Dell Inspiron 1318 review
Windows laptops with 13.3in displays are rare, although Apple uses them on its Macbook.
If you're looking for something portable but with a reasonably sized keyboard and screen then Dell's new laptop could be the answer. The Inspiron 1318 is inexpensive at only £440 including VAT, plus it's well-built and attractive. It's a mixture of gloss and matt black, with a dark-blue glossy lid. As this model is sold through PC World, it isn't possible to customise it before ordering, but the benefit is that you can walk into a store and try it out first.
The glossy screen is bright and colours are vivid. Viewing angles aren't the widest we've ever seen, but shouldn't cause any serious problems. Dell has used the full width of the case for the keyboard, which is one of the sturdiest we've seen, and its layout is sensible. The Ctrl key is in its rightful place at the corner and there are no annoying half-width keys.
A few neat touches include the touch-sensitive media playback controls, LED battery-capacity indicator and slot-loading DVD writer. However, bear in mind that such drives cannot read mini 8cm CDs or DVDs. Considering its price, it's good to see Bluetooth and a webcam built in. The FireWire port adds flexibility, too.
There are a few compromises, though. The Inspiron has only two USB ports, which can prove inadequate in many situations. For example, if you're using an external hard disk that requires one port for power and one for data, you can't then connect another drive to copy files to, or an external mouse. You don't get Draft-N WiFi, either - just 802.11g.
Still, the specification is powerful enough for general tasks, with a dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM. Storage is adequate; 160GB should be more than enough for most people. There's a useful SD card reader, which also supports Memory Stick formats. You'll need to put all thought of playing the latest 3D games out of your head, though, as the Intel X3100 graphics chip just isn't powerful enough.
The 1318's real strength is portability. It weighs 2.3kg and measures just 40x318x238mm. While you won't want to carry it everywhere like a netbook, it's no problem to occasionally commute with it. In our light-use test, the battery lasted four hours and 31 minutes. The one-year warranty is nothing out of the ordinary, but it should be simple to return a faulty model to a PC World store should the unforeseen happen.
Compared to the Tecra R10, this is a bargain. For undemanding users wanting a compact laptop with good battery life, it's hard to beat.
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