Dell Inspiron 11z review
A poor touchpad and below-par build quality undermine a budget laptop with plenty of potential
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.
|Price ex VAT||£421|
|Price inc VAT||£484|
|Features & Design||2|
|Value for Money||3|
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||292 x 216 x 47mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Pentium Dual-Core SU4100|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||1|
Screen and video
|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|
|Hard disk usable capacity||297GB|
|Internal disk interface||SATA/300|
|Optical disc technology||N/A|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||no|
|Wireless key-combination switch||yes|
|PC Card slots||0|
|USB ports (downstream)||3|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial 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|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Audio chipset||Realtek HD Audio|
|Hardware volume control?||no|
|Camera megapixel rating||1.3mp|
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|