Dell XPS 14z laptop (preview)

Dell XPS 14z preview: A 14in laptop that packs a lot power into its small body

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Dell XPS 14z
  • Dell XPS 14z
  • Dell XPS 14z
  • Dell XPS 14z

Pros

  • To be determined when we do our full review

Cons

  • To be determined when we do our full review

Bottom Line

We'll know more when we test it, but going by the specs, size and price point of this unit, we think it will be an attractive option for anyone who wants a mobile laptop that won't be sluggish when it comes to performance.

Would you buy this?

Dell's XPS laptop line up will expand on 15 November, which is the date when the XPS 14z will be released here in Australia. The 14z is based on the same basic design as the XPS 15z, except that it's smaller and feels a little better to use (based on our brief encounter with it yesterday). It will be available either with an Intel Core i5 or Core i7 full voltage CPU, up to 8GB of RAM and storage options will include a 256GB solid state drive in addition to 7200rpm hard drives.

The 14z looks a lot like the 15z, but it has narrower speakers either side of the keyboard and the screen's bezel is very thin. Dell says it's a 14in screen that's been crammed into a case designed for a 13in laptop — it's 335mm wide and 234mm deep. Nevertheless, it still has a native resolution of 1366x768 (the same as a 13in laptop) and there is a black border between the screen and the bezel. This is similar to what we saw in the Acer TravelMate 8481G.

The thickness of the 14z is around 25mm and it has a reported starting weight of 1.98kg. It feels very well built thanks to its one-piece anodised aluminium chassis and magnesium alloy palm rest — there was barely any noticeable movement in the chassis when we tried to bend it.

The chassis has enough room for a slot-loading DVD burner as well as two USB ports (one is USB 3.0 capable), Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 1.4, Mini DisplayPort and microphone and headphone ports. In an Adamo-like design, all but the audio ports are located at the rear of the chassis, which helps keep a neat desk, but which can be inconvenient for plugging in USB sticks, for example. The audio ports reside on the left side with the SD card slot.

The right side has the slot-loading DVD burner, and next to that is a handy battery indicator. You can check to see how much of the 8-cell battery's life is left without booting up — simply press the button. The battery itself is sealed in the unit, and like the RAM and storage drive, it's not a user-serviceable part. Dell says it can last over six hours.

We've already mentioned that the 14z will be available with Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, but dedicated graphics will also be available, in the form of an NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M adapter with 1GB of RAM and Optimus switching technology. Having so much processing power in a relatively small chassis requires an efficient cooling design and Dell reckons the vents at the rear and left side of the unit, as well as the breathing holes on the base will be enough to stop the unit from getting overly warm, even while using it on your lap.

One thing we were critical of when reviewing the 15z was its keyboard, which felt quite cheap. The same keyboard design is used on the 14z, but we think it felt a little more comfortable to type on this time around, perhaps because it's a scaled down version. It's a spill-resistant keyboard, and it's also backlit. If you look at the images in our XPS 14z gallery, you can see that it looks quite nice when illuminated.

Other features of the Dell 14z include a 1.3-megapixel webcam, Bluetooth 3.0 and dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi (Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230). It will ship with Windows 7 Home Premium, so it's definitely a consumer-focused notebook, but Dell says that business users will also be catered to if they want this model.

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