Having used a couple of Dell 14" systems recently (the M14x and Inspiron 14z) we had become big fans of the form factor. Machines of this size offer the option of including performance hardware in a chassis which is noticeably more portable than the 15"+ models which are next up in the laptop market. When we then combine that with the excellent build quality and design seen on the XPS 15z things get really impressive.
We love the single sheet surfaces which Dell use for the XPS 14z, they really give the system a feel of quality. Nice touches such as the soft trim around the screen to cushion it when closed just add to this and the overall build quality is very impressive with each part fitting together well and feeling solid. The keyboard, which was backlit, also felt particularly nice to type on and we much prefer the XPS "mouse" buttons to those found on many other laptops (including the Inspiron).
The XPS 14z may be smaller than a 15" system in terms of screen size but it is also noticeably more compact in terms of thickness with a body that is less than 1" tall when closed. And while we like the majority of decisions Dell have made on this system there is one which could have been better. Dell should have included one USB connector on the side of the system, having a USB drive or 3G dongle sticking out of the back could be troublesome when using the system on the move.
For performance there is little to fault on our review sample. The 7200RPM drive and dual channel memory offer upgrades over the Inspiron 14z we tested but the GPU used has the most noticeable impact. Whether it is gaming or GPU computing such as video conversion the XPS 14z excels. Looking specifically at StarCraft 2 performance our framerates doubled over the on-board Intel model found in many laptops. We also continue to love Optimus which lets the system switch between each GPU automatically and seamlessly as required.
In terms of value, at a starting price of £799 the XPS 14z feels well priced thanks to its high level of build quality, low noise operation and good specifications.