Dell XPS 14z 14in Core i5 notebook

Shiny, shiny

Thankfully, the user experience picked up after that. The 14in screen's 1366 x 768 resolution provides a bright, sharp image and worked a treat when I was streaming some episodes of Merlin off BBC iPlayer. The large speakers on either side of the keyboard provide a decent volume too, although I did find the higher frequencies a bit harsh when playing noisy guitar stuff.

The compact design means that the keyboard looks a bit cramped – especially with those big speakers taking up so much space – but it turns out to be solidly built and comfortable to use. My only complaint here is that the trackpad isn’t all that sensitive and sometimes needs a firm prod in order to click and select items on screen.

PCMark 7 Results

Dell XPS 14z 14in notebook benchmarks

Longer bars are better

The use of a Core i5 processor means there’s plenty of raw horsepower available, and the XPS 14z feels smooth and responsive in general use. But I wasn’t wild about the decision to stick the USB ports round the back of the unit.

PCMark 7 Battery Life Test Results

Dell XPS 14z 14in notebook benchmarks

Battery life in Minutes
Longer bars are better

The two GPUs mean that you can use the integrated graphics in order to maximise battery life, or switch to the faster GeForce when you need extra performance for gaming or Photoshoppery. It’s good to have that option, especially in a machine with a mid-range price such as this.

And Dell has implemented Nvidia’s Optimus technology, which automatically decides which GPU is appropriate for the task at hand and switches smoothly between the chips.

Dell XPS 14z 14in notebook

Choose which app uses which GPU - or leave it to Nvidia

The downside is that Nvidia's software maintains a list of which apps require each GPU. But it is possible to override Optimus using the Nvidia control panel. I fired up Far Cry 2 to see how the two chips compared. The integrated graphics produced a playable speed of 29f/s, while switching to Nvidia up that to 38f/s. I wouldn’t describe it as a full-blown gaming rig, but it’ll be more than adequate for casual gamers.

Battery life is decent too. Dell quotes an unusually precise six hours and 42 minutes on its website. I got almost exactly five hours when streaming Merlin off the BBC iPlayer, so lighter work such as web browsing and running productivity apps should give you closer to six hours.

Verdict

The Dell XPS 14z has one or two rough edges, but for the most part it’s very neatly designed and provides good, strong performance at a competitive price. ®

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Dell XPS 14z 14in notebook

Dell XPS 14z 14in Core i5 notebook

A 14in laptop with an attractive design, decent performance and a reasonable price. It's only marred by the messy bundled software.
Price: From £799. As reviewed: £849 RRP