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Dell Inspiron M301z review

Alan Lu
15 Jul 2010
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
529
inc VAT

The Inspiron M301z is a sleek ultra-portable laptop, but there are cheaper alternatives available that have even longer-lasting batteries

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The Inspiron M301z is the latest budget ultra-portable laptop from Dell and is the first we've seen from the computing giant to use an AMD low voltage processor rather than an Intel chip. The M301z comes equipped with a 1.5GHz Turion II Neo K625 processor. Most of the previous Neo-equipped ultra-portables that we've seen from other manufacturers have disappointed us with their poor performance and short battery life, but the M301z is a distinct improvement over those earlier efforts.

The M301z is slender and light, weighing just 1.8kg and measuring just an inch thick. The battery isn't large and chunky so it doesn't protrude from the rear. It lasted just under five hours in our light usage test. This should be long enough for most train journeys and short haul flights, but we've seen other ultra-portables, especially those equipped with Intel CULV processors, last even longer.

The Inspiron M301z's shiny lid

One area where the M301z holds its own against the competition is applications performance. Its scores in our demanding benchmarks were equal to those of Intel CULV-based ultra-portables and it's faster than any netbook. It's still slower than a heavier, general purpose laptop of the same price though which isn't surprising.

There's 4GB of RAM fitted. You can't fit any more, but 4GB should be more than enough for most tasks. As expected, its Radeon graphics chip isn't powerful enough for running the latest 3D games but should be able to cope with older titles.

Unlike previous ultra-portables equipped with Neo processors, the underside of the M301z didn't become uncomfortably warm as it worked its way through our benchmarks although the cooling fan was a little loud. We were quite taken by the shiny finish of the lid and wrist rest. Although they look metallic, they're actually made of plastic. They feel reasonably sturdy, but they flexed under pressure more than we'd like. The screen tilts back fairly far so it's comfortable to use when the M301z is placed on your lap.