Remember the Dell XPS 14z, Dell's premium 14in metal laptop? Well, if you can’t afford one of those or, for some reason, the design doesn’t appeal to you, there’s the Inspiron 14z. Essentially a more wallet-friendly, chunky and ‘ordinary’ version of its slim designer sibling, this Inspiron still brings some of the Z chic to the table, largely thanks to its mostly brushed aluminium chassis and clean lines.
However, while both the lid and palm/keyboard areas are metal there’s no unibody to be found here, and both the screen’s bezel and laptop’s bottom half are constructed using plastic. Thankfully it’s matt rather than glossy, so you won’t need to worry about annoying reflections or smudges.
And there are advantages to the less premium build: obviously starting price is a lot lower, with the Inspiron 14z available from £530 where the XPS 14z starts at £700; you can choose the colour of the lid (black as default or red for £10 extra); the wider chassis allows for dedicated navigation keys; and the battery is interchangeable so you can carry a spare.
You do lose out on niceties like the backlit keyboard though, and while the screen is the same glossy 14in, 1,366 x 768 affair as the XPS, you only get Intel’s integrated graphics to feed it. Other specs are also a little more limited, with up to Core i5 instead of i7, the same 8GB of RAM, and a 750GB hard drive as your top option compared to a 256GB SSD on the XPS 14z.
Getting back to design, on its own merits the Inspiron 14z looks okay, but whether you find it attractive might depend on individual taste. Our main aesthetic concern is that the slim, tapering lid looks like it belongs to a different machine than the chunky base, with the 14z’s large protruding rear enforcing this impression. Once opened it up we have few complaints though, and if you can get along with the chunky and slightly rounded look, there’s little to dislike.
Build quality is generally good, with minimal flex or creak and none in the keyboard. Of course build is yet another area where it doesn’t match up to the XPS or the likes of Lenovo’s ThinkPad X121e, but it’s nonetheless plenty solid enough to avoid concern.
Connectivity is hidden behind plastic flaps. This maintains the Inspiron 14z’s clean look and keeps the ports free from dirt and dust, but we would rather have the convenience of plugging things in easily. One area where this applies most is memory sticks, as wider sticks won’t plug fully into the USB ports since they’re too deeply recessed.
This aside, connectivity is good. On the left side is an SDXC memory card reader, and under the flap here you’ll find a USB 2.0 port joined by both HDMI and DisplayPort for video. The right houses a DVD writer (yet again there’s no Blu-ray option here, sorry) and another flap covering twin USB 3.0 ports and a headphone/microphone jack.
The Gigabit Ethernet port is hidden behind a rubber, hinged bung at the rear, and of course Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth are also part of the package. It’s also worth mentioning that the webcam is HD, as this isn’t quite guaranteed on all laptops yet.