Review Price £498.99
Dell Inspiron M101z - Connectivity, Usability and Audio-Visual
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.