Slim and metal-clad is all the rage among high-end laptops these days, and as one of the largest laptop manufacturers in the world, naturally Dell has a range of offerings in this sector. Like its larger Dell XPS 15z sibling, the XPS 14z doesn’t hang with the UltraBook crowd, but is nonetheless slim and packed with features.
It’s more of a MacBook Pro than an Air, and that’s no bad thing, as the extra thickness gets you far more connectivity, more powerful, flexible innards, and an optical drive. It’s also worth noting that Dell has fitted the 14in screen into essentially a 13in form factor while still remaining thinner and lighter than a 13in MacBook Pro. In addition, Dell has even squeezed in discrete graphics. So is it the game-changer it might at first appear?
Just like the 15z, the 14z sports a gorgeous aluminium and magnesium chassis that mimics Apple’s unibody aesthetic. The lid and laptop’s base are single pieces of milled grey aluminium, while the palm area and keyboard surround are a darker magnesium. This doesn’t feel as cold to the touch and is a slightly softer metal, making for a more pleasant typing experience, and also helps to keep the weight down. The only plastic parts are the keyboard keys and screen surround, though the latter is protected by a single glass sheet that gives a seamless display impression.
In fact, this bezel-embracing glass is one of the main areas where the XPS 14z immediately differs from Dell’s larger option. Visually it makes the laptop far more attractive with the subtly integrated HD webcam the only blemish, and the bezel’s outer edge that’s not covered by glass features a soft-touch rubberized finish. The fact that the 14z’s speaker grilles to either side of the keyboard are significantly smaller doesn’t hurt either. Finally the narrower chassis gives the keyboard itself a more pleasing proportion.
Another pleasant change is that the bezel around the screen is incredibly narrow too (1cm, to be exact). Dell wasn’t exaggerating when it claimed to have fitted a 14in screen into a 13in chassis: the screen is just a millimetre short of 14 inches, and the chassis is only 335mm wide, compared to 325mm for the 13in MacBook Air and MacBook Pro which sport smaller screens.
Unfortunately, the screen resolution is your standard 1,366 x 768. Frankly, after the 1,920 x 1,080 pixels Dell packed into the XPS 15z, we were hoping for something more like the 1,440 x 900 of the 13in Air or 1,600 x 900 of Asus’ 13in ZenBook UX31. Then again, the MacBook Pro’s display only goes up to 1,280 x 800..
Thanks to all that metal and a lot of attention to detail, build quality remains superb, with very solid hinge action and closely fitted panels. In fact, the XPS 14z feels even sturdier than the 15z did, and the keyboard feels better too, putting it easily on a level with the best the market has to offer. Weight, meanwhile, is a very reasonable 1.98kg.
These factors combine to make this an aesthetically superior XPS z. The only divisive elements remain the ever-so-slightly protruding rear and the hinge which looks too much like a metal shower hose. But, even if they’re not your cup of tea, they do little to detract from what is overall a stunning-looking machine.