This is my review of the Sprint Dell Inspiron 11z (1121) laptop.
Reason for Upgrade/Purchase:
This product actually replaces two previous devices, a Sprint Sierra Wireless 3G/4G broadband modem and my HP Pavilion tx2500z tablet PC. The HP notebook was a few years old and it acquired the infamous "display no longer works" bug and in order for me to use it I had it connected toa second monitor to be able to see any display. The Wireless card's contract was up and being that it was dropping connections more than usual, it was time for a new device. So I went searching for a nice small netbook, laptop or tablet and I came across the 11z on Sprint's website that actually replaced both.
Different Versions / comparison of the Dell 11z and the Sprint Dell 11z:
They may share the same name but these are totally two different beasts. The Dell Inspiron 11z which Sprint sells on the Sprint website, at a substantial discount ($99-$149) I might add, is not a typical Inspiron 11z with a Celeron processor as shown on Dells website. That models’ chassis looks different and the non-button touchpad has had problems from day one as per many reviews. It is also a bit sluggish, more bulky, gets hotter and overall has too many issues going for it.
With the Sprint version on the other hand, it seemed that Dell went back and updated a previous model and made it better. The Sprint model is actually a Dell M101z (same chassis) but with different internal components such as a hypertreaded Intel Core i3 mobile processor and Intel HM57 chipset and different hard drive. The touchpad is also different and actually has left and right buttons and responds very well and it is also has multi-touch scrolling. The laptop is small yet has a big enough 11.6” screen making it quite portable and light. The sound coming off the laptop is provided by two speakers at the front of the device and sound quite good for a laptop of this size. The screen is bright and quite easy on the eyes, but if outside, the display gets drowned out by the glare from the sun. Then again, this isn’t a Pixel Qi screen or a Kindle that is readable in sunlight. The device can actually be classified as a netbook since there is no CD/DVD drive, but it functions and performs more like a laptop with easy access to its memory banks and plenty of ports. There is one port that is missing off the Sprint version that is actually on the original M101z and that is the Antenna-in connector that connects to an external antenna to view programs using the original models TV tuner card. There is also a 250 GB Western Digital hard drive in the Sprint version whereas in the original Dell 11z it had a Toshiba hard drive.
Speaking of ports, it has 3 USB ports, a HDMI and VGA port to connect to an external monitor (and one of the reasons I bought it). There is an Ethernet port, Microphone jack and 3mm headphone jacks. There is also a built in 7 in 1 Media card reader. According to the manual the right side forward facing USB port is USB Powershare which allows you to charge a USB device when the laptop is powered on/off or in a sleep mode, and it works as advertised. The right side rear facing USB and the left side USB are regular USB 2.0 ports. If connecting to an HDMI TV, and if the TV does not have built in speakers, you will only get video and no sound. That may be an issue with some. The rear VGA port is situated at the rear of the laptop.
|Left side||Right side|
|Ethernet, HDMI, USB 2.0, Heat fans, media reader||Headphone, Mic, USB with Powershare, USB, Power|
|Front View||Rear View|
|Headphone, Mic, USB with Powershare, USB, Power||Security cable slot, VGA connector|
The keyboard is full size and feels nice to type on, just wish it was back lit to see the keys in low light situations. It has an extra row of keys that double as function keys and Settings (Wi-Fi,) as well as multimedia keys. The area below the keyboard is set in a stainless steel like material and makes the laptop look much more expensive. In this area is the touchpad, which actually has buttons that are quite responsive and is multi-touch scroll enabled. (Vertical, Horizontal scroll and Flick scroll for flipping through galleries or multimedia content), zoom, pinch and even rotate. On the original 11z, there were complaints with the touchpad, but on this model no such complaints and it works rather well.
|Full View||Close up||Side View|
The system comes with 2GB memory already installed. It is adequate, but as you start using having more applications open, the laptop may not be as responsive. I recommend upgrading this to 6 or 8. Upgrading the memory is a very simple process and quite accessible. Access is simply unscrewing a cover on the bottom of the laptop and adding or replacing the memory modules. It takes up to 8GB DDR3-10600 (1333 MHz). With memory being so low, I bought 2 4GB modules (Crucial 8GB kit) to replace the 2GB one. Once installed the machine seems much more responsive when you have many applications open at one time.
|Bottom View||Memory compartment|
The webcam is okay although I would have liked for it to be a rotating one like in some Acer notebooks, but for a $99-149 laptop I shouldn’t complain since I am amazed it even has a 1.3 megapixel webcam. The supplied Dell Webcam Central software takes video and snapshots from resolutions of 160 x120 up to 1280 x 1024. It also has numerous scenes and effects that can be applied to the images. There is an led indicator light next to the webcam that turns on once you enable the webcam.
One cool feature of this laptop and one of the reasons I bought it that it has an integrated 3G/4G (Wimax) radios. The device itself has a Dell Wireless 5620 Multi-mode Gobi mobile broadband mini card which allows connections to both EVDO and HSDPA systems. It also has an Intel Centrino Advanced N+Wimax 6250 to connect to 4G Wimax and Wi-Fi. The software accessing the card is your typical Smartview from Sprint and while it was a pain at times to start on my older device and had numerous disconnects, on this machine it actually gets a strong signal, and hasn’t dropped a connection. Only issue is that it is set to default, so even if you want to connect to a Wi-Fi either out on the town or at home, it’s a bit hard to since it comes up automatically. But if you open Smartview and go to Tools, Settings, Client and uncheck the “Automatically run this application on machine startup” You will then be able to choose Wi-Fi or 3g/4g service at your choosing.
Going back to the card, it may be possible to connect to HSDPA carriers since the internal Dell Wireless 5620 multi-mode card can use either EVDO or HSDPA and the cellular protocol are GSM, GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, CDMA 2000 1X EV-DO Rev A, WCDMA, HSUPA, CDMA 2000 1X EV-DO Rev. 0. There is also SIM card slot below the battery. So it may be possible to use this device on different carriers. An example of overseas use can be found here and here. It may be possible to even upgrade to LTE once Sprint gets it (or use another carriers LTE) by opening up the laptop and inserting a mobile card in the future (something like the Gobi 4000 LTE/HSDPA LTE/EVDO).
|SIM card location|
The lid of the device is a fingerprint magnet. But one can buy one of those vinyl covers that will reduce or eliminate the fingerprints. The top cover/display can go back up to about a 45 degree only due to the hinge design, which is fine if the laptop is on a normal desk in height. On the left side of the chassis are the vents and the device itself doesn’t really get unbearably hot. The fan is quite low in noise. There is no CD/DVD drive, and it’s ironic that Dell supplies a CD with application software that is already installed on the computer. But with so many USB ports, you can get one of those thin external CD/DVD readers/writers and even BlueRay readers / writers instead of downloading movies to the hard drive or backups to the cloud.
The included Microsoft Office Starter 2010 only includes two apps, Excel Starter and Word Starter. Both have display advertising. The Excel version has ads and does not support advanced functionality such as pivot tables, change tracking or password protection or VBA, etc. The same goes for Word Starter. Being that I already had upgraded to the latest Office on my previous HP laptop (the one that the displayed died) I just entered the product key and I was upgraded with no charge. If you have Office on another device which you no longer are using and it is better than the one that comes with the laptop, but can’t get it upgraded due to the product key not accepting, just call Microsoft and explain the transfer and they will fix it for you. (Or if your work gives you a discount thru the Home Use Program, just follow the instructions). The above procedure can also be applied to the OS. The OS included is Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit and although I use Ultimate on my devices, the Home premium is fine on this machine.
An automated backup and recovery service, which may be useful since there isn’t a CD/DVD drive.
Speaking of battery, as mentioned earlier, it came with a 3 Cell battery although the shipping box states 6 cell. It lasts about 4-5 hours on normal use and for extensive use about 2-4 hours. That being the case, I wanted a better battery. Nowhere on the Dell website can one find any info on the model or the battery, remember this isn’t a Dell 11z it’s actually an M101z with different internals. And even though the 11z and M101z are discontinued on Dells website, Dell does sell a replacement higher capacity 6-cell battery both on its website and on Amazon, as does other 3rd party retailers on Amazon. BTW, the battery is a Dell R6G7115L made by Dynapak.
Although the box states 1 Year Limited Warranty, it does not specify if it’s through Sprint or Dell that one takes the device in to get fix if one were to have a problem.
The Sprint Dell 11z is one very good laptop with features and performance that is quite impressive especially considering the heavily discounted price of $99-149 on Sprint. Through Dell (when they had it) and currently on Amazon (numerous versions), the laptop is about $399 and above and most are of the wrong model. This device will set you back 2 years since you need to get a contract for the price, but for those that travel and need a connection, there is no question that this device will meet your needs, it surely meets mine. It is quite capable on its own as stock, but if you are willing to upgrade the memory and or the battery, the device is basically one that will last for years even beyond your contract. If you are the type to tinker with the internals, you can even upgrade the hard drive and 3G/4G broadband mini cards to LTE once Sprint gets it.
I recommend it.
-Small and portable, perfect sized at 11.6" and fairly light at about 3 lbs.
-Excellent sound quality and plenty of volume for a laptop
-Hyperthreaded Core i3 processor provides snappy performance
-Decent Full-size keyboard is easy to type on
-Looks more expensive
-Does not get too hot and is quiet
-Integrated 3G/4G (Wimax) radios
-Easy memory access for upgrade
-Default 2GB ram upgradable to 8GB
-Touchpad works great includes multi-touch scrolling
-External output via VGA or HDMI ports
-250GB Western Digital Hard Drive
Cons with possible solutions:
-Lid attracts fingerprints, a bit glossy and can get scratched easily
-Default 3-cell, although the box says 6-cell.
-Sprint Smartview software for connecting to 3G/4G network is a hassle
-Difficult to set Wi-Fi only mode
-Difficult to access and upgrade hard drive
-Installed Microsoft Office is good only for 30 days.
Cons with no solutions:
-Keyboard not back lit
-Webcam is only 1.3 megapixels
-Warranty includes mail-in repair service only and its only for one year
-Highly discounted price requires 2-year Sprint contract (may be an issue for some)
-Hard Drive Access / upgrade difficult (need to remove keyboard)
Some Tips I’ve Encountered:
Prevent Apps from starting at startup (like Windows Live Messenger, Sprint Smartview, etc)
To turn Wi-Fi on:
Note: Once Wi-Fi is turned on, the Wimax (4G network)connection turns off, as they share the same radio and cannot be on at the same time.
To turn Wi-Fi off:
Note: If you turn off Wi-Fi using these steps, Wimax does not automatically turn on. To get it to turn on, you must enable Wimax again in Sprint Smartview by going to Tools and selecting Enable 4G.
Click “Apply” and then “Ok” button to save.