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.