First Look: Dell’s skinny $699 Inspiron M101z notebook

First Look: Dell's skinny $699 Inspiron M101z notebook


It’s as if one of Dell’s original Mini netbooks suddenly got a growth spurt but hung onto its old price tag. That’s our take-away for the Inspiron M101z which goes on sale today for a quite affordable $699.

So what does $700 get you besides a golden kanga coin in change? Dell reckons this is 11.6 inches of go-anywhere goodness and they’re not wrong – even if you can’t go too far from an AC adaptor should you want more than four hours’ life from the four cell battery.

Yes Dell claims six hours – but experienced mobility mavens know that manufacturers specs must be read with rose-coloured glasses. Overseas sites that have already tested the M101z reckon four hours of Wi-Fi web browsing with the screen brightness set to two-thirds gets you around four hours. So whose word are you going to take? Yeah we think so too.

Now four hours of wireless productivity still isn’t bad for the cafe set and it can be upped to a true six hours if you wait a little longer for the optional nine cell battery which Dell says be available later in the year for an as-yet-undeclared price.

Also on the coming-soonish list is an also-unpriced but always-welcome internal 3G modem which is good for 2100MHz networks of Optus and VHA as well as 850MHz for Next G. The modem won’t be locked to any single network so you get to choose which SIM you slip into the slot.

But enough of the waiting: for your aforementioned $700 what do you get right now? Dell has opted for AMD’s Athlon II Neo processor which offers more grunt than an Intel Atom-powered netbook without being a voltage vampire when it comes to power.

The base spec is AMD’s 1.7GHz single-core Neo K125 but you can raise the stakes and bump up the sticker with a  dual-core 1.3GHz Neo K325.

The rest of the starting config is a predictable 2GB of RAM and 250GB hard drive running Windows 7 Home Basic – but these can be boosted to 4GB 320GB and Windows 7 Home Premium if there’s some wiggle room in your wallet.

And colours? Hey it wouldn’t be a Dell if it didn’t come in colours with fancy names. Choose between Peacock Blue Tomato Red Promise Pink and err black black.

The off-the-shelf $699 version of the Inspiron M101z is going to give some netbooks a run for their money especially if you also want portability without sacrificing performance.

But tick too many of those option boxes – especially for the ‘dual-core CPU’ – and the M101z could find itself in a losing battle against ‘real’ notebooks.