Summary

Our Score

7/10

User Score

Pros

  • Impressive touchpad
  • Easy to use
  • Very portable

Cons

  • Uses slower 10/100 Mb Fast Ethernet
  • Average speakers
  • Narrow viewing angles

Review Price £528.99

Key Features: 802.11n Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 2.1; 1.3-megapixel webam; 13.3-in display; 1.79kg

Manufacturer: Dell

Dell Inspiron M301z

We recently looked at the Dell Inspiron M101z, an 11.6-inch ultra-portable that impressed us greatly. Today we're looking at its slightly larger, but similarly specified, 13.3-inch cousin, the M301z.

Like the M101z, the M301z uses low-voltage, AMD processors. In the case of our M301z, it uses a slightly faster 1.5GHz dual-core processor than the 1.3GHz one of the M101z, but it shares the same ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225 graphics core and also has 4GB of RAM. There's a 7,200rpm, 500GB hard drive on-board for storage, but there's still no integrated optical drive. Moreover, unlike the similarly priced HP Pavilion dm3, an external one isn't provided in the box.

Other features include 802.11n Wi-Fi, the fastest kind currently available, and Bluetooth 2.1. You only get 10/100Mb Ethernet, though, which some may find restricting. Naturally there's a webcam, too, a 1.3-megapixel one, and the 13.3-inch display sports the usual 1,366 x 768 native resolution.

While the M101z is related in concept, the M301z has a slightly different design. Its lid and palm-rest share the faux-silver metal effect and to good effect, adding an air of class that belies the affordable pricing; but this is further enhanced by the silver base, and the battery which is mounted at the front (MacBook-style), rather than protruding awkwardly from the back. This does preclude using high-capacity 'extended' batteries, though, which could prove problematic.

Whatever the practical trade-offs, the M301z is a very smart looking machine. Due to its size it's arguably easier to work on than the M101z, too, particularly thanks to its enlarged touchpad and screen. It's slightly less portable as a result, but at 1.79kg it's far from bulky and the 13-inch form-factor has always proved portable enough for most people.

Connectivity is varied, differing slightly from the norm. There are three USB ports, one of which doubles as eSATA, as well as a memory card reader and two audio jacks. Where the M301z deviates is in its video connections, with VGA ejected in favour of a mini-DisplayPort output alongside an HDMI port.

These are discreetly hidden behind a flap at the rear, an arrangement convenient for 'docking' with an external monitor when at home. We're not sure DisplayPort is the best choice for a machine of this type, though, particularly as those with a VGA only monitor will have to purchase a £15 adapter.

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