Dell Inspiron 14z Ultrabook Review

Introduction & Specifications

Give credit to Intel for recognizing the notebook market needed a swift kick in the pants, and for putting a noose around the necks of netbooks, which have all but been eliminated from the market place. Sure, a few straggling netbooks remain, but by and large, Intel is now heavily invested (both literally and figuratively) in the Ultrabook platform. These thin and light machines represent the natural evolution of laptops, and the form factor continues to evolve right before our eyes, which is something that's underscored by the likes of Dell's Inspiron 14z Ultrabook.

When man discovered fire, everything was different from that point forward. Ribeye, Filet, and the Weber -- how did we survive without these bare essentials?  By that same token, Dell seems to have discovered that it's possible to mate a discrete GPU with an Ultrabook form factor, giving birth to one of the first Ultrabooks capable of slicing through games. We're not talking about titles like Peggle and Angry Birds, but bona fide titles that previously had no business being installed on a thin and light machine, and certainly wouldn't have been allowed to come within 100 feet of a netbook.

The configuration Dell sent us to examine sports an AMD Radeon HD 7570M GPU with 1GB of onboard memory, a mid-class graphics chip with the chops to handle DirectX 11 visuals. It also has an Ivy Bridge processor, 8GB of fast DDR3-1600 memory, and an optical drive, still somewhat of a rarity in this form factor. It has the foundation of a premium notebook, but at $900 retail (as configured), it's priced several hundred dollars below the going rate of a high-end Ultrabook.

If you don't care about having a discrete GPU, Dell sells a pair of less expensive baseline configurations starting at $700 and $800, which boast Intel HD 3000 and 4000 Graphics, respectively. The $900 configuration we tested is similar to the $800 model, but with a Radeon GPU and a bit more RAM (8GB versus 6GB). As you'll discover on the following pages, it's a $100 premium well worth considering if you like to game on the go occasionally.

Dell Inspiron 14z Ultrabook
Specifications & Features
Processor Intel Core i5 3317U Processor
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Chipset Intel HM77 Express Chipset
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 7570M GPU
Memory 8GB DDR3 1600 MHz DRAM
Display 14" 16:9 (1366x768) HD WLED with Truelife
Storage 500GB 5400 RPM hard drive + 32GB mSATA
Optical Tray loading DVD burner
Networking Integrated 802.11 a/b/g/n
10/100/1000 Ethernet LAN
Bluetooth 4.0
Intel Wireless Display ready
Interface 1 x Headphone-out jack (Audio-in Combo)
2 x USB 3.0 port
Kensington lock slot
1 x HDMI 1.4
RJ45 Ethernet
3-in-1 media card reader
Battery Li-Ion (44WHr)
Power Adapter 65W AC adapter
Dimensions 0.81-0.83 (H) by 13.66 (W) by 9.45 (D) inches
Weight 4.12 pounds
Manufacturer Warranty 1-year in-home; 90 days phone support
Pricing: $899.99

Part of the reason why Dell is able to offer a discrete GPU while still keeping the price below four figures is because storage chores are primarily relegated to a mechanical hard drive, and a slow spinning one at that (5400 RPM). Dell also squeezes a solid state drive in the Inspiron 14z, but it's only 32GB, which acts as a cache buffer to improve boot up time and general responsiveness.

This is a solid setup, and also a little larger than all those 11-inch and 13.3-inch Ultrabooks out there, as well as a bit heavier at 4.12 pounds. For the sake of comparison, Dell's XPS 13 Ultrabook, which we reviewed in March of this year, weighs 2.99 pounds.

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