Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: Performance-wise, tghe Dell XPS 14z is a stereotypical mixed bag. Regardless of benchmarks, the Core i5 + 8GB of RAM combo enabled us to whisk about daily desktop tasks with ease, and we were continually in awe of just how well this machine handled the rigors of Windows multitasking. Even with upwards of ten applications open at once, switching between them was seamless and quick. Bootup was also quick once we deleted the absurd amount of bloatware that Dell shoves on this machine, and wake-from-sleep happened in a matter of seconds. The 7200RPM Western Digital hard drive performed admirably, though more demanding gaming titles definitely took their time loading. As for the benches? Having a discrete GPU, even if it was "only" NVIDIA's GT520M, helped tremendously. The Optimus setup enabled our GPU to power through graphically intense tasks, while being able to switch that off during calmer sessions improved our battery life. It's no barn-burner, but for the target market of this machine, it's more than satisfactory.The XPS 14z is a dead-ringer for the 15z. If you enjoyed that design, you'll enjoy this one. Plenty of metal, plenty of smooth edges. That said, Dell missed perfection somewhat by refusing to say no to three senseless stickers on the palm rest, and not having a single USB port on either edge of the machine. We generally appreciate having the IO ports in the rear, but there needs to be an additional 1-2 USB ports on one of the side edges for quick USB flash drive transfers.
On the plus side, both the trackpad and keyboard were world-class. Both were responsive; the keyboard had an ideal amount of travel (backlit too) and the touchpad supported multi-gestures rather well. The Dell XPS 14z is one of the more enjoyable machines to use overall. It's brisk, it's lightweight, it's compact and it's beautiful. It's hard to find all of that in a single notebook these days. Its display could have stood at least the option for a higher resolution panel, but at least we're making progress by trimming that bezel in a major way.
The biggest problem with the XPS 14z, outside of the horrific bloatware load that it ships with, is another 14z in Dell's line: the Inspiron 14z. While that machine is certainly not as sexy, it can be customized with similar specifications for less money -- oftentimes much less. The Inspiron 14z starts at just $600; the XPS 14z starts at $1000. That's a major price gap, and while the 14z performed well, the excess fan noise, awkward port layout and non-high res display make the price premium somewhat tough to justify.
Dell's XPS 14z is a solid little machine, and it'll certainly serve its customers well, but it's just a little too pricey with some of its shortcomings. Gamers will want more than a lowly GT520M, and bargain hunters will demand a lower price from a 14" machine. In a way, the XPS 14z stuck between a rock and a hard place, though it's well-built, a pleasure to use and very easy on the eyes.