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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  • Anonymous Blowhard - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    "We hope to have the 14z with GeForce GT 520M in for testing in the near future, and we’ll revisit the topic of graphics performance then"

    Spoiler alert: It's probably not worth the upgrade cost Dell is asking.

    Expect it to perform a little faster than a 320M or HD 3000. It has a little more shader muscle, but it will fall flat on its face in texture/render bound scenarios, or when that poor 64-bit memory bus chokes. Clock-bumped 410M, really.

    320M = 48:16:8 @ 450MHz, 128bit (shared) DDR3
    GT520M = 48:8:4 @ 740MHz, 64-bit DDR3

    GT525M would have been a better choice but they might have ran into thermal constraints. See the 3830TG for an example.
    Reply
  • dagamer34 - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    What's with PC manufacturers skimping on screen resolutions? 1366x768 on a 14" display should NOT be acceptable in this day and age. Heck, the MacBook Pro cramps that many pixels into a 11.6" display! Reply
  • Master_Sigma - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    $1,000+ for a laptop with a 1366x768 screen? Is this some kind of sick joke, or are there missing options in the Display category? Reply
  • ananduser - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    Apple gives you a 1280x800 one for a higher price and with lower specs. Reply
  • name99 - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - link

    "with lower specs"

    Uhh --- so your take-away from Anand's long review of the display and comparing it to a MacBook Pro was "the MacBook Pro display has worse specs"?
    My god --- that's some seriously broken reading comprehension.
    Reply
  • TegiriNenashi - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    What is this magic "p" letter. AFIR computer displays have "p" since 1980s. It is sad that diisplay resolution degraded to the point when TV screen quality is seen as benchmark. Reply
  • tipoo - Saturday, February 25, 2012 - link

    Technically any LCD running at non-native res will revert to i/interlaced mode, but I see your point. Reply
  • popej - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    On the picture on front page notebook looks like it had matte screen. Is it retouched? What's the reason to show false pictures in a review? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    The gallery images are the actual laptop; the front image is a Dell provided image, which may have been pre-rendered or at least retouched. I used it because I think it looks nice in the text of the article; if anyone buys the laptop because of that image and doesn't read the text, I'm not going to worry too much about it. :-) Reply
  • popej - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    I have read your article and I appreciate it :)

    OK, since you have used pictures provided by Dell I can forward my question: why is Dell using false picture to advertise its product?

    This is not a first time, when I notice similar trickery.
    Reply

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