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.
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.