Dell has released three new laptops today: Inspiron 13z, 14z and Vostro V131. The first two are spinoffs of Dell's XPS 15z which was released in late May and it received quite good reviews. Fundamentally, 15z is a good competitor against Apple's MacBook Pro since 15z finally adopted a thin, full metal body which is what Apple has been shipping for years. This is what Dell is trying with 13z and 14z as well, although they will not be available in aluminum colour, but in black and red (the body is still aluminum though). The Vostro is Dell's low-cost business laptop and it's a good budget alternative if you don't like Inspirons. Lets list the specs right away:

  Inspiron 14z Vostro V131
  Standard Built to order Standard
Screen size 14.0" N/A 13.3"
Resolution 1366x768 N/A 1366x768 (matte)
Processor Intel Core i3-2330M (2.2GHz) Intel Core i5-2410M (2.3GHz) Intel Celeron 847 (1.1GHz)
Graphics Intel HD 3000 N/A Intel HD 2000
Memory 4GB (1x4GB) DDR3 6GB (4GB+2GB) 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 2GB (1x2GB) 1333MHz DDR3
Storage 500GB 5400rpm 640GB 5400rpm, 750GB 7200rpm 320GB 7200rpm
Optical drive DVD+/RW N/A Optional external DVD+/RW
Ports 2x USB 3.0, USB 2.0/eSATA, Mini DisplayPort, Ethernet, headphone/mic, SD card slot N/A 2x USB 3.0, USB 2.0/eSATA, Ethernet, headphone/mic, card reader
Dimensions(WxDxH) 13.6" x 9.7" x 0.92-1.0" N/A 12.96" x 9.36" x 0.63-0.83"
Weight 5.0lb Varies 3.6lb
Price $599 Varies $499

Inspiron 13z and 14z

Inspiron 14z will be available immediately but unfortunately, the 13z is only available in some Asian countries so we weren't able to get any detailed specs and the US release is still pending. However, we do know that the screen is 13.3" and has the same, 1366x768 resolution. We also expect the other specs to be very similar, the biggest difference being dimensions and weight.  

14z seems to be a good all arounder in terms of specs and the price isn't too bad either but there is one part that could have been done better: the screen resolution. 1366x768 is okay for a budget laptop, which is what 14z is, but 1600x900 shouldn't be too much to ask as a BTO, there are people willing to pay for extra pixels. Currently there aren't many sub-$1000 ~14" laptops with 1600x900 and those are usually very close to the $1000 mark, so a $100 BTO for 1600x900 would have been a very good move from Dell. 

Inspiron 14R is probably the closest to 14z when looking at Dell's other offerings. Basically, 14z is just a slimmed down version of 14R as the other specs are very similar. 14z also has a bit faster CPU and more RAM but that is pretty much it 14R does have a price advantage of $100 though. When compared to 13" MacBook Pro, Dell has a huge price advantage. Apple gives you a faster CPU, smaller form factor and less weight but to be honest, it can be very hard to justify the extra $600 for such small differences. 


Vostro V131

Since Vostro is meant for business, the specs are relatively weak but business users are rarely looking for powerful laptops. Thus the use of ULV Celeron can be justified along with only 2GB of RAM. Vostro V131 is actually very thin and light for its price: only 0.7lb heavier than 13" MacBook Air and 0.15" thicker at the thickest point. That is pretty good when considering that Vostro starts at $499 whereas MBA starts at $1299. Of course, there are other differences such as the CPU and storage but V131 might be a good option for people who want an affordable, yet very portable computer. 

Final Words

Dell is clearly into making things thinner and lighter at the moment, which is actually what the whole industry is trying to do. Intel's Ultrabook concept has just thrown fuel for the fire and we should see the first Ultrabooks in a few months. While Ultrabooks won't compete in the budget market, they are definitely a nice addition and evidently, all laptops seem to aim at being thinner. 

Dell's newest offerings are a proof of this. They are thinner than their predecessors while still keeping similar price range and specs. We will most likely see other manufacturers following Dell in case they haven't already slimmed down their laptops already. 

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  • tipoo - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    is it that hard to figure out how to implement higher capacity batteries without them sticking out another inch on the bottom?
  • tipoo - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    Oh and by the way, wasn't a XPS 15Z review coming on Anandtech? When will that be done?
  • Kristian Vättö - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    As far as I know, there are no plans about 15z review, unfortunately :( Or if there is, it's somewhere on Anand's endless to-do list.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    Jarred is working on it, I believe it's one of the next three to be reviewed :)

    Take care,
  • Wizzdo - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    "but to be honest, it can be very hard to justify the extra $600 for such small differences"

    Resale value.
    Typical Usable Life of Product.
    Virus Immunity.
    Operating System.
    Cost and Headache of O.S. Upgrades.
    Included Software.
    Ease of Backup (Time Machine).
    Lack of Subsidized Crapware.
    Build Quality.

    The 13" MBP trumps in every department. Heck, you'll win on resale alone.
  • webdev51 - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    How's that Kool-Aid, Wizzdo?

    Last year I switched to Windows 7 after using two MacBook Pros over 7 years. Here's my opinion:

    Resale value. - I don't use a computer to resell it later. I can get $500 through Apple's recycling program for the $2000 MBP I used two years. BFD.
    Typical Usable Life of Product. - My 2008 MacBook Pro needed its logic board replaced because of the Nvidia problem (TS2377). When I brought it home, the new one needed its logic board replaced too because it had the same problem. Usable life of this computer: 2 years. Very short. It's unreliable.
    Virus Immunity. - I haven't had any problems with viruses on Windows. The only viruses I've had were in data pulled over from my Mac.
    Operating System. - Mac OS X is not special. In fact, it's become quite bloated like Windows. At least Windows's bloat is usable and not lipstick: Mac's full-screen apps?!
    Cost and Headache of O.S. Upgrades. - Insignificant.
    Included Software. - I never used any of the Apple software -- especially Mail because it was very buggy. In fact, good e-mail software was one reason I was looking forward to moving to Windows. I ultimately switched to Thunderbird 3 which I like. TB 2 on Mac (and maybe Windows) wasn't very good from what I recall.
    Ease of Backup (Time Machine). - I wasn't comfortable relying on TM. I like FBackup a lot.
    Lack of Subsidized Crapware. - I didn't get any crapware, but then again I built my own machine. If I bought a machine with Windows installed, I would have just wiped it anyway and reinstalled.
    Build Quality.- See above about Nvidia issue.
    Support. - Yeah, the Genius bar scam artists tried to charge me $300 for a recall. I had to call Apple Tech Support to get a second opinion, and even they suggested I go to another Apple Store, as if I'm supposed to shop around my computer to find out which Apple Store won't screw me over. Then I needed to haul in my own Apple monitor to troubleshoot the issue because they were using a VGA monitor. Their support is crap.

    I'd rather have the $600!
  • damianrobertjones - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    Possibly the greatest reply to a mac fan I've ever read.
  • Wizzdo - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    If this is the greatest reply to a "mac fan" than I think PC\Windows is in worse shape than ever.

    "Resale value. - I don't use a computer to resell it later. I can get $500 through Apple's recycling program for the $2000 MBP I used two years. BFD."

    Even in your ignorance of not getting your Mac fixed for free as you were perfectly entitled to (twice), you still got 500$ back from Apple for your old machine. People are getting 60-70% return on two year old macs on EBAY. Try that with your PC.

    Nvidia issue was just that, NVidia's issue. Plagued PC laptops as well. Apple had by far the best replacement policy for it - warranty was extended to 3 years on the GPU. My 2008 MacBook Pro had the issue 5 months ago - fixed for free in a week - 0$. Running better than ever. Sadly, PC users have been having great difficulty getting the PC manufacturers to pony up for this.

    [+1 Apple on support and reliability]

    "I haven't had any problems with viruses on Windows. The only viruses I've had were in data pulled over from my Mac."

    Data is for the most part platform agnostic and ironically the moment the "bad" data got onto Windows than BINGO, you're infected. You also get to burn up your battery and performance with invasive third-party anti-virus programs. MS has a "free" that many to no about one but it is rather lacking in potency.

    [+ 1 Apple virus immunity ]

    "Cost and Headache of O.S. Upgrades. - Insignificant."

    Full version of OS X - 29.99$
    Windows 7 Professional - $199.99$
    170$ diff

    Leopard -> Lion - 60$ (S.Leopard first)
    XP -> Windows 7 - 400$ (Vista first)
    340$ diff

    Most Windows users choose to wipe and do a clean install because of the legendary issues often encountered with Windows upgrades.

    OS X upgrade time - ~35 minutes
    Windows ~ 2 hours + 2 hours of patches once booted up

    You get to enjoy Windows invasive copy protection too which all too commonly flags legitimate purchasers as pirates.

    They are not even in the same league in terms of bloat either. Do a little research please.

    I could go on and on on this one...

    [+1 Apple - should be plus +3]

    "If I bought a machine with Windows installed, I would have just wiped it anyway and reinstalled."

    Say no more. [+1 Apple]

    "Ease of Backup (Time Machine). - I wasn't comfortable relying on TM. I like FBackup a lot."

    Again, no comparison in ease of use, performance, reliability or support (none for FBackup). And yet another third-party app you had to research, download, install, learn, setup and hope it actually worked. [+1 Apple]

    Been using Apple Mail for years with no problems. Great application - Windows Mail is not even in the same universe (does anybody actually use it?). Mail in Lion is a really nice upgrade. Thunderbird 3 is a nice third-party email program and runs very well on Mac but the new Mail is soooo much more nicely integrated.

    That's the thing really. Apple continually upgrades and improves their applications along with how they integrate with the OS. They all update automatically and painlessly with Software Update too.

    Nobody uses the built-in apps that come with Windows because they are generally primitive at best and rarely see any upgrades. So instead you get to dig around the internet for days looking for replacements that can hopefully do what you need. Then once you've tried installing, learning and uninstalling 10 different applications and finally settled on one you like than you'll probably have to pay extra for it, constantly monitor it for updates that you need to manually install and pray it works with your next Windows etc. Good Grief. And excellent integration with the OS and other Windows software? Ya, right.

    [+1 Apple]

    You weren't really being serious were you? I sincerely hope not.
  • damianrobertjones - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    I would provide a full reply but I'm enjoying life

    Windows gives small companies a chance to sell software while with apple it's their way.

    Neither are better
  • Wizzdo - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    I'm glad life is treating you well.

    Funny, Microsoft is the company most demonized and sued for anti-competitive behavior. Just look at the IE mess. Finally, years and years later, Microsoft has released a web browser that is compliant. The suffering they have imposed on web developers is beyond astronomical.

    Apple gives small companies a chance to write high quality software and makes it very easy (app store) and profitable for them to sell it. Many of the best companies (Adobe\Macromedia, Avid etc.) made their mark on the Mac first.

    Yes, Apple has their way and I'm not a fan of how closed iOS is (though I understand the reasons for it). However, "their way" is what makes the platform such a remarkably better overall experience for the average user, makes Apple so successful, and is the reason for the much higher resale value.

    I use, develop for and service Win, Linux and OS X machines daily and the experience and statistics first hand dealing with the customers and their problems paints a very clear picture of who's happy and getting their money's worth.

    I can tell you with great confidence that it definitely ain't the Redmond\PC clients.

    Microsoft does make an excellent database (SQL Server) and their Server OS is pretty good. ASP.Net is a really great web platform and C# is a great language. But the overhead is substantial and none of this technology comes cheap ($$$$$$$$). This is especially true when considering that a MacMini with OS X Server \ LAMP can cover 80% of the same needs for a mere fraction of the cost.

    I like Microsoft and having little control over the hardware their software runs on may be profitable for them - but it is a real "loser's game" for end users in expense, headaches, waste, and lost productivity.

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