Windows 8 – Ultrabook Review: Dell XPS z14

The era of Intel’s Ultrabooks has truly begun and is in full swing. In a growing sea of thin-and-lights, can the Ultrabooks set themselves apart enough to be worth the purchase?

While I still have my own mixed opinion on these books, honestly I must admit that the Dell XPS z14 is certainly a nice addition to the line-up.

So without further ado, let’s take a look under the hood:

  • 14” display crammed inside a typical 13” body
  • Hi-Def (720p) True Life WLED Display with 1.3MP Hi-Def Webcam
  • 2nd Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 Models Available
  • 6GB or 8GB DDR3 Configurations
  • Intel HD Graphics 3000 OR Nvidia GeForce GT 520M 1GB graphics with Optimus
  • Hi-Def Audio
  • Up to 750 GB HDD Drive or 256GB SSD
  • Slot loading 8x DVD RW drive
  • 8-cell prismatic battery
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet Network
  • Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230 802.11 agn (2×2)
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • Intel Wireless Display Ready
  • 7-in-1 Media Card Reader
  • HDMI
  • 2 USB ports (1 2.0, 1 3.0)
  • Weight: Starting at 4.12 and up
  • Dimensions: .9×13.9×9.21-inches

Right from the start I have to say that the Dell XPS is an attractive laptop but really borrows almost too strongly from Apple’s Macbook Air design. I really like the ultrabooks that have worked hard to look a bit different from just an “Apple clone”, and at least here Dell doesn’t fit this bill.

Still, it’s easy to say that the design is still very attractive, if a bit on the weighty side.

While overall you will probably be happy with the design, one big point of contention for me is that so much has been thrown together so tight in this case that it has a really loud fan that runs full speed nearly all the time, and this can certainly become a bit distracting.

Fans and design aside, I believe it is the hardware that truly makes or breaks the experience. Here we have a solid i5 or i7 experience (depending on your model), and I fully applaud Dell for including a slot-loading DVD drive.

While many thin-and-lights (especially Ultrabooks) have ditched the drive to save on room, Dell understands that many of us aren’t willing to give up on media drives just yet.

There is plenty of processing power and RAM when it comes to this Windows 7 book, still unless you opt for the more expensive i7 models don’t expect a super-gaming or video-editing device. Still, for most basic uses and for light-to-moderate gaming, the XPS has plenty to offer.

On the display side, it is okay at least. The problem I see with the display is that a 720p (1366×768) just isn’t going to cut it when you pay top-dollar for an ultrabook.

Additionally it has a reflective screen so it doesn’t play nice with bright light. Overall all though, it isn’t a bad screen, just not the unit’s strongest feature.

Another important factor, when it comes to hardware, is battery life. The 8-cell battery gives about four or five hours of use, which for so much power is certainly not bad.

While this tablet might be sounding pretty appealing right now, there is some caution to this tale: the unit is bloated with awful software. If you are good at trimming off the fat, so to speak, and removing everything (or maybe even performing a clean Windows 8 Beta install), this won’t matter though.

All in all, if you want an ultrabook that has a very strong Air-like design, DVD capabilities, and are a fan of the Dell brand, this is for you.

The XPS z14 begins at $899.99 from Dell’s website.

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