Decent Battery Life

Here’s one area where the ultrabook argument is really going to have a hard time gaining traction with me: battery life. It’s great that you can get an ultra thin laptop, but if getting something to 0.8” thick or less requires the sacrifice of battery capacity, a slightly larger laptop will win out. Even with a ULV processor, the ASUS UX21E can’t hope to match what other Core i5 laptops can provide. Here are the results, though bear in mind we’re comparing the 14z against a limited selection of laptops. Check out Mobile Bench if you’d like to see the full set of results.

Battery Life - Idle

Battery Life - Internet

Battery Life - H.264 Playback

Relative Battery Life - Idle

Relative Battery Life - Internet

Relative Battery Life - H.264

The 14z places in the middle of the pack for battery life, and only the H.264 relative battery life is slightly higher. However, if we look at a larger set of laptops we find that the 14z actually ranks roughly in the top third of battery life among laptops. In terms of raw mobility, five hours of Internet surfing and up to seven hours of idle battery life should be sufficient for most users, and four hours of H.264 playback is enough to get you through a couple of full-length movies.

Noise and Heat

The review sample we received doesn’t have the upgraded CPU or discrete graphics, which really helps to keep temperatures and noise in check. The XPS 14z appears to have three fan speeds that you’re likely to encounter: slow, medium, and high. Idle and light loads will usually run with the fan at a barely audible 31.2dB (from ~15”). Put a sustained load on the laptop for a minute or two and you’ll hear the fan spin up to a much more noticeable 38dB. After several minutes (and likely in hotter environments), the fan appears to have one more speed available that puts out 41dB.

We looped 3DMark06 for several hours and were able to hit maximum fan speed, and temperatures start to get into the higher than typical range. Of note is that a similar sustained load doing H.264 encoding also hit 82C—Intel basically shares the thermal design power budget of the CPU with the IGP, so adding a 100% CPU load test while looping 3DMark didn’t increase the temperatures. With a GT 520M or the i7-2640M CPU upgrade, you’ll more likely encounter increased fan noise, and we’re a little concerned that the cooling setup may prove insufficient in some cases. Most likely the 14z will work fine even with the upgraded CPU/GPU, but there’s probably a reason Dell isn’t offering more than the entry-level GT 520M, and with the dual-core i5-2430M already hitting 83C it’s pretty clear that a 45W quad-core chip would need more cooling than the current chassis provides.

Performance Rundown The Screen: A Crying Shame
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  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    The vast majority of marketing images are retouched at the very least, and I've seen plenty of pre-rendered images over the years. This is not unique to Dell in the slightest. Unless they blatantly falsify the images, I'm not too worried about it. The image on the front page may look matte, but it could be that they have a light box for images (very likely) and the reflection just happens to look more like a matte display. Reply
  • ramvalleru - Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - link

    actual screen is like this only. I bought it a day before. screen is k but for the price of 1135$, the screen is not up to the mark when compared with Sony and Dell XPS 15, 15Z. :-( Reply
  • justaviking - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    The FIRST picture IN THE ARTICLE makes it very clear that the screen is glossy. Just look at that reflection... no matte screen there! Reply
  • hybrid2d4x4 - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - link

    I'm with you on that one. I probably shouldn't have bothered reading further since that picture all in itself makes this this laptop about as desirable as a pile of dung. No wonder Dell provided a better pic. Still, that picture on the site home page shouldn't be used at all since it misrepresents the laptop.

    On an aside, something that baffles me is how the stock MBP escapes the same criticism- the use of glass as a screen surface has got to be the single stupidest idea in the (brief) history of flat-panel displays!
    Reply
  • mules - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    I don't worry too much about the screen quality. I, like many laptop users, attach a monitor (and keyboard and mouse).

    I would have liked to see a 3rd USB port. Often, when on the road, I need a keyboard, mouse and USB drive attached.

    I'd be interested if someone made a "laptop" with no keyboard or monitor, and possibly even no battery - this can be used as a portable desktop machine at a significantly lower cost than a laptop.
    Reply
  • seanleeforever - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    yes, it is called EEE pc. check it out. Reply
  • name99 - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - link

    Yes. It's called a Mac Mini. Reply
  • Hulk - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    I skipped right to the section on the screen, saw it was garbage and stopped reading.

    I'm not buying a laptop with a bad or even average screen. Period. I don't care what other good features it has. The screen is a deal breaker.

    I want an IPS matte screen!
    Reply
  • ThomasA - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    Agreed, 100%. It's insanity to praise the laptop 'looks' , innards & "performance", when the MFG flakes on the main INTERFACE (the screen). Reply
  • ananduser - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    Very few laptops have that, and no the lower spec-ed and higher priced MBP does not. Reply

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