Dell XPS 14 review
14 in 1,600x900 display, 2.1kg, 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U, 8.00GB RAM, 500GB disk, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
For its XPS 14 Dell has built an Ultrabook that's capable of blasting through the latest games. It's a slightly-larger model than other Ultrabooks, with a 14in screen, but it has built-in Nvidia graphics.
With its aluminium case, the XPS 14 has more than a passing resemblance to the Apple MacBook Pro. The silver colour scheme, rounded corners and minimal appearance look very sleek, although the black soft touch plastic underside and keyboard tray give it a unique appearance that sets it apart from Apple’s creation. It’s a little heavier than most Ultrabooks at 2.1kg, but it still falls within Intel’s specifications and it's compact enough to take on the move.
Despite having more than enough room around the edges for ports, Dell has been fairly stingy with the XPS 14. There are only two USB ports - they are at least USB3 - HDMI and Mini DisplayPort video outputs, an Ethernet port, multi-format card reader and 3.5mm headset jack. The lid hinge design prevents relocating any of these to the rear of the chassis, but considering some 13in Ultrabooks have three or even four USB ports, two feels a little limiting. You do at least get Bluetooth and Intel Wireless display technology built-in, which is a useful bonus if you have compatible hardware.
Lifting the lid reveals a display panel covered by edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass that’s extra resistant to scratches, and although the glossy finish makes light reflections a little troublesome it also makes colours look extra vibrant. Viewing angles are fairly standard, with colour shift appearing beyond anything more than a face-on angle, but there’s plenty of screen tilt to make up for it. Colour temperature and image sharpness at the native 1,600x900 resolution are spot on, but the low contrast ratio limits black levels to the point that it’s difficult to pick out details in darker films.
The full-size Chiclet keys are all reasonably spaced, with a sensible layout and helpful white backlight that makes working in poorly-lit rooms easier. There’s not a lot of travel, but each key is bouncy and responsive enough to make typing a breeze. The all-in-one touchpad is large and in proportion to the 16:9 display, so we had no trouble navigating around the Windows desktop, although the soft rubber finish isn’t as smooth to the touch as others we’ve used. The buttons themselves are shallow, but still responsive to light presses.