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Dell XPS 14 review – first look

New 14in ultra-portable balances power and mobility

We’re fans of Dell’s XPS range of premium laptops, but always thought it was missing a middle ground between the ultra-portability of the XPS 13 and the performance of the larger XPS 15. Dell obviously thought so too, as it has just introduced a third model – the XPS 14. We were given some hands-on time with the svelte 14in laptop last month, and can finally let you know what we thought.

Weighing 2.1kg and at just 22mm thick, Dell is just able to classify the XPS 14 as an Ultrabook. It continues the same minimalist look introduced with the XPS 13, despite using plastic rather than carbon fiber for the main body, although there’s still liberal amounts of aluminium to create that premium feel.

XPS 14

There are no superfluous LEDs or multimedia keys around the edges, only a collection of two USB3 ports, Ethernet, an SD card reader, 3.5mm headset jack, HDMI and a mini-display port. Bluetooth, Intel Wireless Display and 802.11n Wi-Fi are included as standard, but Dell is also selling a WWAN-enabled model (with extra leather styling) for those that need internet access on the move.

XPS 14

The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass, which should prevent scratches, but it only comes in a glossy finish – this could make light reflections difficult to manage. The 1,600×900 resolution is a welcome step up from most ultrabooks, and although we weren’t able to put it through our usual display tests during our brief time with the system our initial impressions were positive. As it uses a TN panel viewing angles were only average, but there was plenty of contrast and lots of screen tilt.

The Chiclet-style keyboard, which uses Dell’s own unique recessed keys for more comfortable typing, is also backlit to let you keep working even in low light. We weren’t blown away by our short time with the all-in-one touchpad, which supports multi-touch gestures but wasn’t as responsive as others we’ve tried.

XPS 14

Dell will let customers configure the XPS 14 with a range of different Intel Ivy Bridge processors, as well as the choice of 4GB or 8GB memory and hard disk or SSD storage. If you’re interested in gaming performance, you’ll be pleased to hear that an Nvidia GeForce GT 630M is included – it should provide a speed boost over the integrated Intel HD 4000 GPU.

The XPS 14 is already available on Dell’s website with prices starting from £1,049. This puts it in direct competition with Apple’s MacBook Air, currently the only other Ivy Bridge-powered ultra-portable we’ve seen. Whether Dell can tempt customers with its greater graphics performance remains to be seen, but with plenty of other Ultrabooks on the horizon, we’ll reserve judgement until we’ve spent more time with one.

We’ll be bringing you a more in-depth review as soon as we get one into our lab.

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