Review: Dell 14z Ultrabook, affordable portability arrives**

Last month Dell launched their entry level 14Z Ultrabook. We got a chance to spend some time with it here at techAU and now have a detailed review, letting...

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Last month Dell launched their entry level 14Z Ultrabook. We got a chance to spend some time with it here at techAU and now have a detailed review, letting you know if you should throw down your hard earned.

Hardware

The Dell 14z aka, Inspiron 5423 features a Core i3-2367M CPU running at 1.4GHz with 4GB RAM. While not breaking any speed records, it’s a laptop that will serve the everyday user quite well. Those looking to do hardcore tasks like HD video editing or high-demand gaming should look elsewhere. Often that’s not the purpose of an ultrabook, but some more expensive models can run dual-purpose. As this is an entry-level Ultrabook, its important to set expectations in line with the price point.

It is important to note that you can option up the 14Z to a Core i7 with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD. Of course this comes at a cost an not the model we looked at. The majority of 14Zs sold will be at the lower price point.

Design
The external case design is solid and sturdy for a plastic coating. Those who’ve used Inspiron’s before will be familiar with this style from Dell, its cost effective and works. It is in a different category to those aluminum chassis from other manufacturers.  There is a polished look to the top of the case, this is a actually a cover, but during customisation, there are no alternatives available.

At 21mm thick, the body packs in 2 x USB3.0 ports, a HDMI port, tray-loading DVD RW drive and card reader. Inside is WiFi-N, Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi-Direct. One of the most under rated features is USB 3.0 arriving rapidly in new hardware. Offering transfer speeds of over 100MB/s its upwards of 3x faster to move big data than USB 2.0. Thankfully the 14z means moving data around is easier than ever.

The display included in the Dell 14z is powered by Intel HD 3000 graphics which continue to get better with each generation. The screen itself runs at 1366×768 resolution, which is pretty low for a 14”, many 13’s are now running at 1440×900. It seems those extra pixels still elude cheaper models. Despite tighter budgets, consumers can always make use of extra screen real estate, this will happen, its just a matter of time.

This model contained the 128GB SSD over the cheapest version with a 500GB spinning disk. The extra speed afforded by an SSD are evident by very speedy boot times, which make a reboot a non-issue. In reality, I think most of us simply sleep devices and rarely shut down completely, so this may not be as much of an issue for some. By adding an SSD, it does take some of speed duties off the Core i3 processor, making the 14z feel fast and responsive when launching applications.

Audio
Hidden under the front edge of the 14Z are 2 Skullcandy Speakers with Waves MaxxAudio® 4 processing. All that means is that sound quality from this laptop is actually pretty decent. That said, it wont replace a decent set of headphones, as this becomes your road warrior, you’re likely to make less enemies if you keep the beats down low.

Battery Life
The 6-cell battery provided 4-5 hours of general day-to-day use with a mix of Facebook, IM and video playback.

Weight
At 1.87kg the 14z is certainly an ultrabook compared to heavier 3-4kg standard laptops. However when compared with the market leader, the Macbook Air or the Samsung Series 9, it’s almost half a kilogram heavier. If you have been spoilt by the MBA and move to the 14z you will notice the difference, but if this is your first Ultrabook, you’ll be very pleased with the weight and increased portability.

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Software

The Dell 14z ships with Windows 7 Home Premium, 64-bit and not being a signature PC, is preloaded with the normal bloatware. Unfortunately this missed the cheap Windows 8 upgrade timeline by a few weeks. Given Microsoft will offer upgrades for just $40, then it’s an easy path to the future.

Issues

While most Ultrabooks don’t have optical drives, Dell managed to include a slot-load DVD drive in the 14Z. With some discs the audible noise emitted during playback can be loud enough to distract from movie playback. This could of course be avoided if the movie is played back from the hard drive, particularly if you opted for the SSD model.

With a differentiating feature, a HD webcam, (1280×720), I had high hopes that the video quality would be impressive. In reality, it was still pretty standard for a laptop, particularly in low-light environments. Better results could still be achieved with a cheap external camera.

Facial recognition is available on the 14z as an authentication method. Unfortunately as the case with most facial recognition systems, it took longer to identify you than it would to enter your password which essentially negates the whole thing.

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Price and Availability

There are 4 options available for the 14z ranging from $799 to $1399. The one we reviewed was the second option, a $100 increase from the base price to get an SSD.

Processor RAM HDD Price
2nd Gen Core i3-2367M 4GB 500GB HDD $799
2nd Gen Core i3-2367M 4GB 128GB SSD $899
3rd Gen Intel Core i5-3317U 8GB 128GB SSD $1,099
3rd Gen Intel Core i7-3517U 8GB 256GB SSD $1,399

 

Overall

What Dell have delivered with the 14z is an Ultrabook for the mainstream. Those on the tightest budget can get into the ‘Ultrabook’ market for just $799. I say ‘Ultrabook’ because with an optical drive and a spinning disk this model varies significantly from Intel’s original description of what an Ultrabook means.

At the heart of it, the 14z is thin and light compared to standard laptops, while providing very little in the way of compromises. The $899 model (also the model reviewed) is the best value for money from the range.

If you’ve wanted an Ultrabook and can’t justify the cost of a premium Ultrabook, then you should definitely consider the solid and welcome entry to the market, the Dell 14z.

Categories
DellLaptops / TabletsReviews

This post is authored by techAU staffers. Used rarely and sparingly when the source decided to keep their identity secret, or a guest author who isn’t seeking credit.