Dell XPS 14z Notebook Review

Introduction and Specifications

Earlier this year, we took a long, hard look at one of Dell's most highly-anticipated multimedia notebooks to date. That was the XPS 15z, and we thought pretty highly of it in almost every measurable way, including its delightfully thin dimensions. Fast forward a few months, and in slides the XPS 14z. According to its branding, this unit is just a single number different than the XPS 15z, and if you didn't know any better, you'd just assume that someone took a shrink-ray to the 15z. Indeed, the 14z really is just a small 15z in some ways, but by the same token, that's something that hasn't really existed outside of HP's Envy 14 and Sony's VAIO SA line. Sub-15" multimedia capable notebooks aren't exactly easy to come by, and most of them make pretty big sacrifices on performance somewhere along the way.

The 14z is Dell's "thinnest, fully-featured 14" laptop with an internal optical drive." That's a lot of qualifications, but one thing is clear: it's thin, it's compact, and it packs a punch for the size. LG's Shuriken display is one of the standout features here, enabling a 14" display to be crammed into a 13" form factor. How so? There's barely a bezel. The display stretches almost entirely from edge to edge. In other words, the dimensions here resemble that of similar 13" notebooks, but you're getting a 14" display. Unfortunately, Dell doesn't do a lot to really take advantage of it. There's only a single screen resolution option -- 1366x768 -- which is the same as found on many 12" and 13" machines. In other words, you aren't actually gaining any screen real estate with this in terms of pixel density, but it does make it a bit easier to see fonts and such without squinting. There's still no question that this machine is serving a niche. If you're in the market for a gaming-capable notebook, but you'd prefer the form factor more closely associated with an ultraportable, the XPS 14z is a worthy option.

Specifications-wise, you'll have options of Core i5 and Core i7 processors, plenty of RAM, NVIDIA Optimus technology (a discrete GPU paired with Intel's integrated GPU for times when battery life is important), a 7200RPM hard drive, optional SSD, an 8-cell battery and a built-in slot load DVD+/- RW drive. Here's a look at the full breakdown.

Dell's 14" XPS 14z
Specifications and Features (as tested)
  • Intel Core i5-2430M @ 2.40GHz
  • 8GB of DDR3 RAM at 1333MHz
  • 14.0" LCD (1366x768); WLED backlight, glossy
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M (1GB) + Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • NVIDIA Optimus graphics switching
  • Western Digital 750GB (7200RPM)  Hard Drive
  • Intel Centrino 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • 8x CD/DVD Burner
  • 1.3MP webcam
  • HDMI 1.4 output
  • USB 3.0 x 1
  • USB 2.0 x 1
  • Mini-DisplayPort
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • RJ-45 (Ethernet 10/100/1000)
  • Headphone / Mic Input Jacks
  • 7-in-1 Multimedia Card Reader
  • Backlit Keyboard
  • Stereo Speakers
  • Dell Stage software
  • 4.36 Pounds (with 8-cell battery installed)
  • Non-Removable 8-Cell Li-ion Battery (58WHr;2.0AHr)
  • 13.9" x 9.21" x 0.90" (Dimensions)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
  • Price (as tested): $1099.99
  • Price (starting): $999.99
  • 1-Year Warranty

What's clear is that this machine is no slouch. What's also clear is that it's not really a bargain. Dell is commanding premium for cramming this kind of component list into this small of a package, with the base machine starting at $999. Strangely, the XPS 14z's main competition is another 14z: the Inspiron 14z. It's definitely not as sleek, but it offers similar output and specifications with a $600 starting price. Is it worth the premium for the XPS variant? Find out in our full review in the pages ahead.

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