Dell Inspiron 11z review
A poor touchpad and below-par build quality undermine a budget laptop with plenty of potential
Review Date: 23 Nov 2009
Reviewed By: Mike Jennings
Price when reviewed: £421 (£484 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Intel's Atom processor has grabbed all the headlines over the past 18 months, but the firm's range of CULV processors has quietly made waves too: many budget ultraportables now sport these low-power chips.
Dell's Inspiron 11z is the latest to pack one, and it's easy to see why they're so attractive. With a result of 0.68 in our benchmarks, processors such as the dual-core 1.3GHz Pentium SU4100 featured here boast not only a 50% performance advantage over the most powerful Atom CPUs, but in combination with a high-capacity battery they can also challenge netbooks on battery life.
The six-cell battery installed in our review system is the key here. It boasts a capacity of 4,800mAh, and in our real-world tests it helped the Dell Inspiron 11z last an impressive length of time away from the mains.
It carried on going for a massive eight hours under light use and achieved nearly three-and-a-half hours in our more demanding heavy-use tests. It's a result that's right up there with the best laptops we've seen, and certainly puts the Inspiron on a par with netbooks.
While the A-Listed netbook, Samsung's N110, kept going for even longer - 11 hours - it has a smaller screen to keep lit.
The N110 also has a lesser specification. Breaking free of the netbook tag means Dell can shake off the other restrictions, and it takes advantage by including 2GB of RAM, Windows 7 Home Premium and a 320GB hard disk with this configuration: use the E-Value code "Reviews-NRM1101" to take advantage (note this may not be live until next week); using Dell's configurator the price is closer to £420 exc VAT.
The only obvious omission, as we'd expect in an ultraportable at this price, is an optical drive. You can buy an external Dell DVD writer for £60 exc VAT, but that's no match for the integrated writer included with ViewSonic's ViewBook Pro.
We're pleased to see 802.11n wireless, but gamers won't be too impressed by the choice of Intel's GMA 4500MHD graphics chipset. This rules out all but the most basic of games.
The Inspiron's chassis also disappoints. The glossy lid and grey wristrest look fine, but poor build quality abounds: the base creaks and twists when handled, and applying light pressure to the rear of the flexible screen results in noticeable ripples on the Windows desktop.
The Acer 4810T series is a similar price and lovely build quality.
I'm a big fan of this new cheap, long battery life ultraportable.
Where netbooks are too small for everyday use, these ultraportables are properly impressive.
I hope to see more manufacturers producing them.
Come on Dell, up your game!
By Grunthos on 23 Nov 2009
I fully agree with your criticism of the touchpad. I have a Mini 10, and this new laptop looks to have an identical keyboard and touchpad. The keyboard is actually very good. It's a shame the touchpad is so awful. It's by far the worst touchpad I've ever come across
By davidbryant4 on 23 Nov 2009
Can you tell me why you keep mentioning gaming performance when referring to the graphic card for these type of laptops but keep omitting comment on whether it is able to play video (including HD)?
I would expect most purchasers (including myself) of these types of machine are far more interested in whether YouTube, iPlayer, n264 etc. will play than if it is capable of the latest Call of Duty!
By jefferson30 on 24 Nov 2009
I second the above comment. In no way is gaming capability a useful indicator of performance and general capabilities of such a laptop. Here's two reasons why. The small percentage of laptop gamers wouldn't be interested in a machine like this and conversely the people who are interested wouldn't consider gaming performance a useful measure, as it ignores multitasking with productivity software for a start.
By dodge1963 on 26 Nov 2009
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