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Dell XPS 14 review

Verdict

Dell’s 14in Ultrabook is stunningly pretty and built like a tank, but a poor display and cooling issues dampen our enthusiasm

Review Date: 9 Oct 2012

Reviewed By: Mike Jennings

Price when reviewed: £969 (£1,163 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
3 stars out of 6

Value for Money
3 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

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 XPS 14 - keyboard

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.

Dell XPS 14 - sides

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.

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User comments

Another crap screen lets down a decent machine.

Why can't most laptop manufacturers realise that the internals of a laptop these days are now good enough, and what they really need to get right at the screens and keyboards. When you're on the move, you need an IPS-type screen so the viewing angles aren't a problem, you need a matt finish to avoid too much glare, and you need decent resolution (ideally full HD) as you can't carry a monitor on a train with you.

By aeonturnip on 9 Oct 2012

Another crap screen lets down a decent machine.

Why can't most laptop manufacturers realise that the internals of a laptop these days are now good enough, and what they really need to get right at the screens and keyboards. When you're on the move, you need an IPS-type screen so the viewing angles aren't a problem, you need a matt finish to avoid too much glare, and you need decent resolution (ideally full HD) as you can't carry a monitor on a train with you.

By aeonturnip on 9 Oct 2012

Why not an option

I guess we Brits are too stupid to ask for a decent screen, but Dell offer them elsewhere in the range so why not here?
I will stick with my Latitude thank you.

By tirons1 on 9 Oct 2012

Viewing angle...

Given that I spend a lot of time hunting around for "privacy filters" for the laptops at work, a narrow viewing angle isn't such a problem for many...

By big_D on 9 Oct 2012

xps14

I have an xps24 (with i7 cpu and 512Gb SSD) and I absolutely love it. The slightly iffy screen is not a huge issue for me, as I use the displayport to run an external monitor at home (27" Dell U2711, which can be run at native res via the displayport - the xps range are one of the very few ultrabooks that have this feature - hdmi just not good enough any more). It's built like a bloody tank and looks absolutely gorgeous.

I also take it on the road and clients have almost invariably been drooling over it - build quality really is at ot even beyond Apple level.

Overheating? Well, possibly, but I don't honestly think an ultraportable is (currently) suitable for gaming tbh. I use Lightroom, Photoshop, video-creation (Camtasia), Mathematica and Office and the only game I run is Chessmaster. It also runs the specialised database software that I use to make a living from and it does so flawlessly. What more could annyone ask?

By huw_j on 9 Oct 2012

xps14

I have an xps24 (with i7 cpu and 512Gb SSD) and I absolutely love it. The slightly iffy screen is not a huge issue for me, as I use the displayport to run an external monitor at home (27" Dell U2711, which can be run at native res via the displayport - the xps range are one of the very few ultrabooks that have this feature - hdmi just not good enough any more). It's built like a bloody tank and looks absolutely gorgeous.

I also take it on the road and clients have almost invariably been drooling over it - build quality really is at ot even beyond Apple level.

Overheating? Well, possibly, but I don't honestly think an ultraportable is (currently) suitable for gaming tbh. I use Lightroom, Photoshop, video-creation (Camtasia), Mathematica and Office and the only game I run is Chessmaster. It also runs the specialised database software that I use to make a living from and it does so flawlessly. What more could annyone ask?

By huw_j on 9 Oct 2012

@aeonturnip - screen resolution

Can't say I agree - full HDMI on a 14" screen renders the thing unreadable for me, and Windows 7 options for altering the size of on-screen objects are very poor.

By huw_j on 9 Oct 2012

Apologies

In my comment above I meant to say that I have an xps14, not an xps24, of course

By huw_j on 9 Oct 2012

@huw_j - screen resolution

The thing about screen resolution is, like the Retina Macbook Pro, you really can't have too much - you can always dial it down in the OS (okay, with mixed results sometimes) but for a lot of people it's perfectly readable. I use Visual Studio and feel cramped on my Samsung Series 7 Chronos with the 1600x900 display.

However, the main part of my comment was about needing IPS or similar, so that viewing angles were never an issue, especially when you can't plug into a good monitor. I use my laptop on my commute and need to be able to angle the screen so that the reflections are minimised, but on non-IPS screens, it's a huge compromise with readability, and frankly I tend to give up on using my laptop when I can't get the angle right due to where I'm sat on the train. With IPS, I'd have a lot more flexibility - I'm almost tempted to get a Macbook Air 13" despite the lower resolution, just for that sweet spot of portability, screen quality and power.

By aeonturnip on 10 Oct 2012

PC Pro Users talk sense

I so agree with the comments about a good (IPS) screen.

It's refreshing to get sensible comments of a forum. I'm so pleased I upgraded to a full HD screen on my XPS15. I would take screen/keyboard/trackpad quality over hyper-performance any day.

By mdiver01 on 11 Oct 2012

I think this looks like it could be a decent machine if the screen if the screen was better.
Bargain Electricals
Electronics

By mick1964 on 1 Nov 2012

Screen, screen, screen

This is 2012, and selling /anything/ with a x900 screen is taking the mickey, and charging over a thousand quid for it is just adding insult to.

By brunnian on 1 Nov 2012

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