Software and User Experience
Predictably, the panel was overly glossy, making it less-than-enjoyable to use in direct sunlight. Viewing angles were also a bit disappointing. When looking straight-on, images were crisp and clean, but even a slight off-axis view in any direction began to wash images out. We were also let down with the lackluster 1366x768 resolution; if you're going to stretch 14" of diagonal panel in there, at least bump the resolution to 1600x900.
Dell also includes their Stage UI with the system -- a move that's becoming all the more popular on ultra-portable Dell machines. We really aren't that fond of it; we'd prefer far less intrusive shortcuts to our favorite programs right on the desktop, but at least it's easy to disable.
We also found it somewhat odd that not a single USB port was located on either side of the machine. That means basic chores like connecting a USB flash drive for a ten-second transfer requires you to flip your machine around, plug it in, transfer the file, flip your machine around again, and unplug the drive. A single (or two) USB ports on the side would've been majorly useful, though we appreciate the majority of them being in the rear.
During our normal use and testing, we rarely had a moment where at least one of the internal fans weren't roaring. When we really began to tax the machine, it sounded as if it were about to lift off. Perhaps not surprisingly, there wasn't a lot of heat building up on the bottom of the machine, nor on the palm rests, but it required an awful lot of noise and blown air for that to be true. Make no mistake; this is a noisy machine, and there's just no getting around it.
Unfortunately, Dell also chose to allow an absolutely obscene amount of "bloatware" to be installed here. It's not that we don't appreciate trial security software, online backup solutions or 2GB of free cloud storage, but seriously -- can you not throw it at our face all at once upon initial boot? We really can't think of too many more offensive ways to hamstring a new machine.
Rather than booting up quickly into Windows, it felt as if the XPS 14z was loading unwanted background applications for a solid minute upon first boot, and from there, we were assaulted with pesky pop-ups nagging us about this application and that application for many minutes. It's just unacceptable. Throw the free crap that no one truly wants onto a USB thumb drive or a DVD in the box. Don't install it on a computer that someone just paid $1000+ for.
Again, the overall user experience is buttery smooth, but getting to that point took wading through way too much unwanted software. We can only imagine how much zippier this machine would've been if it weren't saddled down with gobs of crapware from the factory.