The ultrabook was conceived as an ultralight, ultraportable notebook with SSD storage rather than a hard drive. There are plenty of ultrabooks that fit this bill, but Dell's Inspiron 14z Ultrabook definitely stretches the definition to the limit.
The Inspiron 14z is undoubtedly a nice little computer — but is it really an ultrabook? All models have an optical drive, for example, and most have hard drive rather than SSD storage. There is an SSD option, but it's the top-end £879 (inc. VAT; £732.50 ex. VAT) preconfigured model on Dell's UK website. All of the less expensive options, which start at £599 (inc. VAT; £499.16 ex. VAT), have a 500GB hard drive and a small 32GB mSATA flash card.
Nor is the Dell Inspiron 14z particularly light or thin: 1.87kg isn't that different to standard notebooks, and I measured it at 34.4cm wide by 24cm deep by 2.1cm thick.
Configuration options are plentiful, with (third-generation Ivy Bridge) Core i3, i5 and i7 processor choices. I like the chassis design, and its two-tone grey/silver colour scheme won't look out of place in the office. The notebook feels quite solidly built too.
The Inspiron 14z has a pair of USB 3.0 ports as well as a microphone/headphone combo jack, an SD- and Memory-Stick-compatible flash card reader, HDMI and Ethernet ports. Dell has put a couple of port covers on the left-hand side: one protects the Ethernet port, while the other covers the HDMI port and one of the USB ports.
These port covers are fiddly to remove and the connectors are quite recessed, and I'm not convinced that bulky USB connectors from older peripherals will actually be connectable. Fortunately the second USB port, on the right-hand side, doesn't have a cover.
The 14in. screen is good but not outstanding: its 1,366-by-768 panel has reasonable viewing angles, but the glossy finish won't please everyone.
I'm less convinced by the keyboard, which has a lot of flex — even light-fingered typists will probably notice it. This doesn't bode well for longevity — and given that notebook keyboards are generally used every day, cutting corners here seems a bit weird.
The Inspiron 14z may not be a true ultrabook, but the more affordable Ivy Bridge models are still appealing. I'd suggest trying before you buy, though, to see how you feel about the keyboard.