Design and Build QualityThe Dell M101z, being part of the Inspiron line, uses the same design aesthetic as its larger Inspiron brethren. The design is easy to describe – just think “all gloss, all the time.”
The lid of the unit we received is glossy blue (a $40 dollar option). Base models ship with a basic glossy black lid. The laptop’s interior is made of faux-aluminum glossy plastic. The border of the glossy display is glossy black. Even the glossy plastic underneath the keyboard is glossy black. If everything in the world was this glossy crime would immediately cease to be a problem – you just can’t help but leave fingerprints all over the M101z.
This isn’t a laptop that is going to make you fall in love at first glance. I think it would be decent looking laptop if more matte plastics were used. As it stands, however, the M101z’s design only serves to remind you of what a gross, oily creature you really are.
Fortunately, the chassis of the M101z feels better than it looks. There’s hardly any weight to bend it out of shape when you hold it by one corner. The lid doesn’t show much flex and feels as if it’d be able to protect the display if you accidently placed something heavy top of your M101z. The firm feel of the chassis may be due to the laptop’s pudgy dimensions (for an 11.6” laptop). It is just under an inch thick at its thinnest point (the front) but is nearly 1.4 inches thick at the rear. Most of this thickness can be blamed on the large 6-cell battery that protrudes slightly from the bottom of the chassis.
The keyboard of the Dell M101z is good for an 11.6” laptop. The keys are not too small and the layout isn’t cramped. The keyboard doesn’t flex much, either, and my fingers remained happy even after using the keyboard for three hours straight. Even so, however, people with large hands need to remember that this is a small laptop. Even the M101z, which provides a relatively large keyboard with well-spaced keys, is going to feel cramped to anyone with big palms and double-sized digits.
The trackpad is large and responsive, but the details could use some work. The surface texture feels a bit cheap and the left/right buttons are mushy. The trackpad is also coated in a semi-gloss finish that, while slightly harder to smudge then the pure gloss plastic on the palmrests, still has a tendency to show fingerprints. That goes double for the buttons because they don’t have any texture at all. This is not a laptop that you’ll want to use while eating a bag of chips.
Upgrading the M101z’s RAM is simple thanks to a plastic panel that swings open once a single screw is removed. The hard drive, however, is another matter. There is no simple access panel – you’d have to take apart the entire laptop chassis in order to access it. This is a strange design choice and obviously isn’t preferable.