back to 2018, Dell’s Inspiron Chromebook 14 was one of very few 8th Gen Intel U-series devices to hit the market and it was honestly just as solid a device as any out there at the time. (This excludes the Pixelbook and other Y-series devices, of course.) The Inspiron 14 was built like a tank and it truly felt as if Dell was but a mere iteration away from Chromebook greatness. Then, just like that, Dell stopped making consumer Chromebooks.
Now, that’s not to say that Dells stopped making Chromebooks entirely. The company has released a handful of iterated EDU devices that are, well, exactly what you’d expect from an EDU device. Meh screens, low-end specs, rugged chassis and everything else we don’t really like about EDU Chromebooks. Yes, they serve a great purpose but they aren’t exactly what you want to use as your personal PC. Then, there’s Dell’s Enterprise segment. No, I didn’t forget the Latitude Chromebooks that came out in 2020. The Dell Latitude 7000 series Chromebooks are premium, powerful, and put together as well as any Chromebook out there. As a matter of fact, we would have highly recommended them for consumers if you were actually able to buy one for less than $1,500. Some configurations carried an MSRP of over $2,000 and 2-3 years ago, that simply wasn’t warranted in the ChromeOS space.
Granted, these were enterprise-focused devices and that’s exactly how Dell markets them. Even now, you can find the Latitude Chromebooks on Dell’s website for well over $1,000 and you’re getting three-year-old hardware that falls well short of the 12th Gen devices we have today that, in many cases, cost significantly less. For that exact reason, I’ve never considered the Latitude Chromebooks as a consumer device. Don’t get me wrong. They are very well-built machines and if you want to buy one, you most certainly can. Me? I’ll keep my money for the Dragonfly Pro thank you.
So, where does that leave us? It has been nearly five years since Dell released its last consumer Chromebook. Not a promising look when you consider that most OEMs launch a new device every year or at most, two years. Over the past couple of years, we have tracked a handful of devices in the Chromium repository that we really thought were from Dell. Some of those devices ended up being from other OEMs and we simply missed the mark. The Framework Chromebook, a.k.a Banshee, is one of those devices. Other devices that we presumed were Dell have simply ceased development. If I were basing my opinion solely on activity in the repositories, I’d wager that Dell has simply chosen to exit the ChromeOS space entirely.
What a bad time to leave
Now, I have no insider information and I am not saying that Dell has officially left the Chromebook game. I’m only pointing out that the #3 PC maker in the world not producing consumer-facing, flagship Chromebooks when they had a good history with ChromeOS seems rather odd. My opinion is only reinforced when you take a look at the current landscape of ChromeOS and see companies like HP producing “prosumer” devices that parallel Google’s own Pixelbook laptops. Dell has made some very solid and quite popular Chromebooks in the past and I can’t seem to wrap my head around why we haven’t seen the company lean into the premium consumer space in the same way that companies like HP, Acer, Lenovo, and ASUS have.
It’s 2023 and ChromeOS has cemented its place in the education and enterprise sectors. OEMs have now shifted their focus to the consumer markets with new Chromebooks that bear premium branding like Galaxy and Elite Dragonfly. These were titles once reserved only for ultra-premium Windows hardware. Clearly, consumers want powerful, high-end Chromebooks and Dell appears to be content not even entering the space. We’ve long dreamed of seeing Chromebooks flaunting the drool-worthy XPS badge and now, more than ever, the time feels right for just such a device.
With Google pushing into the gaming space and premium ChromeOS hardware becoming a viable player in this arena, a well-built XPS Chromebook would likely be a hit for Dell if the company hasn’t waited too long to get in the game. Before long, we’ll have Steam on ChromeOS. Combine that with the major league gaming from platforms like GeForce NOW and ChromeOS’ ever-expanding capabilities in the workplace, I don’t see how Dell could avoid going all-in on Chromebooks. I mean, seriously. Look at that Dell XPS above. Who wouldn’t want a 12th Gen Chromebook with that aesthetic and build quality?
Anyway, that’s just my two cents. I really thought that Dell would be a major player in the Chromebook space by now but instead, I get the impression that the PC giant is content letting others dominate the space and that’s a shame. Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe, just maybe Dell has been buying its time and skipping a few generations in preparation for something amazing. Dell doesn’t usually announce flagship devices at CES and that last time we saw a consumer model is was in the latter part of the year. Maybe Dell will surprise us and bring the heat with a new flagship that will rival what we’re seeing from others. Personally, I hope so. The Chromebook landscape is ripe and there’s room for everyone. We could most certainly use another halo device from a company that knows how to make premium hardware. Only time will tell.