Dell Inspiron 13 First Look

by Reads (47,963)

by Kevin O’Brien

The all new Dell Inspiron 13 follows the design direction of the new Studio series, as well as the XPS M1330 and XPS M1530. This sleek looking notebook offers a slot-loading optical drive, and unlike most Dell notebooks, is sold exclusively by Wal-Mart and With a starting price of less than $700, this notebook is destined to be quite popular during the back to school buying rush.

The Dell Inspiron 13 (1318) specifications:

  • Screen: 13.3" WXGA TrueLife Glossy
  • Processor: Intel Pentium Dual Core T2390 (1.86Ghz, 533FSB, 1MB Cache)
  • Memory: 2GB RAM
  • Storage: 160GB HDD (5400rpm)
  • Optical Drive: DVD+/-RW
  • Wireless: 802.11b/g
  • Graphics: Intel X3100 Integrated Graphics
  • Built-in web camera
  • Battery: 11.1V 56Wh
  • Dimensions: 12.52" x 9.37" x 1"/1.51"
  • Weight: 4lbs 13.5oz
  • Retail Price: $698

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Build and Design

The design of the Inspiron 13 is very similar to the XPS M1330, but with glossy or matte black plastic replacing the brushed aluminum or silver painted surfaces. Following the trend of many other notebooks on the market, it offers a glossy painted screen cover and many glossy surfaces. The palm-rest was left with a textured plastic surface that helps reduce fingerprints, but the negative side effect is that the palrests collect oils from your hand instead.

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Fit and finish is very good, leaving you with a notebook that feels pretty solid in your hands. The screen cover has a bit of flex with its thin plastic composition, but it still appears to protect the screen from rear impacts. The screen hinges are rigid, requiring two hands to open up the lid, and once open only has mild screen wiggle.

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The chassis feels very durable with most of its strength coming from the strong metal chassis. The plastic palmrest, while not looking the best, does support your palms very well with minimal flex. Some parts around the multimedia controls showed more flex than other areas of the notebook, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard look and feel is very businesslike, sporting black matte keys instead of glossy painted keys found on many new notebooks. The typing feel is excellent, with a soft, barely audible click on each keypress and very little keyboard flex. The area above the optical drive has slightly more flex than the rest of the keyboard, but it is still very minor compared to other notebooks. Spacing and key size is on par with my Dell Latitude D630 and ThinkPad T60.

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The touchpad is relatively small, even when compared to other 13" notebooks. Sensitivity is hit or miss, with the touchpad not always recognizing when you lift your finger off the surface after dragging something around. It tends to stick and continue to move items around needlessly. Part of this is from the unique touchpad system Dell uses instead of the more common Synaptics interface many other notebooks incorporate. The touchpad buttons were much better than average, giving soft feedback and a deep throw.


The screen on the Inspiron 13 rates about average, with the only drawback of the panel being poor viewing angles. Screen brightness is great for around the office or classroom, but may not be the best idea outside on a sunny day. Not only would the screen brightness be fighting against the sun, but the glossy panel would be blinding you if you were not able to get into some shade. Colors and contrast rate above average, as with most glossy display panels, which made for impressive picture viewing or movie watching. Viewing angles were not the best, with colors not only inverted when out of the sweet spot, but the entire panel going nearly black. This was the case for both vertical and horizontal viewing angles, with the vertical range being more limited than side to side.

Ports and Features

The port selection on the Inspiron 13 is rather weak, with few USB ports scattered around the perimeter and quite a bit of open space. This notebook only has two USB ports, where even virtually all netbooks come with three. For a notebook of this size it is, the only other computer that comes to mind with fewer ports is the Macbook Air. Dell could have easily fit another USB port, but instead you are left with one on each side of the notebook.

  • 10/100LAN
  • VGA
  • FireWire
  • Expresscard/54
  • SD-Card Reader
  • Headphone/Mic
  • Two USB Ports

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This system is by no means a multimedia powerhouse, sporting the base model Intel Pentium Dual Core processor over the more widely used Core 2 Duo. This processor offers a slower 533MHz FSB, and much less system cache. That being the case, it still performed admirably, reaching PCMark05 scores in the 3,600 range, and a wPrime score around 45 seconds. For a computer that will be targeted towards students this provides more than enough power to handle anything form iTunes to Microsoft Word. While gaming is out of the question, that is not what this notebook was intended for.

Battery Life

The Inspiron 13 offers a 56Wh 6-cell battery which gives excellent battery life for a budget oriented notebook. Most of the time with low cost preconfigured systems the manufacturer skimps on the battery size, and you using see 2-3 hours of battery life on a good day. This system was easily peaking over 4 hours of runtime with the balanced setting and screen backlight at 60%. This is well within the range of handling a few classes throughout the school day, or a decent length flight.

More To Come

As always, our First Look Review is merely intended to provide you with a first glimpse of a new notebook. Our full review is coming soon … stay tuned.



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