Whether you're looking for a roomy notebook to use on the commute or a desktop replacement, the 15z has the potential to fit the bill nicely. Despite its relatively large size, it offers a good battery life and a slim build that makes it light enough to lug around. And with a wide range of customisation options available, there's plenty to like about this impressive compromise between power and portability.
Slim and lightweight; impressive display; excellent keyboard; good battery life; reasonably priced.
Limited software; display resolution could be better; keyboard layout a little basic.
Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 1.3GHz processor, 15.6in widescreen display (1,366 x 768), Intel GMA X4500HD graphics, 320GB hard drive, 3GB DDR3 memory, DVD RW, 380 x 26 x 248mm, 2.4kg
The Dell Inspiron 15z is part of a new range of notebooks designed to prove that " beauty and brawn go together", according to the press release, and, while it is a fairly large unit, this claim can be justified somewhat by the fact that it's very slim and light.
Measuring just 26mm thick at the front and 45mm at the back owing to the included six-cell battery, and weighing under 2.5kg, most people should have no trouble lugging it around for extended periods when out and about.
It's particularly suited to this purpose, in fact, as there's an emphasis on longevity owing to the ultra-low voltage Core 2 Duo SU7300 1.3GHz processor, allegedly offering a battery life of over eight hours.
The 15.6in display is certainly roomy and, although a native resolution of 1,366x768 is nothing to shout about, it should be just about enough for most applications.
Display quality is very good for the most part, and it does a great job of full-screen video and photo browsing, although the built-in stereo speakers are fairly poor and can sound quite muffled, being situated underneath the unit.
The base specification also boasts 3GB of DDR3 memory, a 320GB hard drive, a DVD-RW optical drive and integrated Intel X4500MHD graphics.
As mentioned, Dell claims over eight hours use from the 15z, which is impressive enough considering its size. We put it through the Battery Eater test and were pleased to note a time of six and a quarter hours. This was with everything running at full whack, so we have no problems accepting the purported battery life during more realistic operation.
Comfort and usability
We noticed that the 15z is extremely quiet during normal use, and also manages to remain pretty cool after extended periods. The supplied 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium booted in around 30 seconds, and was very responsive throughout our tests.
The whole design of the 15z promotes extended use, in fact, since the full-sized Qwerty keyboard is very well laid out, and it's easy to reach faster typing speeds without inadvertently hitting the wrong keys.
Dedicated media controls or other function keys would have been welcomed, and the layout is rather basic, including a lack of LEDs to demonstrate wireless status and other information. A multi-touch keypad is a welcome inclusion, and is large, responsive and comfortable to use.
Connectivity and customisation
The 15z offers a typical range of connectivity options, including three USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet, VGA, HDMI and line-out/mic in. There's also a 7-in-1 card reader, and Dell's Wireless 802.11g half mini-card is supplied as standard. The ports are well arranged at each side of the enclosure with audio connections at the front, and a 1.3-megapixel camera above the screen makes it suitable for video calling.
A fairly meagre array of supplied software includes Works 9.0 and Cyberlink PowerDVD DX, although there are customisation options to add more. This would be well worth looking into prior to purchase, since the reasonable price and slim lines of the 15z may be appealing enough to encourage those who require a bit more power to opt for it here. £100 extra, for example, bags you an extra gigabyte of memory and a 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD4330 graphics card, which may appeal to those who are looking for more of a desktop replacement.