Dell XPS 14 Notebook Review: Optimus Infused

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Overall Design & Layout

Dell's Studio XPS line takes a playful approach to aesthetics with an assortment of colorful lids and custom designs. The new XPS notebooks may appear a little bland by comparison, at least until you take a closer look.

There are two things we like about the XPS 14 right off the bat. First, there aren't any funky or psychedelic designs on the lid. And secondly, Dell steered clear of the glossy fiberglass look that's become so popular as of late. A glossy finish certainly looks attractive, until you muck it up with fingerprints.

Popping open the lid reveals one slick son of a gun. The black metal interior surrounding the keyboard is flanked by a glossy bezel that's just thick enough to catch your fingerprints, but more easily wiped away than if Dell had gone overboard like some notebooks we've seen.

If you've ever owned a high end desktop enclosure from the likes of a Lian-Li or Silverstone, then you know how gorgeous brushed aluminum can look. It translates equally well to notebooks, especially when used as an accent like Dell did rather than dominate the entire chassis.

The backlit keys aren't of the raised chiclet variety that we typically prefer, but the click action on the XPS 14's keyboard was surprisingly snappy, rather than mushy like we expected it to be. We're still not fans of typing on notebook keys in general, however this is as good of a mobile keyboard as we've typed on. We were slightly bummed at not being able to change the color of the backlight.

The Function keys double as media keys, allowing you to play, pause, fast forward, toggle Wi-Fi, and a few other odds and ends. Above these sit a row of touch-sensitive action keys giving you quick access to volume control, various system settings, and a customizable app launcher.

On the left side of the XPS 14 sit the mic and headphone jacks, SPDIF input, a USB 2.0 port, and the main exhaust vent. Over on the right is the optical drive, eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port, and Ethernet port.

Around the back you'll find an HDMI port, mini DisplayPort, power connector, and a third USB 2.0 port. Despite weighing under 5.5 pounds, the XPS 14 doesn't feel the least bit flimsly.

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