The Dell Inspiron 11z laptop sports an 11.6in screen and low-power processor, and hits a modest £399 price point.

Dell's first netbook was the Dell Inspiron Mini 9, followed shortly after by the inch-bigger Mini 10. The Dell Inspiron 11z goes one better again - it's in essence the same chassis, now scaled up to accomodate an 11in screen. But instead of an Intel Atom, it takes an Intel Celeron processor.

So the Dell Inspiron 11z sits in that interesting middle zone between laptop and netbook, with a price about £100 more than a 10in netbook.

Like the Dell Mini range, the Dell Inspiron 11z sports a pivoted trackpad, a low-grade copy of the glass multi-touch input device found on Apple portables. While Dell's trackpad is larger than that found on most Windows PC laptops, it's still rather small, and lacks the silky sensitivity of the Mac controls. And the cursor itself just lacks the precision we'd prefer from this important asset.

The Dell Inspiron 11z screen is a high-gloss panel that's infuriatingly shiny. But where netbooks have been held back with low-resolution screens, at least Dell fits a 1368x768 display here - if anything, a little too high in resolution. We'd suggest that a 1280x720 panel would offer a better compromise between resolution and readability.

We liked the Dell Inspiron 11z keyboard, a simple flat-topped key affair in a full-width layout. Dell lists it as 92% of full-size. There's even space to run an extra column of buttons down the right side, for page up/down, home, end and delete.

Another step up from netbook territory is the fitting of an HDMI video output on the Dell Inspiron 11z, so if you need to connect the Inspiron 11z to a TV or PC monitor, you'll at least be rewarded with a crisp, accurate picture.

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The general build quality is rather plasticky, and the scaling up of the Dell Inspiron 11z from its Mini 9 and Mini 10 predecessors somehow makes it feel even more toy-like.

But the principle weakness of our Dell Inspiron 11z sample of the Dell is its speed. Various processor options are available through Dell, but the model sold by Carphone Warehouse may leave you a little frustrated when doing routine tasks.

By way of example, most netbooks use Intel's low-power Atom, optimised for low power drain rather than performance, and they tend to score around 35 points in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test. The Dell Inspiron 11z here scored 40 points. And that's after all the crapware had been removed.

To test battery life and processor speed, we must remove all the extraneous junk installed by the manufacturer. In the case of the Dell Inspiron 11z, we found it painfully slow to use, straight out of the box at least. Its boot time from cold was 2 minutes 15 seconds, helped to an almost speedy in comparison 1 minute 50 seconds after we'd first removed the sponsored trial of McAfee antvirus software.

By the time we'd stripped the Dell Inspiron 11z to basic functionality, it became more usable - but Windows Vista on a 1.2GHz Intel Celeron 723 processor is far from a swift combination - even if Vista's minimum of 2GB RAM was installed. Note that since we received our sample, Computer Warehouse is now advertising this Dell with Windows 7 Home Premium installed, which may make it seem a little faster.

Battery life was very good, thanks to a bulky battery that lifts the back of the laptop up to a handy typing angle on the desk. With this 54Whr power pack in place, we measured approaching seven hours of life (408 minutes) in the MobileMark 2007 Productivity test.

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Dell Inspiron 11z: Specs

  • 1.2GHz Intel Celeron 723
  • 800MHz FSB
  • 11.6in (1368x768) gloss LCD display
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 32-bit
  • 250GB 2.5in SATA HDD
  • 2GB DDR2-800 RAM
  • Intel GMA 4500M graphics
  • HDMI
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • ethernet 100Mb/s
  • 802.11b/g
  • SD card reader
  • mic in, headphone out
  • stereo speakers
  • mic
  • webcam
  • 54Whr Li-ion battery
  • 292x214x24-26mm (3-cell battery)
  • 1560g
  • 1.2GHz Intel Celeron 723
  • 800MHz FSB
  • 11.6in (1368x768) gloss LCD display
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 32-bit
  • 250GB 2.5in SATA HDD
  • 2GB DDR2-800 RAM
  • Intel GMA 4500M graphics
  • HDMI
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • ethernet 100Mb/s
  • 802.11b/g
  • SD card reader
  • mic in, headphone out
  • stereo speakers
  • mic
  • webcam
  • 54Whr Li-ion battery
  • 292x214x24-26mm (3-cell battery)
  • 1560g

OUR VERDICT

For anyone looking for a compact laptop that’s a tad more capable than a netbook, the Dell Inspiron 11z might just fit the bill. Extra screen space and resolution, along with a larger keyboard, make daily use more comfortable, and the extended battery means useful unplugged runtime too. Just beware that the Celeron-powered version we tried can be frustratingly slow.

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