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Dell Inspiron M101z review

Barry de la Rosa
8 Sep 2010
Dell Inspiron M101z
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
499
inc VAT

The M101z has decent battery life and a vibrant screen, all wrapped up in a luxurious chassis, but better cut-price ultra-portable options are available.

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Specifications

11.6 in 1,366x768 display, 1.6kg, 1.3GHz AMD Athlon II Neo K325, 4.00GB RAM, 320GB disk, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

Last month we reviewed a mid-priced version of the new Dell Inspiron M301z, and the M101z is basically an 11.6in version of this laptop. Its specification means it sits somewhere between cut-price netbooks and proper ultra-portable laptops. The model tested here is the most expensive in the range, and though you can pick up an M101z for as little as £379, it's worth noting that the single-core processor in that model will significantly reduce performance.

With its dual-core AMD Athlon II Neo K325, our sample scored 35 overall in our benchmarks, and its score of 44 in the single-threaded image-editing test is comparable with Intel's CULV processors. This is about half the performance of a standard laptop, but twice what you'd expect from the Atom processor in the vast majority of netbooks. There’s also 4GB of RAM, so you'll be able to work with larger files without problems.

The battery life of just over six hours is around 3 hours short of the best netbooks, but it’s still very respectable. The M101z includes a 320GB hard disk rather than the 250GB models in the vast majority of netbooks. There’s still no optical drive, though, so you may need to invest in an external one – though the Dell’s optional drive is a little steep at £61.

Dell Inspiron M101z

Expansion is limited, in line with what you’d expect from a netbook; there are only three USB ports and the network port only supports Fast Ethernet (100MB/s). There's the usual 802.11n wireless support plus Bluetooth 3.0. The latter uses 802.11n wireless to send data at up to 24MB/s, and you'll find it built into many new 802.11n wireless cards.

The display has the same 1,366x768 resolution as far larger laptops. It has the same glossy finish as on the M301z, which reflects overhead lights, and makes adjusting the tilt of the lid crucial to getting a decent view. We also criticised the M301z for its uneven backlight, but thankfully that isn’t a problem in this smaller display, and once you get the image square on, colours are deep and vibrant and contrast is excellent.

There's even an HDMI port provided, so if you wanted you could watch HD movies on a larger screen. You could also attach it to an AV amplifier to get sound and video, although the M101z's internal speakers are surprisingly loud. They even have a decent level of bass, and can quite happily fill a small room with sound.

Although it's amazingly thin, the lid has less flex than we expected. The odd design puts the hinges a few millimetres in from the back edge, which Dell claims will increase their longevity, it also moves the screen closer to the user. We can’t comment on the former yet, and the latter is a marginal change at best. It certainly does stop the lid from tilting back more than about 125 degrees, which can be a pain if you need to use the M101z in a cramped airline seat.

Elsewhere, the design is superb, with Dell's high standards of build quality apparent. The keyboard has separated, flat-topped keys that have a crisp action, and the layout is fairly standard (though the left Shift key could be wider). The touchpad isn't as large as we'd like, but it's responsive and has two large buttons with a light action. It doesn't support the standard multi-touch gestures, although to scroll you can use a two-finger swipe.

Its slim lines and metallic design put the M101z a notch above any netbook, but unfortunately this is reflected in the price. The larger 11.6in screen may be an improvement over small netbook examples, but this, along with the slightly larger hard disk and extra RAM don't fully justify the price difference. It's not as good value as Packard Bell's dot u, which has comparable performance, but a much longer battery life, and costs £50 less.

Basic Specifications

Rating***
ProcessorAMD Athlon II Neo K325
Processor clock speed1.3GHz
Memory4.00GB
Memory slots2
Memory slots free0
Maximum memory8GB
Size35x290x205mm
Weight1.6kg
SoundRealtek HD Audio
Pointing devicetouchpad

Display

Viewable size11.6 in
Native resolution1,366x768
Graphics ProcessorATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225
Graphics/video portsVGA, HDMI
Graphics Memory384MB

Storage

Total storage capacity320GB
Optical drive modelN/A
Optical drive typeN/A

Ports and Expansion

USB ports3
Bluetoothyes
Wired network ports1x 10/100
Wireless networking support802.11b/g/n
PC Card slotsnone
ModemNo
Supported memory cardsSD, MMC, Memory Stick Pro
Other portsminijack audio output, minijack microphone input

Miscellaneous

Carrying caseNo
Operating systemWindows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Operating system restore optionbackup and recovery software
Software includedMicrosoft Office 2010 Starter
Optional extras£61

Buying Information

Warrantyone year RTB
Price£499
Detailswww.dell.co.uk
Supplierhttp://www.dell.co.uk

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