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
Panel HD HD HD HD
Optical DVDRW DVDRW DVDRW DVDRW
Wireless WLAN/BT WLAN/BT WLAN/BT WLAN/BT
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
256GB SSD
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
HDMI
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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  • cloudgazer - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    Apple upgraded the CPUs on their MBP line literally this morning, so the final comparison is a bit off. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    Written earlier than this morning, but I appreciate the update. Apple still likes skimping on the RAM and fleecing you for RAM upgrades, but we can't expect much else. Reply
  • cloudgazer - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    No arguments there. First law of Apple is to buy your own RAM - though you always have to hang on to the original Apple supplied SODIMM in case you have to use AppleCare. Reply
  • S.D.Leary - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    Thats odd. Every time I have used Applecare, I've had aftermarket RAM in my system, and they have never even mentioned it.

    SDLeary
    Reply
  • lukarak - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    They even offer guides on how to replace it. Of course they are not going to mention it. Reply
  • tipoo - Saturday, February 25, 2012 - link

    Changing RAM doesn't void the warrenty on the rest of the Mac, they just don't cover the new RAM. Reply
  • jecs - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    My current mobile computer is a Macbook Pro 2.0 from 2008 but I will wait more for my next laptop. However I am not looking for performance there. What I want is a very good screen, decent graphics and a nice and solid construction that could last for 3-4 years more. For performance I work with desktops. Reply
  • XLNC - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    I'm glad they brought attention to the horrid screen. We've been stuck with 1366x768 for far too long, because the vast majority don't understand what "resolution" means and get the cheapest laptop possible. This is one area where I applaud Apple, they provide high quality, high-res (16:10 in some cases!) screens. However, my search for a compact Windows laptop with a quality screen continues. Reply
  • FlyBri - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    I hear ya, which is why I caved and bought a MBA to run Windows 7. Quality is so far above anything else, it's completely worth it. Reply
  • Johnmcl7 - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    I wouldn't say so, Apple have always been slow with their screens particularly in resolution as rivals (particularly Dell and Sony) have been offering much higher resolution screens. Apple have been slow with higher resolution 13in panels, they're only offering the 1400x900 now whereas Sony have had 1600x900 13.1in panels for a couple of generations of their Z series and with the last generation were offering a 1920x1080 13.1in panel. I don't really understand how Apple have managed to get this reputation for screens given they're years behind their competition, the RGB LED backlit screens have been out a couple of years now but no sign of them on an Apple machine.

    I also disagree about what people think of resolutions, I don't think it's a case that vast majority don't want higher resolution. I'm a resolution junkie and my machines use high resolution panels but most people that use any of my machines find the resolution too high and want to turn it down and at work there's a surprising number of people who find their 17in 1280x1024 screens too high and run them at 1024x768 (which looks terrible as it's the wrong aspect ratio).

    John
    Reply

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