Now netbooks are everywhere, but the lack of power can be grating when you want to do a bit more than surf the web while drinking a cappuccino. The Inspiron 11z from Dell aims to have a bit more poke but still remain fashionably thin.
To get more horsepower under the bonnet, The Inspiron uses the new ultra-low voltage 1.2GHz Celeron 723 processor and the GS45 chipset instead of using the popular Intel Atom processor.
Pair this with X4500 integrated graphics and you get a big advantage over Atom machines.
The laptop has simply designed. It comes with a plain black glossy screen cover, matte black chassis, and a silver painted palmrest. It is small enough to fit easily in your handbag or backpack.
It also lacks those media buttons, so loved but laptop manufacturers including Dell. The Inspiron 11z has just a touchpad, keyboard, power button, and power indicator. Even touchpad lacks buttons, they’re integrated into the touchpad itself.
The build quality is OK, no cosmetic problems we could see with our eyes. The chassis felt durable enough. It is also, oddly for a laptop such as this, easy to upgrade with components. Underneath the keyboard, when you take out three screws, are the user-accessible components that can be changed as and when necessary. With the keyboard removed, you can access open WWAN slot, the system memory, hard drive, and heatsink assembly.
It sports an 11.6-inch display with a resolution of 1366 by 768, meaning that menus and screens don’t suffer to much from endless scrolling. The display is sharp, with LED-backlighting and great colour reproduction. However the contrast is variable depending on the angle of the view.
Speakers sound a lot better than your average netbook and it has a better bass response than any notebook of its size we have tested. It also features an HDMI port for passing both video and digital audio to your home cinema system.
The keyboard is full-size and very comfortable to type on. Getting up to full speed was easy to do. Key action is smooth. However, using Fn+F5 to refresh a web page is a little annoying when you are so used to just pressing one button.
The one major drawback is the touchpad, which this reviewer just hated using. The integrated buttons just don’t work properly and the mouse pointer seems to fly off at a moment’s notice. This makes you want to go out and but an external mouse just so you can use the laptop properly.
Ports on the Inspiron 11z are average fare. There is an HDM port instead of a VGA port. and three USB ports, audio jacks, an SDHC-card slot, and wired Ethernet.
The power adapter is very small compared to average notebooks. It sports a 65w thin power brick with this model.
As it has a bit more power, we tested the notebook with multimedia. Flash video is OK wiht standard definition. But high definition there is some noticeable lag when watching content in HD (using BBC iPlayer in HD – to make sure it wasn’t our connection we viewed the same content on anohter test laptop and that fared better).
When running, temperatures stayed within acceptable limits but of course with more processor-intensive tasks, hotspots soon develop but nothing that you would noticed too much if sat in your lap.Noise is minimal from the heatsink.
Battery life is around seven hours, but this is with the 6-cell battery Dell supplied us. This adds to the thickness of the notebook and makes it less-than size zero.
Overall, there is a lot to like about the Inspiron 11z, but there are many annoyances that make this difficult to unconditionally recommend. A better trackpad and perhaps a battery that lasted and didn’t jut out so much would make this more attractive, as would better HD playback.
Price: From £399 (Carphone Warehouse)