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Dell Inspiron M101z - Connectivity, Usability and Audio-Visual

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell



Our Score:


User Score:

On small laptops connectivity is generally fairly limited. This is no less true of the M101z, but it has all the things you really need. This includes HDMI and VGA (on the back for easy connection of a monitor) video outputs, three USB ports, two audio jacks (1x headphone, 1x microphone), and a memory card reader. Above the display is a 1.3-megapixel webcam with integrated microphone, and one of the USB ports supports standby power charging - a useful feature for charging your mobile phone.

Of course, as with all machines this size, there's also no optical drive, and should you need one an external one is sold separately. This could prove troublesome for some users, but we've yet to see a similar laptop that does have one and the M101z is unlikely to be your only PC and isn't best suited to such a role.

So the lack of an optical drive is a limitation, but we admit to becoming unreasonably giddy upon typing on the M101z. The keyboard is, without doubt, the best we've used on a laptop of this size and price. Not only is the layout perfection incarnate, the key actions have a sense of definition and solidity that renders typing effortless. They make a mockery of the woollen keys on the far more expensive Toshiba Portege R700, for example.

By contrast the touchpad and its buttons are merely adequate. We actually found the buttons a little imprecise, but they work perfectly well and the touchpad is positioned and proportioned as to avoid contact when tying. Multi-touch support is limited to two-finger scrolling, but this is arguably the most useful action anyway - anything more complex wouldn't work well on such a small area.

Just as impressive as the keyboard is the M101z's audio-visual performance. Starting with screen, its basic statistics are as you'd expect: 11.6-inches, LED backlit, and with a 1,366 x 768 native resolution. Regrettably it does have a glossy, reflective finish, but in every other aspect it's an outstanding display. Its high-resolution and small size makes it extremely sharp, and it produced greater fine detail in videos and photos than most laptops its price and size. Even the viewing angles aren't dreadful, not that the screen's size lends itself well to multiple viewers anyway.

The speakers, meanwhile, are little gems. Though they obviously lack low-end punch, boosted by SRS processing they deliver admirable clarity at high-volumes. This applies equally for music and video, and even without the extra processing these speakers are a cut above netbooks and many cheap desktop replacement laptops.

To surmise, between the outstanding keyboard and way above average screen and speakers, the M101z is a pleasure to use. It also benefits from a few nice usability tweaks, such as the top-row of Function keys defaulting to their shortcut actions. This gives you instant access to brightness, wireless and playback controls, which is a useful time saver.


August 19, 2010, 7:28 pm

Just looked at the Dell site and it doesn't appear to come with the graphics card on the one you've reviewed. All 3 spec options have the 'AMD Integrated ATI RS880M Graphics'.

Andy Vandervell

August 19, 2010, 7:57 pm

That's a mistake on Dell's part I believe. That's the name of the chipset that has the HD 4225 graphics integrated onto it. It's listed in the Device Manager on the M101z as ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225.


August 19, 2010, 10:03 pm

I recently purchased a Dell 11z with their infamous single multi-touch "ELAN" touchpad. I think it works brilliantly, but due to negative reaction, it's been removed from future models. What it allows you to do is multi-gestures with up to 3 fingers. For instance a 3 finger swipe takes you "back" in a webpage or explorer windows. Covering the pad with your palm minimises or maximises all windows, whilst 2 finger scroll either min/maximises or scrolls the page.

It's a pity this isn't on their newer laptops, but hopefully they introduce a better version of the pad by the time I upgrade.

Plus, it seems common sense to me, but why don't they put the laptop buttons on TOP of the touchpad? This might actually make the touchpad easier to use, and particularly in games since it's natural for our fingers to click above the touchpad


August 20, 2010, 3:25 am

But what happened to Della? Is the pink one for her?


August 21, 2010, 5:16 pm

No gigabit ethernet ?

Doc. Caliban

October 16, 2010, 4:24 am

Cliche, I agree... not having gigabit ethernet these days is like getting a non FAX-capable modem in 1998.


December 10, 2010, 3:40 am

I really don't understand which plant these laptop designers live on. Why they keep using the glossy screens? If they can't hear the users' complaint, surely they see the reviewers': "Regrettably it does have a glossy, reflective finish...". Will the reviewers have to keep apologising for the designers for otherwise excellent machines?!


December 16, 2010, 3:07 pm

Anyone know if the £50 9 cell battery upgrade is worth it? Battery life is important to me but if it adds too much extra bulk (in terms of size and weight) then I wont bother.

And if anyone does have it how much life does it add? :)


December 28, 2010, 10:23 am

They could easily squeeze a 12" screen or even 13" screen in to the frame. I wish laptop manufacturers would learn to utilise the maximum area available. Also, why don't they offer a Momentus XT upgrade option?

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