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Dell Inspiron 13z - Keyboard, Touchpad, Screen & Audio

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell
Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score

7/10

Review Price free/subscription

As noted just now, there's hint of rattle in the keyboard and it's symptomatic of its performance. Its keys, while large and thoughtfully arranged, lack the bite and positivity we expect. In all likelihood you can adjust to it and use it quite adequately, but for the most part it feels lightweight and unsatisfying to use. One nice touch is the presence of shortcut keys as the primary actions on the F-keys, but it doesn't make up for the poor overall performance.

By contrast the touchpad is just fine, but then it's pretty hard to go wrong in this department; it's well-proportioned, glides smoothly generally works as it should. We're not particularly enamoured with the two buttons, though, whose sprung actions match the keyboard in being muddy and imprecise.

Such mixed emotions are reflected in the screen, too. Literally, in fact, as the 13z sports a reflective, glossy finish to its screen. Of course the 13z isn't unique in this trait, but it's always a consideration if you're planning to use the machine on the move. More pointedly the viewing angles are particularly poor, making it difficult to watch videos and view photos from anything other than the optimum viewing angle.

It's a shame, too, as when you are sitting comfortably (and accurately) the 13z's screen is pretty good. It produces reasonable colours and resolves a decent level of detail in videos and photos. That this can only be experienced in such a narrow range is deeply frustrating, though.

While not quite "deeply frustrating", the speakers on the 13z are something of an afterthought. This much can be gleaned from their location below the front edge of the machine, so that they point down into the desk and/or your lap. They do a passable job for online video clips, but music and films sound weak and unrefined. Don’t be fooled by the presence of the 'SRS Premium Sound' branding just below the screen, it's not a guarantor of fidelity by a long chalk.

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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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