The Bottom Line
Nov 29 2012 - Dell's XPS 14 tries to offer a potentially more feature rich ultrabook but comes up short due to its overall size and pricing. It certainly is heavier and taller than most other 14-inch ultrabooks. It makes up for this by having better than average battery life and a screen with a higher resolution than most its competition. The base model unfortunately suffers some performance issues and lacks the graphics that really make it more useful and compete better with premium laptops and ultrabooks.
- Higher Resolution Display
- Good Battery Life
- Solid Styling and Design
- Thicker and Heavier Than Other 14-inch Ultrabooks
- Display Has Poor Vertical Viewing Angles
- Pricing Escalates Quickly With Upgraded Models
- Intel Core i5-3317U Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 500GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive With 32GB Solid State Drive Cache
- 14" WSXGA+ (1600x900) Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 4000 Integrated Graphics
- 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 2.0, miniDisplayPort, HDMI, 3-in-1 Card Reader
- 13.2" x 9.2" x .8" @ 4.6 lbs
- Windows 8, Office Starter, McAfee Security Center
Review - Dell XPS 14
Nov 29 2012 - The Dell XPS 14 might seem like it would just be a slightly larger version of the previous XPS 13 ultrabook but it does differ significantly from the format model. It still uses a mix of aluminum but the bottom of the system uses a rubber texture surrounded by a number of grills for ventilation. Most notable to the change in the design is the angled wedge has been replaced by a consistent height of the system from front to back of just over nine tenths of an inch. This makes it considerably taller than many other 14-inch ultrabooks. In addition to this, it is certainly heavier at 4.6 pounds.
Powering the XPS 14 is the same Intel Core i5-3317U that is found in most of the ultrabooks on the market. This provides it with a good level of performance for the majority of users that tend to use their computers for email, web browsing, media watching and productivity. The processor is matched up with 4GB of DDR3 memory which probably a smooth enough experience in Windows 8 when switching between programs. This setup only really suffers heavily when more demanding tasks are done on it including desktop video or gaming.
For their first ultrabook, Dell went exclusively with a solid state drive for storage but for the XPS 14, it instead opts to use a 500GB hard drive combined with 32GB solid state drive for a hybrid solution. This gives it better storage space but does reduce the performance. In fact, boot times suffer pretty heavily as it takes over half a minute for a cold boot compared to about half this with the SSD equipped XPS 13. A strict solid state version is available only in the $2000 version but it does use a larger 512GB model. If you do need additional storage space, Dell equipped the laptop with two USB 3.0 ports for use with high speed external storage devices. Like most ultrabooks, there is no optical drive.
The big selling point for the Dell XPS 14 is going to be the display. The 14-inch panel offers a higher than average 1600x900 display resolution compared to the 1366x768 typically used. It still falls well short of what Apple packs in the Retina display but that is also a larger 15-inch display. Color and brightness are generally good for the most part but the vertical viewing angles are quite poor meaning that you need to get the angle of the display just right otherwise the colors drop off quickly. The base model uses the Intel HD Graphics 4000 that are built into the Core i5 processor. This isn't going to provide much in terms of 3D graphics but it does offer acceleration of media encoding with Quick Sync compatible applications. Those wanting to use the system for gaming will want to jump to the $1499 and higher models that feature an NVIDIA GeForce GT 630 graphics that handles game at lower resolution and detail levels.
In terms of the keyboard, it pretty much is identical to what was originally included with the XPS 13 ultrabook. They are isolated keys with a slight concave that worked well and are accurate. It would have been nice if they scaled the keys size up to take advantage of the extra room as those with larger fingers may encounter a few typing errors. It does feature a backlight behind the keys making it easier to use in dim light conditions. The trackpad is also of a similair textured construction with integrated buttons that are functional but take some getting used to.
While the Dell XPS 14 may be a bit larger and heavier than some of the other ultrabooks, it makes up for this by packing a 69WHr rated battery. This is roughly fifty percent larger than similarly equipped laptops. In my digital video playback tests, this resulted in just under six and a half hours of playback. This is very good and longer than most ultrabooks with similar configurations. In fact, it is longer than the ultrathin MacBook Air 13 but still less than the Apple MacBook Pro 15 with Retina display with its over seven hours.
The base $1100 configuration of the Dell XPS 14 doesn't really match up well with many other ultrabooks. The closest would be the Cyberpower Zeus M3. It is a bit more affordable and offers more memory and a full solid state storage but with a lower resolution screen and shorter battery life. If you look at the more premium versions of the XPS 14, then you start to compete with Apple's MacBook Pro 15 with Retina that costs more but also features better performance, a much better screen and longer overall running times.