As the above shows, the faster processor in the Dell means it outperforms the HP Pavilion dm3 – another AMD-based machine – by a reasonable margin and matches the Intel-based Asus UL30A. In general use it’s a snappy machine that copes comfortably with normal computing tasks, such as productivity, music and video playback, and web browsing. Image editing isn’t too arduous either, and the system plays all kinds of HD video smoothly.
It also enjoys a significant advantage in games, producing a playable 28.7fps in our TrackMania Nations test. This means it’s powerful enough to do a little very casual gaming, which is more than can be said of most low-voltage ultra-portables around – not to mention any laptop using Intel’s HD graphics.
Where the M301z does stumble, however, is battery life. While its 259 minutes (2hrs, 19mins) result in the Productivity test is passable, it’s but a fraction of competing machines like the Asus UL30A. Moreover, it’s even less than the likes of the Samsung Q330 – a similarly priced 13.3-inch laptop, but one that uses a full-power Intel processor and has an integrated optical drive.
This final point rather undermines the M301z. Though the Samsung Q330, and the more expensive HP Pavilion dm4, aren’t quite as portable, as tools they’re far more flexible and offer better performance for the money. Sacrificing performance only works if you get the battery life of the Asus UL30A, or the ultimately portability of an M101z or the Acer Aspire Timeline 1810TZ. It’s still a solid, attractive machine, but the M301z falls awkwardly between these stools.
It has the looks, and it’s great to use, but the M301z isn’t quite the marvel its smaller cousin is. If you care little for performance it’s a very nice, portable machine, but it compromises a little too much performance and features for our liking.