The Dell Inspiron 13z-9318sLV won't blow you away with its understated chassis design or middle of the road specs, but don't let this notebook's average appearance fool you. While the Dell i13z may not lead the pack in any one particular area, it provides a consistent level of performance across the board, promising a user experience that is sure to meet and excel the needs of average consumers.
The Dell i13z is elegant in its simplicity. The notebook never attempts to do too much, instead opting to provide an all-around serviceable level of performance. The clean and presentable chassis won't turn heads, and its third generation Intel Core i5 dual-core processor isn't exactly cutting edge. However, the Dell i13z's beauty lies in its entirety. Combine those elements with its 13-inch HD display with generous viewing angles, and a comfortable keyboard and touchpad and the Dell i13z is a pragmatists' dream.
Build and Design
The 13.3-inch Dell i13z offers a mix of plastic and aluminum in its chassis that provides a classic and simplistic aesthetic. The faceplate and keyboard frame both adorn a linear texture that slightly reflects light, producing an enjoyable glare. While both plates are constructed of plastic they are resistant to fingerprint marks, only leaving noticeable impressions when considerable contact is made.
If users find the understated tone of the silver faceplate too bland, they can simply replace it, as it easily detaches from the chassis allowing users to customize the device's appearance as they see fit.
With the chassis measuring in at 13.7-inch x 9.05-inch x 0.82-inch and weighing in at 3.81-lbs. the Dell i13z may not be the most compact device. However, the rounded design of the chassis provides a comfortable feel that is easy to transport.
Being a mix of plastic and metal I had serious questions as to durability of this device. The base of the chassis is exceptionally well built as it hardly budges, even when considerable pressure is applied. Unfortunately due to its thin detachable faceplate the display is not as stout. The display case does give when moderate pressure is applied and noticeable rippling does occur all-throughout the screen. Given just how sturdy the rest of the notebook is, the give of the display is not too alarming. However, users who expect to travel a great deal may want to take this into consideration.
Ports and Features
The Dell Inspiron 13z's lackluster port design is easily the notebooks worst feature. While the notebook does provide all of the essential ports, the awkward port covers and cramped design greatly diminishes the user's ability to access multiple ports simultaneously. The left side provides a power jack, two USB 3.0 ports, and an HDMI port. While the right side offers an Ethernet port, a SD card slot, a USB 3.0 port, and a headphone/mic jack.
|Right: Ethernet, SD card reaer, USB 3.0 port, headphone jack||Left: AC power jack, two USB 3.0 Ports, HDMI port|
The major issue with the ports are the covers. I assume that the covers serve to help protect the ports, but their utility is easily diminished by how intrusive they become. Not only are the covers a difficult to remove -- often sticking and feeling as if they will snap off -- but they also can obstruct user's access to the port. Admittedly this can be resolved by holding the device over the edge of the surface the notebook is resting on, but having to do that every time you want to use a port gets old fast. Honestly, if I owned this device I would simply remove the covers all together.
Screen and Speakers
The Dell i13z provides a standard 13.3-inch HD LED backlight display, with a 1366 x 768 display. While the resolution is nothing special the display still manages to offer a clear crisp image and solid color contrast, which results in an enjoyable viewing experience.
Keeping inline with the rest of the Dell Inspiron 13z, the display's best feature is its general functionality, as it provides generous viewing angles for being a low-cost TN panel. Both vertically and horizontally the display's image integrity holds up, though image quality does take a hit when viewed form extreme angles. The only time that users will notice a disturbance in the displays quality is when the display is titled forward or back. The wide viewing angles make the display perfect for multiple viewers despite its petite screen size.
In addition to providing acceptable viewing angles, the Inspiron 13z does a commendable job of reducing glare and feedback. The display hardly shows any feedback in normal lighting settings and even manages to fare well in heavily lit areas, only producing a bit of feedback. While the display may not be capable of combating direct sunlight, it provides an easy read to screen that can perform in almost any other condition.
Unfortunately the speakers are another weak point for the system. Located along the back edge of the bottom of the chassis the speakers are not influenced by their placement. Regardless of the surface the sound is able to easily emanate upwards from the bottom of the device. The problem is however, even unabated the sound quality is not all that stellar.
The sound quality is stable at around 50 percent capacity, however exceeding that the speaker's quality begins to diminish rapidly. Once the speakers pass 80 percent,they begin to produce noticeable and irritating distortions. At 100 percent capacity the speakers produced faint fuzz, that while not that loud, served to dull the nuances of the classical score that I was listening to at the time.
Luckily the sound levels are at least easily audible at 50 percent. However, users who are looking for anything more than the bare minimum would be better served with a set of headphones or an external sound system.
The small, Chiclet style keyboard is an absolute pleasure to use. Despite its compact design, each key is adequately spaced providing a layout that should be accessible and comfortable for all users despite their reach and hand size.
The plastic keys while sleek and flat still manage to comfortably grip the user's fingers, providing a sturdy experience that allows users to type with an assured sense of accuracy. While they keyboard's depth is rather the shallow, its responsive and tactical kickback easily informs the user when they have struck the corresponding key. The keyboard's resistance adds a level of weight to each key that more than amends for its shallow depth.
The touchpad (with Alps drivers) is another highpoint for the Dell notebook in that it provides users with a sense of agency allowing them to customize almost every facet of the touchpad. Fairly standard in its design the touchpad is moderately sized with dedicated right and left click buttons at the bottom.
The touchpad is responsive; easily reading user movements and button clicks with little to no delay. There are a few instances where the touchpad may fail to read a multi-gesture display, but these failings are few and far between.
What truly makes this touchpad enjoyable is the level of customization that it offers users. Thanks to Dell's user interface, consumers will be able to change everything from pointer speed, to touch pressure, and will even be able to program their own unique multi-gesture displays.
Giving users the ability to change their settings takes away a great deal of the stress that comes with using a touchpad. Normally I find myself in want of a mouse while using a touchpad, but with the i13z I'm more than comfortable.
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