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The Dell Inspiron 11z has a very simple design, with a plain black glossy screen cover, matte black chassis, and a silver painted palmrest. When closed the shell is nearly flat, with few items sticking out the bottom cover, making it easy to slide into a slipcase or backpack. Inside the 11z has no superfluous features, just the touchpad, keyboard, power button, and power indicator. There are no media buttons outside of function keys on the keyboard, and there aren’t even activity lights or touchpad buttons. Dell really tried to take out unneeded or cluttering features to make this netbook as clean and easy to use as possible.
Build quality is average, with a few minor annoyances i noticed out of the box. With most computers you don’t see chassis flaws right out of the box. What you do notice are cosmetic flaws, which even if they are minor are still depressing to see on a brand new machine. The 11z came with a battery preinstalled that looked like it had been tumbled around in a box with other batteries up until the assembly stage. It was scuffed and marred all over, which was easily noticed since it has a fine matte finish. The rubber bumpers on the screen were also incorrectly installed. They are square pieces of rubber designed to fit in square holes, but installed crooked like diamonds. In the entire scheme of things these are minor problems that don’t affect the durability of the notebook, but needless to say don’t instill confidence in the end-user.
The 11.6″ screen on the 11z was an excellent change from the common 1024×600 netbook screen. With a resolution of 1366×768 you have as much screen space as full-size notebooks, meaning that menus and other items that need more vertical space are no longer a problem. The panel looks great, with good color reproduction and very even lighting thanks to the LED-backlighting
Port selection is average for most netbooks, with the exception of HDMI in place of an older VGA port. Dell included three USB ports, audio jacks, an SDHC-card slot, and LAN connector. Users might also notice that Dell went with a full-size power connection on the 11z, the same shared with every other Dell notebook.
Turning to benchmarks to find out how the Celeron 723 compared to the N270 and N280 Atom, I found that it was actually running slower than expected. I was a little bit worried about this but got used to it with time but it did get worse overtime. Running PCMark05, the Celeron and X4500 graphics combo was able to come out sharp with the graphics.
I bought this netbook in early 2010. Prior to that my other half and I each had a PC so this was the first portable 'computer' in our household.
~ Price and availability ~
This netbook cost me around £320.00 back in 2010 and it is now available used on Amazon.co.uk for £220.00 with Windows Vista on it.
My version has Windows 7 on it.
~ Why a netbook? ~
A netbook is a smaller version of a laptop. This laptop has an 11.6 inch screen, which I don't think is too small.
I wanted a netbook instead of a laptop as they are a lot lighter so they are more portable and I have taken this on holiday abroad with me before so that I could use the internet and I have also taken it to the pub when my friends and I were planning a holiday so that we could decide on accommodation to stay in.
We still don't own a full size laptop and I'm always surprised by their size and weight whenever a friend or family member shows me theirs after I've been so used to using the smaller size.
~ Appearance ~
The netbook is rectangular with rounded corners and it has a black piano finish. The Dell logo is on the back of the screen.
The screen is 11.6 inches and is bordered with black piano finish plastic as well.
Above the screen is a tiny webcam, which is 1.3MP.
The keyboard is black and there is a silver strip at the bottom where the floating touch-pad is.
~ USB and SD slots ~
This netbook has 3 USB ports and an SD card slot.
I am always hooking my laptop up to my external hard drive, my ipod, my memory stick, my phone or some other device so I was pleased there was so many USB ports.
You can also use a USB port to plug in a mouse, but I always use the floating touch pad at the bottom of the keyboard.
Uploading photos from my camera is something else that is important to me. I always like to have them on my computer and backed up on my external hard drive as well. It is so handy to be able to take the SD card from the camera and slot it into the SD card slot. I can't remember life before the SD card slot now, where you had to hook your camera up to your computer via a lead to transfer photographs.
~ Processor and hard drive ~
It has a 1.3GHz dual core processor, 2GB of ram and a 250GB hard drive.
The processor is quite quick compared to what you get in other netbooks and the hard drive is big enough for what I need. I like to store all of my photos, but my music will not fit on the netbook so it is all kept on my external hard drive. I wouldn't expect a netbook to come with a huge hard drive and 250GB is big enough for my every day files and my photos.
~ Battery ~
I usually have the wire attached to my netbook so it is plugged in to the mains while I am using it. If I then take the wire out and continue to use the laptop it only lasts for about an hour. This is what I have come to expect so I am never too disappointed.
~ Sleep mode ~
I am quite lazy and I never shut down my laptop. If it's time to go to sleep or if I'm going out or going to work I will just close the netbook shut and turn the power off and I expect that when I reopen the laptop and log back in to Windows 7 that I will still be on all of the same web pages and all of my documents that I had open will still be open.
I don't see a reason to waste time shutting everything down only to log back on and to visit all of the same websites the following day.
~ Keyboard and floating touchpad ~
I find the keyboard very easy to use. It is flat and calls itself an easy-touch keyboard. I have had no problems with using the keyboard. All of the letters are still clear, although three of the letters are beginning to wear off, but only slightly.
The touchpad is fine to use as well. You just move your finger around and it controls your cursor/arrow and then use the 2 buttons below it to click. I find it very easy to use.
~ Webcam ~
The webcam is 1.3MP, but it offers a reasonable image. I do not use my webcam very much at all. I have only used it a few times to take still photos of myself and my partner when we first got the netbook and were experimenting. The photos do not look bad quality at all.
~ Problems ~
1) About a year after I got this netbook the socket that you plug the power lead in to became loose inside the netbook and it became impossible to successfully plug in the power lead.
My partner opened the netbook up and we had to glue the socket to the floor of the laptop so that it would stay in place.
It was fine for two more years and then just recently, in the summer, he had to open it up and glue it back down again.
2) The laptop occasionally throws me off the internet and when I look at the available wireless networks it says that there are no networks available, even though it usually shows my own network as well as a few of the neighbours'. To resolve this problem I just have to shut down the netbook and then power it back up and it is always able to automatically connect me to our internet after that.
3) The laptop often overheats. I'd say this happens about once a week, sometimes more and sometimes less and it freezes or crashes. It means I have to hold down the power button so that the netbook restarts. This can obviously be quite annoying, but it may have something to do with me trying to make the netbook do too many tasks at once.
4) About 6 months ago this netbook started to make funny noises when I played videos and music to the point I couldn't play music or videos any more. I tried using earphones, which can be plugged into the side for a bit and it seemed to work alright for a little while, but now this netbook doesn't play music at all through the internal speakers or through the earphone socket. I never listened to much music on my netbook anyway, but I do miss watching youtube videos and I have to use the kindle for this instead.
5) My final complaint is that this netbook can be slow.
When I open it up and type my password in to the Windows 7 log in, it is usually alright, but it has occasionally taken around 10 minutes before it will be ready for me to click anything. This may have something to do with me not bothering to shut the netbook down properly, but it is usually fine and will only take about 30 seconds to wake up.
~ Conclusion ~
I feel I do put quite a bit of pressure on this netbook. I usually have about 7 webpages open and either a word or other type of document all at the same time.
I realise that a netbook is not designed to be used in this way and I feel that it has been really good to me.
I am pleased that it has lasted me so long and although I will keep this as a backup, I do plan to get a laptop early next year as long as this netbook holds up that long.
I have more than a few complaints, but I do feel partly responsible for overworking the netbook and I am just thankful it hasn't broken before now as I'd be lost without it.
I would recommend this netbook for lighter use, but for what I use it for I wouldn't dream of buying another one. It would be great for the occasional browse of the internet and creating and saving documents and photographs.
In spite of having spent quite some time shopping around and trying to do research into what sort of laptop I would buy to replace the nightmare that was my previous one (an Advent that likes to randomly switch itself off), this was actually an impulse purchase. I spotted it in the window of a Maplins, priced at £320 and looking like the sort of thing I wanted. With 2GB RAM and 250 GB hard drive and at such a low price, plus boasting up to 6 hours battery life, it seemed like a good deal, and I could buy it as a netbook until I could afford enough for a proper laptop or desktop computer. Worried about my bad experience with computers so far, I asked about the returns policy and it was on a 1-year guarantee. It has now been over two years so I'm sorry to say it is probably a bit out of date, but at least I feel well placed to review it.
When I bought this computer, I regarded it as a netbook, being just 11.6 inches, although actually it is not that small and I now treat it as my regular laptop (mostly because I can't quite afford another one yet (perhaps if I could just keep saving up those Amazon vouchers...).
The battery, which I admit I did not at the time of buying take too much notice of, is the one thing that fails this computer on size and being portable. It is a cylinder, that sticks out along the length of the back of the laptop. This means that the computer does not close flat, and can be an awkward fit for those narrow sleeves. It also means that the back is always slightly raised with the battery in, which you might prefer as it raises the keyboard at a slight angle. It is better than those annoying keyboard feet, where one always seems to fold and make the whole thing wonky! Obviously you would expect to use this computer on a fairly level surface, and so the gap also gives a little ventilation to help cool the computer. The computer does not get too hot normally, but the charger does heat up quite a bit.
The lid exterior has a glossy finish, which means that if scratched or damaged it is probably more noticeable. However, mine as yet only has very tiny, barely visible hairline scratches. It does however show dust up really easily, which is the same all over the laptop.
Inside, the screen is bordered by about an inch along the top and sides and twice this along the bottom. This means the actual screen size is smaller than might be expected. For me this is not a deal-breaker, but it is less than ideal for watching films, playing games etc when with ohers.
On the keyboard we have the metal power button, which is easy to spot and separate from everything else, keypad in one full set and one of those touch mouse pads with two small slot marks on either side to indicate where to press for the right and left mouse functions.
More on Keyboard and Mouse
For the size of the computer, these could not really be spread out anymore, but it took me a long time to get used to the small space you have with the keys. Even now I am often making mistakes when typing, and I haven't yet figured out what I'm doing but when I type really fast sometimes the cursor suddenly jumps, highlights my text and overwrites it or goes to another page or program. I am a bit clumsy, but something like this can be very annoying when trying to type an urgent message or get some information down quickly.
The mousepad, as my boyfriend pointed out to me when he first used it, should probably also have been given a little more thought. For me the surface is just a bit too smooth and sometimes I don't think it properly detects my fingers. Your fingers must be absolutely dry, no moisturiser or anything or it simply won't work. Some people might find the smoothness more comfortable but I find it a little to unreal sometimes, I like to know I'm moving something. I have a lot of trouble with the drag and drop function, because I can't seem to hold onto the object properly. As those mouse buttons are spaced, it is difficult to hold down the left button and move, since the mouse can't always tell you are trying to press the left button rather than just having two fingers on the mouse, so the cursor starts to jump about.
Coupled with this, the pad has extra functionality, which I cannot work out how to switch off, if possible at all. I imagine it is in some setting somewhere, but it really shouldn't be that hard to find and it should be up to us whether we want the extra, very awkward functions. For instance, moving two fingers together along the pad apparently scrolls, and drawing outwards/inwards diagonally with two fingers resizes your view. They might be handy shortcuts, but they take an awful long time to get used to and often they happen accidentally when you are trying to do something else, which certainly does not save me any time.
The charger is really weird. It comes in two parts, one cable to connect into the computer, which includes the charging block and the actual power cable with the plug. For some reason they have designed this charger so that both wires face the same direction. When you plug the power cable in, it comes out backwards, which means you have even less wire length than you thought and have to twist the wire at some point in order to plug into your computer. I wonder if they thought this would make it easier to wind the thing up, but at a bigger sacrifice to how flexible it is in the first place. My sister has this very same charger for one of her Dell's in fact, and using it as intended, winding it around the block, has finally torn the cable. This has really put me off tidying away my own cable, although to be fair I've had mine some time and it is showing no signs of damage as yet. The connection to the computer helpfully has a bright blue light, that lights up while it is plugged into the power supply. To let you know it's charging, a white light comes on on the computer, though this could be made easier to see. It goes off when the battery is full and the computer is off, which must be a good thing as I guess it means you do not waste power, but I am not certain of this. My connection seems to be less secure nowadays, and it has fallen out a few times, though I have seen this happen eventually with many laptops.
A lot of options are preselected on this laptop, which you can change to suit yourself, for instance screen brightness, sleep or hibernate options when left alone for a chosen amount of time or when someone closes the lid. I switched off sleep when closing the lid because I'd keep closing it by mistake or when the computer is still shutting down, then find it was still on hours later. Two helpful settings offered are Balanced and Power Save. I use Balance for watching TV programs and Power Save for other tasks that require less power or when unable to charge for a while.
On Power Save this computer can last up to 5 or 6 hours. I would now like a computer that lasts longer, but this has served me fine for a very long time. On Balanced it lasts up to 4 hours, but if watching television this is reduced to 2. Charging only takes a maximum of a couple of hours however, so I find this is still not too much of a problem.
This computer came with Windows 7, which I was very, very happy to have, after the nightmare that was Vista. It is much faster, and whilst still a bit confusing, not such a painful switch from Vista, than Vista was from XP. Many updates have been done on this computer, and this is my biggest annoyance. One particular update a few months in permanently slowed this computer to snail-pace. I also notice that you are never warned, let alone asked about updates and while they are going on (I can't even find a way to check) everything slows down. This seems to have always coincided with a major deadline drives me crazy.
The computer now takes a painfully long time to shut down, yet is still not too bad on startup. It only has 2Gb RAM, not a surprise for a computer of its size, but while this was not too bad for the first few months, I do find it a lot slower now in use.
Hard Disk Memory
This laptop boasts 250Gb hard drive, although in reality it is more like 218, but that is to be expected. As with most Windows computers, a fair bit of space gets used up on programs, but I still have around 100Gb free, while using mine for downloading movies, one or two games, lots of music, pictures and documents. I don't think the amount of hard drive I am using yet affects the speed of the computer, but I do schedule it (well, it does automatically) to defragment every so often, a process that sorts how memory is used to make it quicker to access.
This purchase came with a trial subscription for McAfee and also has its own Windows Defender software. However, I opted to buy my own stuff and uninstalled McAfee (never have more than one program on your computer).
This computer came with a lot of stuff I don't need, as usual. I bought myself Office 2007 separately and so do not really use the word processing or other types of software. In fact, apart from Windows Media and the Accessories (mainly Calculator and Paint), most of the software on this computer was rendered redundant from the start. It's a pain to have to uninstall stuff or stop programs from starting up automatically, but it might save you some hassle in the long run.
Webcam and Microphone
I often use this computer to Skype (though recently I have been unable to do so as we have no Internet connection at home, something that is proving to be a huge part of my life) with my boyfriend. Living distances apart, the idea of being able to see each other on camera as if in the same room is very appealing. The picture from my end is usually not of high quality but sufficient for this purpose. Unlike my boyfriend's webcam, this one does not adjust to the lighting of the room, which is actually a good thing because his dims too much, but does mean I frequently have to supplement the lighting to get a decent picture. It uses a lot of memory too, so it's best not used in combination with other programs running as it will freeze a lot.
The microphone is very low and took a while for us to get used to (once I gave up on the pound shop headsets) but it is again sufficient for my needs and clear enough for making calls. The downside is if you are recording something the volume recorded is terribly low (even using a separate mic I find this so not sure why, so it is no use for anything specialised.
I think I have been able to 'make do' with this cheap little machine for long enough now. It has turned out to be a main laptop for me and it has worked alright until now, but I do have a fair few gripes with it and so if money permits then I hope in the future to get myself something better. I would certainly not pay what I did pay for it now, but I would probably recommend a price of around £150 second hand and £200 for a new computer, if you need something basic and don't mind the problems I have mentioned.