Inexpensive notebooks have the habit of looking, if we're going to be blunt, a little on the cheap side. Dell's Inspiron N301 — part of the company's Inspiron 13z series, which initially made it quite tricky to track down on Dell's local website — bucks that trend, with a silver finish that, while plastic, actually does look pretty good. Measuring in at 24x328x235.5mm, it's also relatively slender, especially for an entry-level system, although there's a minor price to pay for its slightly lowered profile. The N301 ships with an optical drive — it's a DVD+/-RW drive to be specific — but it's an external unit rather than being built in. If you don't use optical drives much you won't miss it, but if you want or need it, it's an additional item you'll have to throw into your laptop bag every time you go out.
One thing you don't get with this particular model at the time of writing is a lot of customisation options, which is a rarity for a build-to-order company such as Dell. You can have it with an Intel Core i3-330UM 1.2GHz processor, or not buy it at all. Windows 7 Home Premium is your only choice. The only display option is the 13.3-inch LED 1366x768-pixel display that comes as standard. There's no option to upgrade the memory beyond 4GB, or the storage beyond 320GB, at least at the time of writing. The stock video card option is an ATI Mobility Radeon HD5430 1GB, although there we can't be too critical, as plenty of laptops sell with a single video card choice. Naturally enough being Dell, there's no shortage of other laptops you could purchase with plenty of configuration options. This just isn't one of them.