Ultrabook Supertest (Part 4) - Dell Inspiron 14z

10/16/2012 9:09:44 AM

A rather chubby Ultrabook that fails to overly impress

Oh dear, we do get grumpy when manufacturers release notebooks with a name that’s gone before. Dell has already released an Inspiron 14z and now the company has come up with another model, with ‘Ultrabook’ appended. The new model looks different to its predecessor so why not, Dell, please, give it a new name.

Description: Dell Inspiron 14z

Dell Inspiron 14z

That grumble over with, the Dell Inspiron 14z ($944 inc. VAT) is an Ultrabook by name, but it sports that thing Ultrabooks have tended to lack - an optical drive. It isn’t the lightest or sleekest on the block either with a weight of 1.9 kg and measurements, according to our trusty ruler, of 344 x 240 x 21 mm.

There’s a reasonable range of ports, with a combi headset and microphone port, card reader, HDMI, Ethernet and two USB 3.0 ports. We’d have liked more of the latter, and we’re nonplussed by the fact the one on the left of the chassis sits under an unnecessary hinged cover. The cover also hides the HDMI port, and there’s a separate small cover for the Ethernet connector. Not only are the covers fiddly and awkward in themselves, they also mean the connectors are really recessed. We cursed the covers every time we used them and can’t see why Dell has bothered. Dell might be confused too - the USB slot on the right edge is not covered.

Customise is king

Like many Dell notebooks you can customise the specs, and in this case that means you can opt for Core i3, i5 or i7 processors, with our review sample sporting a Core i5-3317U 1.7GHz with integrated Intel HD Graphic 4000. You can also opt for discrete graphics.

Performance levels were fine for everyday computing, though those wishing to push their equipment hard might like to note that we got average ratings for both our Cinebench and 3DMark benchmarks. Battery life isn’t great either with Battery Eater clocking just 172 minutes. And a word of caution to those who fear battery failures - the Inspiron 14z retains the Ultrabook staple of having a battery you can’t get at.

Description: The covered ports are irritating, the battery life isn’t great, but the keyboard is worst aspect - probably not our group test winner

The covered ports are irritating, the battery life isn’t great, but the keyboard is worst aspect - probably not our group test winner

There’s enough metal in the chassis to ensure solidity, and the rounded edges are easy on the eye. Cleverly, the light coloured rim round the lid section repeats itself inside. The screen bezel is on the thick side and somehow makes the screen look less than its 14 inches. The glossy, very reflective display has reasonable viewing angles, but DVD video looked washed out.

Now we come to the most disappointing feature of the Dell Inspiron 14z - its keyboard. The chiclet design is fine: keys are large and well-spaced. The truncated cursor keys are irritating but far from unusual. The tall but narrow Enter key was very easy to miss when typing at speed. But that’s not the worst of it. There’s a lot of flex in the keyboard and all but the lightest of typists are likely to encounter it. Not only is it disconcerting, it might indicate build quality issues.

That keyboard annoyance coupled with the oddly covered ports are very irritating features on what is, after all, a lowish cost Ultrabook which, while being a bit oversized, sports an optical drive. It’s a case of the pluses and minuses evening themselves out to the average, we’re afraid.


Price: $944


What’s it best for

Web, mail & photos

HD, movies & TV

Light & portable

Key features


OS Windows 7 Home Premium

Processor Intel Core Í5-3317U 1.7GHz

Memory 6GB

Storage 500GB

Screen size 14-inch

Screen resolution 1,366 x 768

Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4000

Weight 1.9kg


Value: 3/5

Features: 3/5

Performance: 3/5

Total: 3/5


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