Dell XPS 14z: 14” LCD in a 13.3” Form Factor

When we reviewed the XPS 15z early last month, we found a laptop that got a lot of things right, so the hardly-secret follow-up XPS 14z certainly garnered a spot on our radar. Dell agreed to send us a pre-release unit for the official launch, and we received it last week and spent most of the interim benchmarking and testing the laptop. There are plenty of areas where the 14z continues the 15z legacy, and in some ways it’s a better laptop. There are also areas where we feel the 14z falls short of what we’d like to see from Dell’s XPS brand—areas where it’s more like Inspiron than XPS.

Dell is officially announcing the XPS 14z today, with ordering availability scheduled for November 1 in the US; worldwide availability will occur November 15. There will be four primary configurations available at that point, though we’re not sure how much customization will be available. Here’s a rundown of the four US-bound configurations with their pricing.

Dell XPS 14z US Launch Configurations
Processor i5-2430M i5-2430M i7-2640M i7-2640M
Hard drive 500GB 750GB 750GB 256GB SSD
Memory 6GB DDR3 8GB DDR3 8GB DDR3 8GB DDR3
Graphics Intel HD 3000 NVIDIA 520M 1GB NVIDIA 520M 1GB NVIDIA 520M 1GB
Price $999 $1199 $1299 $1599

 We received an early sample of the base $999 model, though the memory configuration changed between the time the system was assembled and the above final specs. Our test unit has 4GB RAM compared to the 6GB that will be shipping; this shouldn’t make a difference for normal usage, but it’s worth noting. As far as we can tell, all models share the same WiFi, DVDRW, and LCD; the CPU, storage, GPU and amount of memory are where they differ.

The base model comes without discrete graphics, while all of the upgraded versions include NVIDIA’s GT 520M. We haven’t had a chance to look at that GPU yet, and we’re actually interested in testing it as it doesn’t seem like it will be much faster than the HD 3000. 48 CUDA cores with a 64-bit DDR3-1600 memory interface (12.8GB/s) is nothing to write home about, and DX11 support is almost meaningless on low end hardware. However, NVIDIA (and AMD) still have better graphics driver support than Intel, so it’s something to consider. We hope to get a second 14z with the upgrade GPU and CPU in for testing to see how it fares, and it looks like Dell will charge about $100 extra for the GPU upgrade.

In terms of the review system, here’s a full list of the components and specifications:

Dell XPS 14z Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-2430M (dual-core 2.40-3.00GHz, 35W)
Intel Core i7-2640M (dual-core 2.80-3.50GHz, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM67
Memory 4GB (2x2GB DDR3-1333) Pre-Release Sample
6GB (1x4GB + 1x2GB DDR3-1333)
8GB (2x4GB DDR-1333 CL9)
Graphics Intel HD 3000 Graphics (1.2GHz max clock)
NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M 1GB DDR3 (Optional)
Display 14.0” WLED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)
(LG 140WH6)
Hard Drive 500GB 7200RPM HDD(Seagate ST9500423AS)
750GB 7200RPM HDD
Optical Drive 8X Slot-Load DVDRW
Networking Gigabit Ethernet (Atheros AR8151)
802.11n WiFi + Bluetooth 3.0 (Intel Advanced-N 6230)
WiDi 2.0 Ready
Audio Stereo Speakers
Microphone and headphone jacks
Capable of 5.1 digital output (HDMI)
Battery 8-cell, 58Wh
Front Side N/A
Left Side Memory Card Reader
Headphone Jack
Microphone Jack
Exhaust vent
Right Side Battery Life Indicator
Slot-Load Optical Drive
Back Side Kensington Lock
AC Power Connection
Mini DisplayPort
1 x USB 2.0
1 x USB 3.0
Gigabit Ethernet
Exhaust vent
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 13.19" x 9.21" x 0.9" (WxDxH)
(335mm x 234mm x 23mm)
Weight 4.36 lbs / 1.98kg (8-cell)
Extras 1.3MP HD Webcam w/ dual array microphones
80-Key backlit keyboard
Flash reader (SD, MS, MMC)
MS Office 2010 Starter or Home/Student
65W Power Adapter
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
2- and 3-year extended warranties available
Pricing Review Configuration MSRP: $999
Availability US: Nov. 1; Worldwide: Nov. 15

Dell packs in pretty much everything most users will need, including a single USB 3.0 Super Speed port on the back. (I’m not sure why they include only one SS port, given the second USB port is right next to it.) The inclusion of an optical drive in such a thin laptop also warrants mention. Our test unit is the base model, so we don’t have the GeForce GT 520M added to the mix, but that upgrade is available should you want it. Display connectivity is also reasonable, with a mini DisplayPort and a full size HDMI port on the back of the laptop.

Dell XPS 14z: Almost Like an Ultrabook
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  • name99 - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - link

    "Dell does deserve credit for cramming a full slot-load DVD-RW into a reasonably thin chassis, although the need for optical drives seems to be diminishing with each passing year."

    I honestly do not understand the mind of Dell.
    They have a chance to deliver a DIFFERENT type of computer --- an ultrabook that doesn't make the compromises of a MacBook Air, but also is not burdened with useless crap like an optical drive. But no, rather than deliver something innovative, they go all in copying the MacBook Pro. Really pathetic.
    (And yeah, having a USB3 port rather than a Thunderbolt port doesn't change the fact that this is a MacBook Pro clone.)
  • ramvalleru - Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - link

    Apple copied the chick-let style keybord from Sony.
  • AnnonymousCoward - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - link

    1. 1366x768 glossy TN is complete crap. Use 16:10, and offer matte IPS for a reasonable cost.
    2. I doubt this "space age looking keyboard" types as well as a Latitude keyboard.
    3. The arrow keys aren't full size.
    4. An i5 laptop deserves >2 USB ports.
    5. How about offering a 120GB SSD for a reasonable +$150?
  • TheYeti - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - link

    We got one of these in the office a few weeks ago. The thing that we were most astounded by was the small size of the display in comparison to the size of the bottom case. The laptop was a tight fit in the same case as my 17 inch macbook pro had a roomy fit. It wouldn't fit in any of the 15 inch laptop cases that anyone in the office had.

    The display has a black border, the black border has a chrome border, the hinge is not set in the back of the bottom case, but at the top the bottom case has a plastic border, the plastic border has a chrome border. all in all the exterior of all the plastics protrudes about an inch and a half from the screen edge, and it isn't a nice screen either.

    When you hold it in your hands it feels like someone took a thin 17 inch laptop, stuck a 13 inch screen on it, and tried to hide the fact. Like putting those "don't drive over 45mph" spare wheels on a 4x4 so that it will fit in the garage. It has muscle and will move, but it is crippled by the screen.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - link

    I'm confused... what laptop are you talking about? Certainly not the XPS 14z, and I can't recall any laptop I've seen with a 13" display that is anywhere near the size of a 17" chassis. The worst I've seen in the "small screen, large chassis" department is the Alienware M11x, which is nearly a 13" chassis.
  • Brad4 - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - link

    I would not even accept one of these for free. The first thing I looked for was the resolution, and quickly determined that I am not interested in this sorry little laptop. A 16:9 ratio is disgusting. I'm a windows user and buy Apple because they offer a 16:10 resolution.
  • Fanfoot - Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - link

    Sorry, but you don't talk about the trackpad and keyboard. I had a 15z for a while, and had to return it. In general I think it was a very nice laptop, HOWEVER the trackpad constantly reacted to bits of my palms touching it, causing the mouse pointer to jump randomly about. Plugging in an external mouse and setting it up to disable the trackpad once one is plugged in fixed that. However, as a programmer the keyboard remained an unfixable problem. The lack of unshifted home and end keys was something I simply couldn't get past. Lots of people might never notice this problem, but for a programmer I don't think the omission is acceptable.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - link

    You're right, I neglected to cover this much. I've added a paragraph specifically about the touchpad, as you're right: the 15z was more prone to errant clicks. The 15z (at least initially -- perhaps it has changed?) used a Cypress touchpad, while the 14z uses a Synaptics touchpad. There are a few extra settings on the Synaptics that help reduce the amount of errant clicks/brushes, particularly while typing. The keyboard I referenced in passing, but I've clarified a bit more why I prefer the XPS 15 layout to the 15z/14z.

    Thanks for the comment!
  • mashimaroo - Monday, October 31, 2011 - link

    ive had my fair share of dell laptops but this new line looks pretty good. the main problem ive had with my laptop is fan control and heating issues
  • tipoo - Saturday, February 25, 2012 - link

    Yeah, I hate Dells default fan control and no applications that I know of can controll it in new Dells. It only picks from 4 or 5 speeds rather than a gradual ramp up so it can go from silent to audible on and off, its annoying.

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