Dell Inspiron 11z review

23 Nov 2009

A poor touchpad and below-par build quality undermine a budget laptop with plenty of potential

Price when reviewed: 
484(£421 inc VAT)
3

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.

Dell Inspiron 11z

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £421
Price inc VAT £484
Features & Design 2
Value for Money 3
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 292 x 216 x 47mm (WDH)
Weight 1.500kg
Travelling weight 1.9kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Pentium Dual-Core SU4100
RAM capacity 2.00GB
Memory type DDR2
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 1

Screen and video

Screen size 11.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 4500MHD
Graphics card RAM 32MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 320GB
Hard disk usable capacity 297GB
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical drive N/A
Battery capacity 4,800mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 3
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Bottom
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 8hr 3min
Battery life, heavy use 3hr 27min
Overall application benchmark score 0.68
Office application benchmark score 0.72
2D graphics application benchmark score 0.75
Encoding application benchmark score 0.60
Multitasking application benchmark score 0.64

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery disc