Beauty hurts. The first steps towards a Asus PL32-1005stronger design were made with the XPS 15z, and now the more compact 14-inch version is the logical progression. Like its larger brother, the Dell XPS 14z hopes to win over the hearts of customers with its good looks. It also has solid hardware, but that’s by the by…So you liked the shimmering, metallic silver Dell XPS 15z, but found it just a touch too big and too heavy? Help is at hand: Dell has just introduced the new XPS 14z, which, as the name suggests, offers a 14-inch display and a correspondingly smaller case.
The 14z does justice to the time-honoured ‘Dell XPS’ brand, which has always Asus ML32-1005 PL31-1005stood for particularly high performance, with its powerful Intel Core i processors from the latest Sandy Bridge generation. The entry-level option is a i5-2430M, or alternatively you can go for the more powerful dual-core i7-2640M. While Intel’s HD Graphics 3000 takes care of graphics rendering in the basic configuration, the higher value models are fitted with the Geforce GT 520M graphics card and Nvidia’s Optimus. In each case a 7,200 rpm hard drive is used. Regrettably – but more about that later.In terms of price, the new Dell XPS 14z is positionedAsus ML31-1005 between 899 and 1,049 Euros, depending on the configuration options you choose. By means of comparison: the larger XPS 15z starts at 840 Euros in the online shop, and can be configured up to as high as 1300 Euros.
If you’ve seen the XPS 15z, you’ll already know what this smaller 14z looks like.Asus AL31-1005 AL32-1005 In front of us we have what is practically a perfect copy of the larger model, with slightly reduced dimensions. To give the details, we are talking about 336 x 235 x 23 mm compared to 385 x 260 x 25 mm, so 5 cm less length, 3 cm less width and a marginally slimmer height. The weight: 2020 g, about half a kilo lighter than the 15z. So it’s a clear win for the Asus 90-OA001B900014z when it comes to portability.In terms of the materials used, the 14z also has aluminium parts which are precisely harmonised into a symphony of colours, from the silver base unit tray, the steely grey-blue keyboard enclosure – separated with a fine bar of chrome – to the dark grey display enclosure with a rubberized feel to it, and finally to the display lid itself which is silver again. The chiclet-style keyboard with silver, backlit keys fits perfectly intoAsus 70-OA1B1B2100 the overall visual scheme. Whoever is responsible for this look should be assured of the gratitude of all design-loving customers.
The XPS 14z is also pleasing in its workmanship. Asus A42-UL80We could not find any varnishing errors or any other kind of weak spot, except that the joints of the parts on the back edge, around the part that covers the ports, are visible, but still cleanly finished. Two smaller points of criticism remain for the case: the imitation plastic of the continuous central hinge is quickly recognised to be a cheap part, and the display itself also wobbles slightly after you adjust the angle. All in all though, you have to call the case a Asus A42-UL30 A42-UL50success.Inside the XPS 14zWe were also curious to see what things looked like inside the XPS 14z. After a rather difficult removal ofAsus A42-U53 the access panel on the underside of the laptop, which in addition to screws is also secured with plastic hooks, we gained access to the internal components. In this opened state the hard drive, as well as the sticks of RAM, can easily be removed and exchanged. It also enables you to remove any build-up of dust in the cooling fins of the two heat sinks.
The majority of the Dell XPS 15z’s ports were on the left-hand side of the case towardsAsus A41-UL80 the back, making them readily accessible but away from the potentially troublesome area next to the notebook. With the XPS 14z, however, almost all the ports have migrated to the back edge. It’s a good idea in principle; but when not even a single USB port is left in a directly visible area, for the simple connection of a memory stick or digicam, smartphone orAsus A41-UL50 other small device, this apparent advantage drifts quickly into the disadvantage category.The left side now only offers the SD card slot along with the 3.5 mm socket for headphones and microphone. On the back we now have a Kensington lock, power Asus A41-UL30socket, miniDisplayPort, HDMI, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, as well as the RJ-45 LAN port.
We have nothing against the quality of the ports, as our subsequent testing will demonstrate. The only thing that pains us is the absence of a single, easy-to-reach USB port on one of the sides.The USB 3.0 port reached transfer speeds of up to 150 MB/s inAsus A32-UL80 A41-U53 our testing, slightly less than on the Alienware M18x (165 MB/s) which has the same Intel 510 SSD (ASMedia SM10510 USB 3 case chipset). We measured a maximum transfer speed of 28.4 MB/s for the USB 2.0 port, which is within specifications.We also tested the miniDisplayPort on our 27-inch test monitor. The maximum resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels was no problem for the port.
Left side: Audio ports, SD card readerBack: Kensington lock, power, Mini-DisplayportAsus A32-UL50, HDMI, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, LANCommunicationWith WLAN, LAN and Bluetooth, the Dell XPS 14z is at the expected level of connectivity in terms of communication. This is also true of the power of the individual standards upon closer inspection: over WLAN, we managed around 45 MBit in our testing (with a somewhat aged Trendnet TEW-633GR router)Asus A32-UL30 A32-UL5. GigaBit LAN ran with a slightly disappointing 815 MBit (c.f. M18x: 851 MBit); for example a Sandy Bridge test platform managed 940 MBit here.The webcam integrated into the display delivered an acceptable picture to our conversation partner. The sound quality transmitted by the integrated microphone was also fine.
At the time of writing, there were still no details available about the warranty,Asus A32-U53 but one would assume that the same options will be available as for the larger XPS 15z. This would mean: 1 year inclusive warranty, 1 year on-site service for around 25 Euros extra, and an extension of up to 3 years of next-day on-site service for around 250 Euros.Our assessment of the keyboard in this model proved to be somewhat more problematic. In principle it should be theHP Pavilion dv6900 Battery same keyboard as the one used in the larger Dell XPS 15z model, as the difference in size between the two has been compensated for using narrower openings for the loudspeakers next to the keyboard. The look as well as the layout and key size are the same as the larger model.The typing feel of this model, like the 15z, can be described as having a short depression distance with a somewhat unclear point of tactile response. A second reviewerHP Pavilion dv6800 Battery even called it spongy, particularly in a direct comparison to the ones used in the latest MacBooks. In the end, it probably comes down to the user’s individual preferences as to whether they will approve or disapprove. We did both agree that we liked the firm mounting of the keyboard in the case – unfortunately this is not always a given in notebooks.
Here too Dell was able to use the same unit as for the HP Pavilion dv6600 Battery15z. The touchpad is wholly convincing with its large surface area, good responsiveness and physical properties, and its two buttons which have a generous depression distance and produce a particularly quiet clicking sound. In contrast to our XPS 15z test model (which it should be noted was a pre-sample), the multi-touch inputs on this 14z test model worked with sufficient fluency to be of practical value during everyday use.The 14-inch HP Pavilion dv6500 Batterydisplay used in this model has been hidden behind a plastic plate by Dell. This gives the visual effect of an edge-to-edge design, with the display only bordered by a rubber lip that runs round it, replacing the usual rubber stoppers that keep a distance between the lid and the base unit. But as soon as you turn on the machine, the optical illusion of a panel that fills theHP Pavilion dv6400 Battery entire lid becomes evident. While the panel is ‘only’ 5 mm inward from the edges to the left and right, there are 12 and 8 mm between it and the top and bottom edges respectively.
Now for the facts about the LGD0327 panel used here: the maximum resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels is standard fare, but is fine given the display diagonal. You could become annoyed with it only if you are trying to work intensively with several windows open at once; in this case you should turn to an HP Pavilion dv6300 Batteryexternal monitor.For our testing of the Dell XPS 14z we had two machines available: a virtually final pre-sample and also a retail-ready model. The measurements we took from the two displays did vary somewhat from each other, despite having identical model numbers. In the retail machine we measured a maximum brightness of 225 cd/m², with an average of 203.9 HP Pavilion dv6000 Batterycd/m². The prototype machine was around 20 cd/m² darkerColour space XPS 14z
While the display brightness is fine in and of itself, we found the black level, which plays HP Pavilion dv2000 Batterya decisive role in determining picture contrast, to be a blatant weak point: 1.51 cd/m². This brings the maximum possible contrast down to a meagre 141:1 at maximum screen brightness (144:1 at 100 cd/m²). This can also be observed with the naked eye, for example with dark screen content in a film or in games and pictures, where the black portions HP Pavilion dv6100 Batteryactually appear more grey than black.You can also tell that the screen quality is not up to much because of the colour space that can be represented. Compared to sRGB, the panel lags far behind. Professional users in the photography and graphics fields won’t be happy with this, but it shouldn’t have much effect on the average consumer. The poor contrast values are much more of a consideration for them.
This being a slimline 14-inch machine weighing barely two kilograms, the issue of outdoor HP Pavilion dv2700 Batteryuse and use while on the move is relevant. With its average brightness of 200 cd/m², the XPS 14z should in theory have a good chance, but the brightness does dim to around 180 cd/m² when on battery power. We could not find a way of getting round this, even in BIOS.With the limited brightness, the below-average contrast and the reflective screen surface, it unfortunately doesn’t look good for practical use of the laptop while outdoors. You will have to find a well-shaded spot if you want to be able to make out the contents of your screen.While the viewing anglesHP Pavilion dv2600 Battery along the horizontal line of sight are okay, you do very quickly get irritating distortions of the image when the tilt of the screen is adjusted. This means that the vertical angle needs to be adjusted regularly if you are using the machine on your lap.
As already described in the opening, the Dell XPS 14z is available with two different processors and two different graphics units. The entry-level option is an Intel i5-2430M CPU, the successor to the popular 2410M CPU, with somewhat improved clock speed (2.3-2.9 GHz with the 2410M vs. 2.4-3.0 HP Pavilion dv2500 BatteryGHz with the 2430M). Our benchmark tests which follow come from the Dell XPS 14z pre-sample with a 2410M CPU, meaning that the results could lie marginally, but negligibly overall, below those of the 2430M CPU in the series model. We also add to some individual tests with results from an XPS 14z retail model fitted with the 2640M CPU, currently theHP Pavilion dv2400 Battery most powerful dual-core processor available in Intel’s Sandy Bridge range. This enables us to define the upper and lower markers of the Dell XPS 14z’s power range.Both our machines rely on the Nvidia Geforce GT 520M for their graphics handling; it uses Optimus to automatically switch to the HD Graphics 3000 unit integrated into the processor, in an attempt to find the best possible configuration for each application situation. In the lowest pricedHP Pavilion dv2300 Battery Dell XPS 14z, the dedicated graphics card has been left out, with the integrated Intel graphics covering everything.
And this is completely sufficient if the notebook is used predominantly for office tasks. In fact the GT 520M can only top the integrated Intel solution by a small margin in terms of power. But the advantage of having the Nvidia graphics is the broad range of built-in HP Pavilion dv2200 Batteryfeatures which really are a plus when it comes to multimedia uses (audio and video). As for computer games, the GT 520M only gives you a noticeable advantage in a few individual games; more on that later. The Nvidia driver support also still counts as an advantage of the GT 520M. old Nvidia driverOn the subject of drivers: our series model of the XPS 15z had the comparatively old 268.86 drivers pre-installed. Our attempt toHP Pavilion dv2100 Battery install the latest Nvidia 280.26 was a definite failure. According to information from Dell, however, the 14z should be supported by the Nvidia Verde drivers in future.
In the course of our testing we also noticed that the latencies, which we observed using the DPC Latency Checker, kept shooting briefly outside of the green zone when WLAN was activated. Without WLAN, they always remain in the green zone. This could HP G7000 Batterybe of interest to users who work with audio and video streaming. To start with, we had a go at several potentially practical but demanding areas of usage, like Photoshop CS 5.1 for example. Handling RAW photos from a DSLR camera was pleasantly quick (filter) and without long wait times. The traditional hard disk turned out to be more of a limiting factor than the CPU. The processor hardly ever reached the 100% usage mark during our testing; HP G6000 Batterybut the conventional HDD did, despite being one of the faster 7,200 rpm models.
Likewise with Premiere Elements (video editing) we could edit and add transitions to Big Buck Bunny in 1080p without any problems. We didn’t notice any annoying wait times. And it was also true here, that loading data and clips was a burden on the hard driveCompaq Presario V3000 Battery, but not the CPU; even the entry-level i5-2430M (tested with the 2410M) had enough power for these applications.Overall it is a shame that Dell does not offer a faster solid state drive, at least as a configuration option; it would have fitted perfectly with the high-performance concept of the XPS series. Users who want one will have to take matters into their own hands.
In the system benchmarks that we carried out, our XPS 14z pre-sample (2410M, GT520M) Compaq Presario V3600 Batteryachieved good results, positioning itself in the higher mid-league of laptops with similar hardware. And our XPS 14z retail model with the top specs was able to do even better; with 8010 points in the PCMark Vantage, the top-spec notebook sits at a similar level to the HP Elitebook 8560p for example (2540M, HD 6470M). In the entry-level configuration, Compaq Presario V6700 Batteryour pre-sample was not that far behind with 7604 points.
The result in the PCMark 7 test was similar: achieving a range from 2010 points (2410M pre-sample) up to 2236 points (2640M, high-end), the result is equally impressive, placing it roughly on the level of an HP Elitebook 6460b (2520M/HD 3000) or on a par with the Dell Inspiron 14z (2430M/HD 3000) Compaq Presario V6600 Batterywhich was just recently reviewed. If an SSD had been used, these scores would have looked different, and the boot time would have been noticeably accelerated, along with the time it takes programs to start up and various documents to load; although the 7200 rpm HDD used here does give some slight advantages over a standard 5400 rpm driveCompaq Presario V6500z Battery. The disadvantage: faster HDDs are also substantially louder than their colleagues that spin at a more leisurely pace.
HD video playback is easy for the combination of Core i5 and GeForce GT 520M. H.264 coded material in 1080p resolution could be played smoothly using Windows Media Player and GeForce support with 8% CPU usage and 24% video engine usage. 2K videos and reproduction without GPU support via Compaq Presario V6500 BatteryVLC could also only burden the CPU with a maximum of 20% usage.The system only starts to reach its limits with 4K resolution and YouTube Flash videos. Internet Explorer 9 played the 4K video ‘Life in the Garden’ but only with heavy stuttering and masses of dropped frames. However, Google Chrome managed to play it smoothly after some stuttering at the start, although it did require about 90% CPU usage. In 1080p, both browsers had no problems at all, at 23% CPU usage.
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