Dell Inspiron 13z

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Design and features

Dell's Inspiron 13z has a pleasing, compact form that tapers slightly towards the front, making it easy to lift and carry. While the subtly rounded bottom and sides are made of a fairly robust matte plastic, our review unit came with a glossy black top that was prone to picking up fingerprints.

This laptop features a 13-inch, glossy, 1366x768 display and the requisite webcam at the centre top of the screen bezel. There are no shortcut buttons or media keys, just a straight keyboard and grey slab of plastic covering the touch pad-portion of the laptop, which seems to be a staple for these cheaper laptops.

Of more concern was the build quality of the lid and hinges — the flimsy hinge mechanism causes the screen to wobble with the slightest touch. Thankfully, the rest of the laptop is well built and reasonably stylish, a rare thing for a budget laptop.

Three USB ports, a seven-in-one card reader, VGA out, HDMI out and a 3.5mm headphone jack are supplied around the outside, as well as an Ethernet port that Dell's website describes as being 100Mb only — although our sample arrived with a gigabit controller.

The air vent is located on the left-hand side of the laptop, which may be vexing for some external mouse users, and the speakers are typically poor as we've come to expect from laptops — as always, we'd recommend a good pair of speakers or headphones.

Performance

For the price, the unit packs a modest Intel Core 2 Duo U7300 at 1.3GHz, 4GB RAM and a 320GB HDD, all running on Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. While it features Bluetooth, wireless is hobbled at b/g unless you pay an extra AU$29.70 for the n module.

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Intel integrated graphics are the order of the day, leading to an unimpressive 3DMark06 score of 904 — you'll need to upgrade to the optional GeForce G105M for AU$119.90 for a better result. PCMark05 was a bit more friendly with a score of 3269, indicating the laptop is fine for office work, web browsing and basic content creation.

Our review unit shipped with a four-cell battery, and consequently a sub-par lifespan. Running an XviD movie on loop with maximum screen brightness, volume and no power-saving features, the battery ran out after two hours and 15 minutes — we'd definitely recommend the eight-cell battery upgrade for an extra AU$100.10.

While we'd highly recommend the battery upgrade, the Inspiron 13z offers exceptional value, and can be found at the base price of AU$899 — which is starting to stomp on netbook territory. If you're trying to save your cash, you'll get some decent bang for buck here.

Specifications

General
Notebook type 13-inch
RAM
Memory Speed 1600 MHz
Technology DDR3 SDRAM
Installed Size 8 GB
Storage
Type SATA
Hard Drive
Spindle Speed 5400 rpm
Capacity 500 GB
Processor
CPU Type Core i5 3rd Generation
Processor Number 3317U
Manufacturer Intel
Battery
Capacity 49 Wh
Header
Compatibility PC
Monitor
Diagonal Size 13.3
System
Hard Drive Capacity 500 GB
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Windows 8, 64-bit, English
Video Output
Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 4000
Sustainability
Greenpeace policy rating (Nov 2011) 5.1

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