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Dell Inspiron 13z review

Andy Vandervell

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Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

Not all that long ago, if you wanted a portable laptop with long battery life you had to shell out upwards of £1,000. These days, however, the choice of 11.6in and 13in laptops in the £500 to £600 price bracket is bountiful. We've sampled most of the options available, too, but the Dell Inspiron 13z is a new one to us.

As its name suggests, the Dell Inspiron 13z has a 13in screen with a now standard 1,366 x 768 native resolution. Unlike a lot of similar size laptops, though - such as the HP Pavilion dm3 and Sony VAIO Y Series - the 13z has an integrated DVD drive. It doesn't impact too heavily on its weight or slimness either, weighing in at just 1.79kg and measuring just 26mm at its thickest point.

This is a commendable achievement, but aside from this the 13z is somewhat innocuous. Its combination of gloss-black lid, silver palm-rest and matt black innards isn't ugly, but neither does it set the pulse racing. In this case Dell's idea of simple design has veered a little too close to dull.

Not that its appearance has any bearing on the 13z's performance, most of which is governed by the presence of an Intel Core 2 Duo S7300 - a dual-core processor that runs at 1.3GHz and has 3MB L2 Cache. In our system it's backed up by 3GB of DDR3 RAM and a nippy 320GB, 7,200rpm hard drive. Graphics is a casualty, reliant as it is on Intel's far from powerful integrated chipset, but Dell does offer the 13z with dedicated graphics if you prefer. Bluetooth, Wireless-N Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet ensure comprehensive network connectivity.

For physical connectivity the 13z does the basics well, but does so with some compromise. Most odd is use of a single, multi-purpose audio jack. It can function as both headphone output and microphone input, but obviously not at the same time. Aside from this there are three USB ports, HDMI and VGA for video, and a multi-format card reader on the front-left edge.

Build quality is reasonable, but isn't on a par with some of Dell's more expensive machines. None of its issues, such as the slightly chintzy plastics or slight rattle in the keyboard, amount to anything significant or alarming, but we've seen better from the likes of the exquisite HP Pavilion dm3.

scamevoli

June 7, 2010, 2:10 pm

Having enjoyed Atom powered Eees for a couple of years, last week I found myself walking out of Staples, (of all places), with a CULV lappy. Complete impulse buy but, apart from the stupid shiny screen, very pleased with it so far.





Plumped for an Acer 1420P convertible job. 11.6" screen, Intel SU2100 CULV chip and 2GB DDR3, in a 1.7kg convertible tablet form factor, all for under 450 notes. Touch-screen is resistive and a bit pants to be honest (especially since the surface is so soft that I'm worried about dust landing on it and scratching it) but the ability to use the machine in places where a laptop is inconvenient is nice to have at a minimal price premium (it's a lot cheaper than the Acer 1810TZ). I popped my 320GB 7200rmp drive into it and that has made it pretty quick. 1080P content plays fine (flash, H.264, whatever) so long as there are not too many other background processes. For regular office-type work (which is what I do most of the time) it is as fast as I am - documents open in the blink of an eye and big pdfs scroll perfectly smoothly in Acrobat, etc.





But the best thing of all - I was sitting on the train this morning, working on documents, with wifi off, and the battery meter said 10.5 hours remaining. 10.5 hours! That's, what, over half of my regular working day. Amazing. And not unrealistic either from my week's experience of the machine. The main attraction of my EEE 1000HE was the huge battery life too, but this takes it a step further.





I know everyone has different priorities, but I fail to see the logic in making a small, lightweight laptop, with an economical processor that is optimised for low power draw and portability, and then endowing it with a battery that belongs in a smartphone.





With stuff like the hard drive and the memory, customers can personalise a device to an extent, so manufacturers can get away with economising there, but Dell's idea of an extended battery is so ridiculously cumbersome that it completely ruins the laptop. How can this make sense? And why on earth did Dell send you such a stupid product?

Tony Walker

June 8, 2010, 2:58 am

@TR - the processor is an SU7300 - you missed the "U" out.





@Everyone else - a large swathe of CULV lappies are due with the ULV versions of the i3/i5/i7 finally due.

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