The refreshed Inspiron 14z family is a wonderful blend of three successful notebook series manufactured by Dell. Now it features the conceptual idea, materials and special elements borrowed from premium XPS line; the previous Inspiron gave it the general style and look, while the Vostro portables shared their user-friendly hardware coupled with an impressive performance/power consumption ratio.
In our Dell Inspiron 14z ultrabook review you will find all the necessary information on the 14z’s specs, design and performance along with best prices and sale options.
Look and Feel
The new Dell Inspiron 14z’s design is thin and modern, with two-tone lids – most in either gunmetal-gray brushed metal or red contrasted against a lighter border.
Our review model looks refreshingly simple. The round-cornered chassis sports matte plastic borders surrounding the brushed-aluminum lid and the keyboard deck. Under the lid, the aluminum material extends across the palm rest and above the keyboard. The bottom of this space cruiser-esque design is a simple soft-touch black plastic.
At 13.66 x 9.45 x .83 inches and 4.2 pounds, the 14z can hardly be called an ultrabook. With the lid closed it looks pretty thin (especially when you consider that it has an optical drive), but 4.2 pounds of weight make the whole system a bit too heavy to qualify for the ultraportable category.
Despite the fact that the notebook chassis is constructed from relatively thin plastics, the machine feels pretty durable and solid.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Inspiron 14z’s spill-resistant keyboard is of chiclet or tile variety and wins points for being backlit and having decent room for key travel. The full-sized keys have a textured black finish and a relatively flat surface.
The arrow keys in the lower right hand corner have contrasting feel, so the user should be able to use them while touch-typing. The keyboard is extremely firm (no need to worry about keyboard flex while typing) and is also notable for having three backlit quick launch keys between the keyboard and the hinge, which gives the user quick access to system settings, audio settings etc.
Located in the center of the keyboard deck, the laptop’s touchpad is fairly roomy, at about 3.9 x 2 inches. It is a Synaptics model that uses Dell proprietary touchpad drivers, making this navigation device perfectly accurate and responsive with good sensitivity and almost no lags.
The touchpad on our 14-incher supports various multi-touch gestures (pinch-to-zoom, three- or four-finger flicks etc.) and features separate left and right mouse buttons having deep feedback with quiet clicks in case the user does not like using tap to click.
Display and Sound
The Inspiron 14z’s glossy 14-inch display comes with a native resolution fixed at 1,366×768 pixels, which is absolutely normal and nothing surprising for economically priced systems of the kind.
With bright whites, slightly grayish blacks, and good color representation, the screen looks generally good and delivers adequate and comfortable working experience while looking at documents and movies head-on in a well-lit, fluorescent room.
Unfortunately, there is not much flexibility in the viewing angles, so the user will have to adjust the screen angle very carefully. But all in all, the horizontal viewing angles are perfectly good, so there will be no troubles sharing a movie with the person sitting next. In terms of the WLED backlighting, it is pretty even and offers a range of brightness settings.
The dual Skull Candy speakers on the Inspiron are located beneath the front edge of the notebook palmrest. Dell packs its machine with special MaxxAudio software for enhancing the audio quality and achieving clear sound. With that software enabled, the 14z provides solid audio playback that is loud enough to fill a room.
Ports, Connectivity and Webcam
The Dell Inspiron 14z comes with a reasonable selection of ports. Starting with the left side, there is a drop-down door number one, housing DisplayPort, HDMI and USB 2.0 sockets, with a vent and an SD / MMC / MS card reader nearby.
Moving along to the right side, there’s a tray-loading optical drive and door number two, behind which the user find two USB 3.0 ports and a combined headphone / mic port. Finally, the back edge is home to the AC port and an Ethernet jack.
The 720p 1.0-megapixel webcam is tucked into the bezel and is capable of capturing bright and detailed images even in low-light environment, though there is a little bit of noise. Anyway, considering how poorly most webcams work under such conditions, the 14z notebook’s output is impressive.
Dell has integrated all the usual communication technologies into its 14-incher. Among these are Gigabit LAN, Bluetooth 3.0, and WLAN b/g/n based on the Centrino Wireless-N 1030 module from Intel, which can also connect the notebook with a compatible monitor wirelessly using Wi-Di (wireless display).
There are four core configurations available in the Inspiron 14z product line: each version comes with Bluetooth 3.0, a DVD burner and a six-cell battery. The entry-level model sports a 2.2GHz Core i3-2330M CPU, 4GB RAM, a 500GB 5,400RPM hard drive, DVD burner, six-cell battery and Bluetooth 3.0 and it’s have а maximum performance of Dell Inspiron 14 at the best price. The second-lowest configuration has a Core i3 CPU, 6GB of RAM and a 640GB 5,400 RPM hard drive, while the next version features a 2.4GHz Core i5 CPU, 6GB of RAM and a 640GB 5,400RPM hard drive. As for the most advanced set, there is a 2.4GHz Core i5-3317U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 750GB 7,200RPM hard drive.
Let’s have a look at the top-shelf model. With its brand-new dual-core Ivy Bridge Intel Core i5-3317U CPU (with Hyper-Threading), 8GB of RAM and 1GB AMD Radeon HD7570M switchable graphics, the 14z is powerful enough to handle any productivity task, play HD videos and even demanding games. It performs fairly well compared to competing systems with integrated graphics and, in some cases, last-generation Intel CPUs.
For example, on PCMark07, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance, the device scores a solid 2,984, better than the 2,242 thin-and-light notebook category average. Thanks to a 32GB SSD, the Inspiron 14z boots Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) in a speedy 28 seconds.
As for the graphics, the machine’s discrete GPU raises its gaming capabilities, so it can deliver smooth 3D performance and is good enough to get reasonable frame rates on some hardcore games. On 3DMark06, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall graphics prowess, the Inspiron 14z scored a strong 6,032, which is comfortably above the 5,060 thin-and-light category average and way better than integrated GPU-powered systems like the HP Envy Spectre (3,438) and the Sony VAIO T13 (3,829).
Speaking about the lower-level model that comes loaded with a 2.3GHz Core i5-2410M CPU, Intel integrated graphics, 6GB of RAM and a 640GB 5,400RPM hard drive, it lands a PCMark Vantage score of 6,177, which is also higher than what other systems with similar specs show. However, that model’s hard drive take a modest 2 minutes and 51 seconds to complete the LAPTOP File Transfer Test, which involves copying 4.97GB of mixed media files. That’s a rate of 29.8 MBps, about on par with the 29.6 MBps thin-and-light category average.
Thanks to the intensive power saving features of the Intel CPU, the Inspiron is able to score points when it comes to the power consumption as well as the battery life.
The 6-cell 48.8 WHr battery does a pretty good job overall and lasts an impressive six hours and 37 minutes in standard battery rundown tests (with the display brightness fixed at 65-70 percent, wireless active, the Windows 7 power profile set to “Balanced”, looping the same movie off the hard drive). This is however primarily due to the large battery, which stands out at the bottom of the notebook, and lifts the notebook up at the back.
In terms of system noise, in an idle state the Inspiron remains relatively quiet, and the system noise stays between 31 and 34 dB. The cooling fan turns at a consistent rate, and is overshadowed by the slightly louder hard drive with 32 dB.
The DVD drive makes itself noticeable with a clearly audible 38 dB, and can be disturbing during quiet movie scenes. With a high processing load the cooling fan turns up considerably, and measures up to 45 dB. For a maximum level this is still an acceptable value though.
The Dell Inspiron 14z at the best price comes with the standard set of Dell utilities: Roxio Creator Starter, the 30-day trial of McAfee Security Center and Dell DataSafe, which comes with 2GB of complimentary online storage. In addition, Blio (reading app that launches the Blio reader and bookstore.), Cozi (organizer that launches Cozi Family Calendar), Microsoft Office 2010, Skype 4.2, Nero SyncUp (allows up to 2 GB of data to be stored and synchronized in the cloud) and Zinio Reader 4 come pre-installed.
Dell Remote allows the user to stream content between devices using DLNA. Windows Mobility Center lets the user control settings like the brightness, speaker, power mode, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The Dell Stage, a dock with 14 Dell applications and the ability to add more, sits along the bottom of the screen. Music Stage is a simple but attractive player that organizes albums and links to world radio.
The Games Gallery lists shortcuts to over a dozen casual games that come preloaded. The Weather tile launches an Accuweather widget that shows the current time and weather conditions, a free online service.
As mentioned above, there are four configurations available in the 14z family. The price points for each one are as follows: The entry-level model (2.2GHz Core i3-2330M CPU, 4GB RAM, 500GB 5,400RPM hard drive, DVD burner, six-cell battery, Bluetooth 3.0) retails for about $520.
The second-lowest configuration of the Dell Inspiron 14z (Core i3 CPU, 6GB RAM, 640GB 5,400 RPM hard drive) comes at the price starting at $650, while the next version features (2.4GHz Core i5 CPU, 6GB RAM, 640GB 5,400RPM hard drive) will go for sale starting at $700. The highest-end model 2.4GHz Core i5-3317U CPU, 8GB RAM, 750GB 7,200RPM hard drive) will take a minimum of $750 from the user’s budget.
Author – UltrabooksReview