Dell is officially announcing the XPS 14z today, with ordering availability scheduled for November One in the US; worldwide availability will occur November 15. You will see four primary configurations offered at that point, though we’re unsure how much customization is going to be available. Our test unit has 4GB RAM when compared to 6GB that will be shipping; this shouldn’t really make a difference for normal usage, but it’s worth noting. So far as we can tell, all purchases share the same WiFi, DVDRW, and LCD; the CPU, storage, GPU and quantity of memory are where they differ.
The bottom model comes without discrete graphics, while all the upgraded versions include NVIDIA’s GT 520M. We haven’t were built with a chance to look at that GPU yet, and we’re actually thinking about testing it as it doesn’t appear to be it will be much faster compared to HD 3000. 48 CUDA cores having a 64-bit DDR3-1600 memory interface (12.8GB/s) is certainly not to write home about, and DX11 support is nearly meaningless on cheap hardware. However, NVIDIA (and AMD) have better graphics driver support than Intel, so it’s something to think about. We hope to get a second 14z using the upgrade GPU and CPU set for testing to see the way it fares, and it appears like Dell will charge about $100 extra for that GPU upgrade.
Dell packs in just about everything most users will require, including a single USB 3.0 Super Speed port around the back. (I’m not sure why they include just one SS port, because of the second USB port is appropriate next to it.) The inclusion of the optical drive in this thin laptop also warrants mention. Our test unit may be the base model, therefore we don’t have the GeForce GT 520M put into the mix, but that upgrade can be obtained should you want it. Display connectivity can also be reasonable, with a mini DisplayPort along with a full size HDMI port around the back of the laptop.
There’s a great deal to like about Dell’s 14z, including a stylish design, reasonable performance and pricing, along with a better build quality than many consumer notebooks. It won’t rival the enterprise class business notebooks for quality, but it’s quite a bit lighter than the majority of those and is still a proper step up from the mostly-plastic budget laptops. The 14z will handle most everyday tasks without trouble, and it’ll look good doing it, but we actually would like a better than average display to complete out the package.
So far as office and Internet use goes, the 14z is effective, but we can state that about any laptop having a Sandy Bridge or Llano CPU. HD video playback works fine, including streaming 1080p YouTube content. 24FPS video may not work flawlessly, but I’m unsure how much that matters for laptop users-it’s definitely not a pressing concern for me personally. Where the base model 14z won’t achieve this well is in games or computationally intensive workloads; users thinking about games will want something having a discrete GPU (we’ll see exactly what the GT 520M can do soon, but GT 525M would probably be a better target for moderate gaming), as well as for pure computation you’ll desire a quad-core CPU. Otherwise, performance often isn’t a pressing concern on modern PCs, especially if you’ve got an SSD.
My feeling would be that the 14z has one item that may really benefit from upgrading, and that’s the display. Apple has truly done well at equipping their MacBook Pro and MacBook Air (and iPad and iPhone) devices with good as well as great quality displays, and anyone wanting a bit of the upscale notebook market really must pay attention to that area. As Anand stated in our ASUS UX21E review, innovation is excellent but if you can’t innovate on the particular area it’s better to just copy exactly what the leaders are doing. Dell offers display upgrades on the XPS 15/17/15z, and we definitely recommend spending the additional $100-$150 as a great way to obtain a high quality laptop display, but a minimum of right now the 14z is missing that option.
Another area where I’d want to see some improvement is incorporated in the chassis design. I love the way the 14z and 15z look, but form has definitely pushed function towards the wayside when it comes to upgrading or replacing hardware. Opening the 14z and 15z chassis requires greater than a little force to pry the casing apart, even though it’s not all that difficult the reassembly may lead to a less than perfect fit. The aluminum casing at the base and the magnesium alloy palm rest are generally a step up in the plastic construction present in too many consumer notebooks, however i don’t spend much time whatsoever looking at the bottom of my laptops and that i would happily quit the seamless bottom for simple access to the memory and difficult drive.
Ultimately, the XPS 14z is really a nice-looking design, but it’s not without compromises. It’s definitely not a clone from the MacBook Pro 13, however the two deserve to be compared. Apple’s unibody construction still supplies a better fit and finished, and what’s more it’s much easier to access your memory and storage using the MBP13. The MBP13 also has a top quality display, and while 1366×768 is technically more pixels than 1280×800, I’d favour a 16:10 aspect ratio.
In which the XPS 14z wins out is incorporated in the component specs and pricing. The bottom model gets you 6GB RAM, a 500GB 7200RPM HDD when compared with 4GB RAM and 500GB 5400RPM HDD within the MBP13, and you can get that for around $150 less than the basic MBP13. The upgraded MBP13 will net an i7-2620M/i7-2640M, 4GB RAM, and a 750GB HDD for approximately $1400; Dell on the other hand will sell an i7-2640M, 8GB RAM, 750GB 7200RPM HDD, along with a GeForce GT 520M for $1300. Quite simply, it’s mostly the same old story: Dell will sell a bit more performance at a lower price, but when it comes to the look and build quality Apple’s MacBook Pro wins out, and also the Apple LCD reaches least a $75 upgrade in my opinion.
Dell seems to understand the requirement for better displays at one level, once we have the Precision line now offering IPS panels being an upgrade (albeit one which will cost you $400 extra!), they’ve had RGB LED being an option for several years on certain models, and also the XPS 15/15z have at least much better than average displays. Actually, the 15/15z managed to one-up Apple’s MacBook around the display front by providing 1080p in a 15.6″ panel when compared with Apple’s 1440×900 resolution (though Apple has matte panels as a substitute). Toss in a better display and also the 14z suddenly becomes much more compelling and flirts with another Editors’ Choice award; without them, it’s a laptop that appears good in every area except the main one place where your vision are going to be focused the majority of th time.