Newest Review: ... 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 sprea... more
You Can Tell, It's A Dell
Dell Inspiron 11z
Member Name: Ayesha-`
Dell Inspiron 11z
Advantages: Good cheap everyday computer with plenty of memory
Disadvantages: Poor design of power cable, mouse functions etc.
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.
Summary: A reasonable machine for what it is
|Ease of use:|
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