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Dell Inspiron 13z - Performance, Battery Life & Verdict

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

We've tested many laptops with similar configurations as the 13z before, so its performance was something of a known quantity. While the low-voltage, dual-core chips from Intel won't pull up any trees, combined with a decent amount of RAM and a 64-bit OS to utilise it and the Dell ticks along happily enough and will cope just fine with what most users throw at it. Even Full HD video and HD flash video poses no meaningful problems.

Moreover, as seen in the comparison between the Dell and the AMD-powered HP Pavilion dm3 {above}, the 13z enjoys a noticeable performance advantage in our testing. It also has an edge over another Intel powered machine, the ViewSonic ViewBook Pro, by dint of its unusually fast hard drive, which boosts system responsiveness markedly.

Where the 13z struggles is in games. This is true of most of small, affordable laptops, but it is an area where the AMD-powered HP Pavilion dm3 holds an advantage. It's not a massive one, it will still struggle to play most games, but it's enough to give it an edge if casual gaming is on the menu.

Due to its relatively small four-cell, 37 Watt-hour capacity battery, the Inspiron 13z is also a little disappointing where battery life is concerned. At least, it is when compared to the likes of the Acer Aspire 1810TZ and Sony VAIO Y Series, both of whom can top seven or eight hours. By contrast the 13z lasted a reasonable 236 minutes (3hrs, 56mins) in our testing, but you'll get less if accessing the Web regularly. Moreover, when playing a DVD at full brightness, it lasted just two hours, 20 minutes.

These results can be boosted by opting for the eight-cell battery option, which should double the results we got. However, much to our frustration, it's more or less impossible to buy it separately - you either get it with the laptop, or not at all. It also protrudes conspicuously from the bottom of the machine, and will likely tip the machine to on or over the two kilo barrier. Most competing machines manage longer battery life without this extra heft. Of course the Dell does have an advantage in terms of price, but it has a few too many compromises for our liking.

Verdict

On paper the Dell Inspiron 13z has a lot going for it: it's keenly priced, performs well and has an integrated optical drive where others have none. It has several problems, though, primary among them being a somewhat dull, slightly tacky chassis. It wouldn’t take much to make it a machine worth recommending, but at the moment it's merely worth thinking about.

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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