If you like ultra-slim, aluminium laptops and are looking for something with a little more screen real estate than your average ultraportable, Dell's new XPS 15z might well be the one for you. With highlights like a anodised aluminium outer unibody shell, magnesium palm rests, optional Full HD screen and Core i7 under the hood, this is one impressive candidate – yet it's still less than an inch thick!
Dell claims its latest baby is one of the thinnest laptops 15.4in laptops in the world, and with the exception of the 15in MacBook Pro, we don't know of one that's thinner – certainly not one sporting heavy-duty specifications and an all-metal chassis. Considering these factors, the 15z is quite light, at a mere 2.54kg.
It looks very stylish, as the company has kept its lines clean and simple, with no patterns a la the HP tm2 to distract the eye. As with the older Dell XPS 15, the base protrudes a little at the rear. Like the hinge (which looks somewhat like a piece of metal shower hose) it will probably divide opinions, but we like the effect.
For the inner keyboard surround and bezel, Dell has used gunmetal grey magnesium. It's a slightly softer and warmer metal than aluminium, which makes typing more pleasant. The two materials are separated by chrome trim which runs around the edge. Overall, with its white backlighting, minimalist aesthetics and subtle ports, this is one attractive laptop.
In line with the rugged, premium materials used and the milled outer chassis, build quality is superb. Nowhere was there any sign of poor design or construction, and as far as feel goes, you're certainly getting you money's worth, with faultless solidity throughout. It's also worth noting that the only part that suffers from fingerprints is the screen.
In general use the 15z stayed really quiet, though its fans make quite a racket when it's under heavy load. At its worst it's significantly noisier than, for example, Dell's XPS 15, but we guess that's the price of thinness in this case.
Like its design, connectivity is another area where the 15z excels. For video we have both mini DisplayPort and HDMI 1.4, the latter of which will allow you to output 3D to a compatible external display. Here you'll also find a combined USB2/eSATA port, twin USB 3.0 ports, and an SDHC/XC card slot. Again somewhat reminiscent of Apple, there's also a button that activates a classy battery indicator, which shows how much charge is left using five white LEDs.
At the back we have a lone Gigabit Ethernet port, while wireless duties are handled by Bluetooth 3 and Wi-Fi N. The laptop's right side houses headphone and microphone jacks, and the attractive slot-loading DVD rewriter. Unfortunately, Dell also appears to follow Apple's lead in not offering a Blu-ray drive, which is even more confounding when you consider that the XPS 15z gives you a Full HD screen and discrete graphics. We just hope this will soon be an option on this model.