Dell Inspiron 14z Review

What We Think

The Dell Inspiron 14z has plenty to recommend it and offers something a little more than the run of the mill budget laptop in terms of styling and connectivity. Essentially, it’s a well endowed budget laptop.

Introduction

The whole Inspiron line’s received a shakeup of late, and this 14z version takes its cues from its bigger brother, the XPS 14z and the budget range of Dell’s laptops.

This results in a competitively priced machine, with some aluminium styling, a little individuality, in our case a capable Intel i5 processor and a weight of 1.9kg It’s a good-looking machine for the price, but in a no-frills manner.

Design

There’s certainly some homage paid to the XPS14z in the Inspiron 14z. It’s a mix of the larger machines brushed metal aesthetics and the Inspiron range’s protruding rear hinge and curved lines. In build terms it’s more the higher-end XPS quality, than the Inspiron range, though there was a some interference with the screen when we poked the back of the cover – we didn’t see this on the XPS. The plastic lids that cover the connectivity ports maintain the lines clean, though we’re sure a bit of careless use would see you running for the superglue to replace them.

The Dell weighs in at 1.9kg,so it’s not too heavy and at only 25.5mm deep, it’s pretty easy machine to carry about. Inside the scrabble tiled keyboard is attractive and also felt promising and was nicely weighted, so typing shouldn’t be of consequence. The touchpad was a little small, but offered nice and accurate multi gesture controls. However, its two buttons were everything but a joy to use as they were stiff, irritating and took away from the good showing so far. Of course, budget laptop displays also have a tendency to perform poorly.

Screen

The Inspiron has a 1366x768p screen, which is kosher for a laptop of this price, though as we always like to see more for our money, a 1600x900p screen would be a fantastic addition. The display is a 720p glossy type and so reflects the light, though also increases brightness. This shine, however, means the 14inch screen produces poor viewing angles, just like its bigger brother, the XPS 14z does.

Clarity and contrast are reasonably good for a budget screen and for its price point the Inspiron 14z is certainly better than most. Black levels were a little faded, so we’d be more inclined to call it suitable for Internet footage and guerrilla viewing rather than your weekly movie night. It does allow you to port out via the HDMI to 1080p, which makes an altogether better choice for movie lovers. The speakers were okay at medium levels, though we did find them a little sparse on quality at higher output. It’s also nice to note the Dell has a good HD webcam, so you brush your hair before making that video call. Performance wise, the camera runs as smoothly as is to be expected.

Performance

The 14z comes with one of Intel’s i5 processors, meaning it offers quite reasonable performance, including hyper threading as well as the Turbo Boost feature. This means the chip’s frequency can rise from its 2.4Ghz frequency to 3Ghz for short periods in times of need. The processor also includes Intel’s HD Graphics 3000 graphics technology; though no separate graphics card meaning it’s far from a gaming rig. It’s packaged with a 500GB HDD, so adequately provides for space. It also comes with 4GB of RAM, which again is to be expected at around this price.

Our PerformanceTest 7.0 benchmark scored the Dell Inspiron a PassMark of 1116; the larger XPS managed 1427 in this test. This score would suggest the Inspiron is easily suitable for everyday tasks. Though. in 3D gaming terms, it doesn’t do so well, mainly because of the lack of a dedicated graphics card. In our 3DMark06 test the Dell managed a score of 3663, meaning smooth gaming is out of its reach. Boot up times, are slower than the new ultrabooks and lack a little due to the usual Dell bloatware on the machine, and it took 1minute and 15 seconds to start up.

As we’ve mentioned before the Dell’s connections are behind plastic covers for aesthetic tidiness. It comes with three USB ports, two of which are the fast 3.0 type. There’s also HDMI, mini DisplayPort connectivity, a 7in1 card reader and a Gigabyte Ethernet port, as well as a DVD drive.

Our Battery Eater test, which creates the worst-case power scenario for the laptop in questions, saw the Dell manage a good 142 minutes. Though we would expect it to reach over the eight-hour mark in a light browsing situation.

Our Verdict

The Dell Inspiron 14z is a sharp looking machine, that offers that little bit more than the ordinary. It presents decent power. connectivity and styling for its price and is a machine with plenty to recommend it. Sure it’s not just as powerful as the XPS 14z, or as small as a ultrabook, but as laptops go, it’ll fulfil most needs. It’s less expensive than Sony’s CA series and also faster than many of an equivalent price.

The screen may lack a little and the touchpad is terrible. But, for those looking for an inexpensive, very portable machine, with plenty of power for those everyday tasks – this could well fit the bill.

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