The Bottom Line
Sep 10 2012 - The Inspiron 13z is an interesting mix of ultrabook technologies with traditional laptop design. It uses many of the same parts that an ultrabook might feature but suffers from its storage such that it is slower than most ultrabooks in the same price range. In addition to this, it is certainly heavier than many ultrabooks. What it does offer is some compelling battery life in a non-ultrabook and more USB 3.0 peripheral ports which is hampered by their annoying covers. The question comes down to price and with incentives, the Inspiron 13z can be a nice option as a traditional laptop but for a few hundred more, higher portability and performance can be had from the new class of ultrabooks.
- Good Pricing
- Battery Life That Beats Some Ultrabooks
- Three USB 3.0 Ports
- Performance Hindered By Slower Drive
- Annoying Port Covers
- Intel Core i5-3317U Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 6GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 500GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- 13.3" WXGA (1366x768) Display With 1.0 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 4000 Integrated Graphics
- Fast Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Three USB 3.0, HDMI, 6-in-1 Card Reader
- 13.7" x 9.1" x .82" @ 3.8 lbs.
- Windows 7 Home Premium, Office Starter, McAfee Security Center
Review - Dell Inspiron 13z
The main area where the Dell Inspiron 13z differs from an ultrabook is in the storage. Sure, it doesn't have an optical drive which is typical of many of the new systems but it also uses a traditional hard drive rather than a solid state drive or hybrid solution. This does give it an advantage in terms of storage space thanks to the large 500GB capacity but it will not have that same quick response when loading applications or booting up the system. For instance, it takes just under a minute to boot while most ultrabooks will take just half that time. Now it does come with three USB 3.0 ports for use with high speed external storage devices if you need to add extra space. This is a good number of ports especially when most competing systems offers just one or two. Unfortunately, Dell has decided to place these under port covers. It provides a nice clean look when there aren't any peripherals there but they are very distracting to have to open up when you do need to connect something up.
The 13.-3inch display panel for the Inspiron 13z is a fairly typical offering for a lower cost laptop. The TN technology based display offers a native 1366x768 resolution but has some disappointing color. In addition, the viewing angles for the screen were very narrow that quickly washed out what little color was already in the panel. The graphics for the system uses the Intel HD Graphics 4000 that are built into the processor which is typical for most smaller laptops these days. This is a huge improvement over the past generation and does allow some limited casual 3D PC gaming with older titles at lower resolutions and detail levels. What it does provide though is the ability to speed up video transcoding when using Quick Sync compatible applications.
The keyboard for the Inspiron 13z uses the isolated layout that is typical of many laptop computers now. The layout is decent and the keys offer a nice amount of feedback. The downside here is that there is a good deal of flex in the keyboard that gives it a spongy feel and can impact typing somewhat. The trackoad is much smaller than many that have shown up on smaller 13-inch laptops recently. Part of this is also because it uses dedicated buttons rather than integrated ones. The accuracy was good and the dedicated buttons worked much better than the integrated offerings.
For the battery pack, Dell uses a 49WHr rated battery pack which is fairly typical for laptops in this size range. In my digital video playback tests, the system was able to run for just under four hours before going into standby mode. This is a good overall time considering that the system is not listed as an ultrabook. It does fall short of other non-ultrabooks such as the Apple MacBook Pro 13 which can run over six hours in the same test but it does have a much larger battery pack.