Given that this 14-inch XPS has a little more room in its chassis, it’s no surprise that it offers significantly better specs than its XPS 13 sibling. This being a premium laptop, you get a choice between Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors, our review sample rocking a dual-core Core i5-3317U that runs at 1.7GHz by default but can Turbo Clock up to 2.6GHz and with support for up to four virtual cores.
As ever it’s backed by 4GB of RAM as standard, but you can select a model with a more generous 8GB if you love to multi-task intensively or are likely to do demanding tasks like video editing. Storage is generously catered for with your choice of a 500GB/32GB hybrid hard drive/SSD or even up to a whopping 512GB pure SSD on the £1,280 non-3G XPS 14 configuration. That’s very impressive stuff.
TrackMania Nations Forever (average fps, 720p, Medium Detail)
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat (average fps, 720p, Medium Detail)
Unfortunately, our review sample only came with Intel’s integrated HD 4000 graphics rather than the dedicated Nvidia GeForce 630M that’s offered on XPS 14 models without mobile broadband. Mind you, the 630M can hardly be considered a game-worthy card, but even for Physx acceleration it’s a nice-to-have. As is, only casual gamers should apply for this 3G-enabled laptop, and this is confirmed by our slow 20fps average result in the undemanding Stalker title (generally 30fps is considered the minimum for smooth gaming).
When it comes to battery life, this XPS 14 is jolly impressive. As you may have noticed, we’re changing our battery testing procedure to give our laptops a more intensive workout. Where before the figures represented a maximum with wireless disabled, our new test throws in some web browsing.
As such, going by the performance of previous laptops, the Dell XPS 14 scored a whopping nine and a half hours, up there with the best of the rest. With a slightly heavier workload including web-browsing, this goes down to a more modest seven and a half, which is still plenty to make it through a working day.
(40 percent screen brightness, mixed productivity and web-browsing)
7 hours 33 minutes
These figures put the XPS 14 at the top of the 14-inch Ultrabook food chain. And although it is a weighty beast, as we saw with the equally heavy HP Envy 14 Spectre, that’s no guarantee of longevity, so we’re glad to see this Dell putting in a performance worthy of its weight.
Designer laptops are rarely cheap, and the Dell XPS 14 starts off at £980 for a Core i5 with dedicated graphics, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hybrid hard drive. However, currently an online discount when buying direct from Dell brings that down to £840, though savings on the top-end spec with 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD are far less and it will still set you back £1,280.
It’s a bit difficult to judge value right now as we’re in a transition period with touch-enabled Windows 8 convertibles coming onto the market. However, there’s less competition in the 14-inch designer Ultrabook arena, with HP’s Envy 14 Spectre being the obvious rival. That machine is still around £1,000 with a 128GB SSD but no dedicated graphics. Considering the XPS 14 is better-looking, better-built and offers far better battery life for a £160 saving, we’d say the choice is obvious.
Compared to the MacBook Pro, a non-Retina 13-inch (there is no 14-inch model) will set you back around £1,000 as well, albeit with a ‘regular’ hard drive and lower screen res – if better viewing angles. Upgrade that to a 512GB SSD as on the £1,280 Dell, and Apple charges a ludicrous £1,800…
The Dell XPS 14 is a worthy MacBook Pro rival with its beautifully minimalist yet incredibly solid aluminium chassis and stylish lines, and the soft-touch keyboard surround and grippy rubber base elevate it a step above. The range of available specs is equally impressive for the price and battery life is top of its game, though at just over 2kg you’d expect no less. The only real fly in the Ultrabook ointment is the admittedly high-resolution TN screen, which suffers from the usual poor viewing angles. If you can live with this and don’t need touch for Windows 8, the Dell XPS 14 makes for a good if somewhat weighty choice.