Dell XPS 14 review
Dell’s 14in Ultrabook is stunningly pretty and built like a tank, but a poor display and cooling issues dampen our enthusiasm
Dell has long reserved its XPS brand for high-end machines, so it’s entirely natural that those three letters now adorn the firm’s swankiest Ultrabooks. Its latest, the XPS 14, instantly distinguishes itself from the horde of slim-and-light machines – for starters, it partners an Ultrabook physique with dedicated Nvidia graphics.
Before you even turn it on, though, the XPS 14 makes a stunning impression. The stout, metal-clad design is distinctive, and with a glossy 14in screen taking centre stage, it’s a little bigger than many of its Ultrabook peers too. It’s also a little thicker than most, measuring 21mm around the waist, and its 2.1kg weight makes it over half a kilogram heavier than the most slender models on the market.
Dell hasn’t wasted the extra pounds, though, instead ensuring the XPS 14 is one of the smartest and strongest Ultrabooks we’ve used. We often find a little flex when it comes to a laptop’s chassis, but the XPS 14 is one of the few Windows-based machines that’s genuinely able to rival Apple’s aluminium MacBooks for build quality and premium feel. The Dell’s wristrest and base are as solid as it gets, and there’s very little flexibility in the screen.
Both the base and lid are crafted from aluminium, and the interior and underside are coated with a silky-smooth, soft-touch plastic. It’s a minimal design, as Dell has moved the normally required Windows 7 and Intel logos from the wristrest to an etched metal plate on the laptop’s underside.
That plate flips open to reveal the Windows 7 licence sticker, and pleasing details abound elsewhere: ports are carved out of the metal edges, the Gigabit Ethernet socket is hidden under a small flap, and even the SD slot cover, also crafted from aluminium, fits snugly into place. The only thing missing is a removable battery.
The quality feel continues elsewhere. The build quality ensures there’s no give beneath the keyboard’s Scrabble-tile layout, and the keys themselves, which are slightly concave, are extremely comfortable. Our only issue is the single-height Return key, but it didn’t stop us getting up to speed.
Dell’s fuss-free approach continues to the trackpad, which is marked with nothing but a small, dark line to signify where to press for left- and right-clicks. It’s easy to glide a finger over the smooth, untextured surface, and the whole pad depresses with a slightly muffled click.
The processor is a cut above, too, thanks to 22nm Ivy Bridge technology. The 1.9GHz Core i7-3517U can Turbo Boost to 3GHz, and its benchmark score of 0.67 is nippy by Ultrabook standards.
|Price ex VAT||£969|
|Price inc VAT||£1,163|
|Features & Design||3|
|Value for Money||3|
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||336 x 233 x 21mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i7-3517U|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,600|
|Resolution screen vertical||900|
|Resolution||1600 x 900|
|Graphics chipset||Nvidia GeForce GT 630M|
|Hard disk usable capacity||465GB|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||no|
|Wireless key-combination switch||yes|
|PC Card slots||0|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||0|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||1|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Memory Stick reader||no|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||no|
|Smart Media reader||no|
|Compact Flash reader||no|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Camera megapixel rating||1.3mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||9hr 30min|
|3D performance (crysis) low settings||92fps|
|3D performance setting||Low|
|Overall Real World Benchmark score||0.67|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit|
|OS family||Windows 7|