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Dell Inspiron M101z review: Dell Inspiron M101z

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As noted, the M101z is an AMD Vision-branded laptop, which means it runs on an AMD processor — in this case the Athlon II Neo K325 1.29GHz processor and an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225 — with a target of light system usage. The AU$799 model we tested came with 4GB of RAM, a 320GB 7200rpm hard drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0. The 11.6-inch display carries a top resolution of 1366x768 pixels. The M101z certainly isn't the most port-rich of laptops, with a single USB 2.0 port, HDMI and Ethernet down the left-hand side and two more USB 2.0 ports, audio and power down the right-hand side.

Performance

While it looks like a netbook, the slightly larger size of the M101z does allow its keyboard a bit more room to breathe, and this translates into a more comfortable typing and trackpad experience. It's not a great keyboard, but at this price it was never going to be, and if you do find cramped netbook keyboards a problem it's worth considering the M101z.

The M101z's processor also enabled it to leapfrog the kinds of performance scores you'd normally see at this price point. Its PCMark05 score of 2907 and 3DMark06 score of 1309 aren't world-beaters in any real sense, but they're far ahead of the netbook pack. The flip-side is that there are plenty of systems for only a couple of hundred dollars more — Dell's own Inspiron N301 being a good recent example — that will run rings around the M101z.

Dell supplies a 56Whr six-cell battery with the M101z, which ran in our battery tests for a solid three hours and five minutes. That's with all battery-saving measures disabled, screen brightness pumped up to the max and a full-screen video playing on a loop, which is designed to be a fairly brutal test. Given the light-work profile of this particular system, you could comfortably expect a bit more power than this in real-world usage. Dell also offers up a 90Whr nine-cell battery as a purchase option for those needing even more power.

Conclusion

Remember when netbooks were going to murder the low-end notebook market? The M101z is arguably the best notebook response possible. It's not that much more than a comparable netbook, but far more powerful and a fair bit more comfortable to use. As always, there's a gap in performance between this and a fully decked-out system, but that's reflected in the asking price. If your needs and budget are modest and you can't get on with netbooks, the M101z would make a fine alternative.

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