Dell XPS 14 review

9 Oct 2012

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

Price when reviewed: 
1,163(£1162 inc VAT)
4

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £969
Price inc VAT £1,163
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 3
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 336 x 233 x 21mm (WDH)
Weight 2.100kg
Travelling weight 2.4kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i7-3517U
RAM capacity 8.00GB
Memory type DDR3

Screen and video

Screen size 14.0in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,600
Resolution screen vertical 900
Resolution 1600 x 900
Graphics chipset Nvidia GeForce GT 630M
HDMI outputs 1

Drives

Capacity 500GB
Hard disk usable capacity 465GB
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel 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
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

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
Responsiveness score 0.73
Media score 0.73
Multitasking score 0.54

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7