Traditionally, choosing a laptop has been about compromise.
Dell Inspiron 11z notebook
This entry-level Dell notebook offers better performance than a netbook but is only slightly bigger and more expensive
- Thin and light despite reasonable processing power, high resolution display
- Poor touchpad design, glossy screen is annoying and has minor backlight issues
Dell's entry-level Inspiron 11z notebook has significantly more power than similar sized Atom netbooks but remains thin and light. A good display and reasonable keyboard size make it easy to use; the multitouch trackpad is our main point of annoyance.
Price$ 749.00 (AUD)
The Dell Inspiron 11z notebook has a low price tag, a thin profile and an 11.6in screen — it could easily be mistaken for an Intel Atom–powered netbook. Its dual-core Pentium processor is significantly more powerful than a netbook's CPU, and its high-resolution 1366x768 screen makes it a good choice for Web browsing and viewing high-definition videos.
This laptop only weighs 1.4kg with the standard 3-cell battery and is a little more than 2.5cm thick, making it very easy to slip into a backpack or satchel. Seven colours are available, including cherry red, pastel green and traditional black. The Dell Inspiron 11z notebook's sides are adorned with three USB ports, a 10/100 Ethernet network socket, an HDMI port and a 3-in-1 card reader — there is no optical drive or ExpressCard socket. We were pleased to see the notebook comes with a slimline, compact power brick.
The Intel Pentium SU4100 1.3GHz dual-core processor doesn't have the raw grunt of a Core i5 CPU, or an Intel Core i7 like the one found in the Fujitsu LifeBook SH760. However, it is powerful enough for Web browsing and watching videos, for example. Its media encoding performance was encouraging. It took 3min 37sec to encode 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s, which is on par with other entry-level notebooks and significantly faster than Intel Atom–based netbooks. A Blender 3D rendering score of 3min 5sec also shows mid-range performance.
The notebook's standard configuration includes 2GB of DDR2 SDRAM, but up to 4GB can be installed. The Dell Inspiron 11z's 320GB hard drive is a 5400RPM unit and recorded a transfer rate of 25.3 megabytes per second in our tests. This is a good performance compared to similarly priced notebooks. The Intel X4500MHD integrated graphics chipset features on-board high-definition video decoding, so even the most demanding 1080p MKV video files don't stutter. The Dell Inspiron 11z scored 865 in the 3DMark06 benchmark — while the system has good 2D graphics performance, it would struggle with most recent 3D games.
The battery of the Dell Inspiron 11z notebook is a 3-cell unit, but a larger 6-cell one can be purchased (although it adds considerable bulk to the rear of the laptop). We recorded battery life of 1hr 51min on the standard battery during our battery rundown test (in which we don't use any power saving measures). This is an acceptable if unspectacular result.
The reasonable keyboard size and standard layout makes typing on the Dell Inspiron 11z easy with a little practice; our main sticking point with the design of this notebook is the poor touchpad. It's lets you use multitouch gestures such as two-finger scrolling, swiping and zooming, but its layout makes it difficult to use. The right- and left-click buttons are integrated into the pad, so care is needed to avoid moving the cursor while clicking.
The Inspiron 11z's 11.6in LCD screen has good horizontal viewing angles but we were slightly less impressed when viewing it from different vertical angles — colours quickly wash out and contrast is lost when the screen is not ideally positioned. With a 1366x768 resolution it has plenty of viewing area for Internet browsing, and its 16:9 ratio suits viewing high-definition video content. When we ran through a few 720p YouTube HD clips, we found the screen to be crisp and bright with reasonable contrast. We did notice a slight loss of brightness at the extreme edges of the display, but this is a minor issue and not one you'll notice except with a bright white background.
The Dell Inspiron 11z's good quality screen, decent performance figures and slick design make it an impressive choice for anyone looking for a cheap, portable laptop with a little more power than an Atom-powered netbook. If you spend your time browsing the 'net and watching videos, consider this over a more bulky and expensive unit.
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