Dell Inspiron 14z Ultrabook: First Take

Dell Inspiron 14z Ultrabook: First Take

Summary: Hard drives and optical drives are not commonly associated with 'true' ultrabooks. Even so, Dell's Inspiron 14z has its plus points, although there's a question mark against the keyboard.

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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.

dell-inspiron-14z-1
Dell's 14in. Inspiron 14z weighs a hefty (for an ultrabook) 1.87kg and comes with an integrated optical drive. All UK models bar one have a 500GB hard drive, rather than an SSD.

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.

Topics: Laptops, Dell, Mobility, Reviews

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16 comments
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  • Disks? Really?

    I haven't used an actual disk except to get an install from something massive, like an OS, or Skyrim in ages, and in both cases I could deal with an external USB3 or eSATA drive rather than carry a drive around with me all day. I've been without dedicated optical drives on my laptops for like 3 years now, haven't missed them yet.
    SeanBlader
    • Pretty much the same here.

      About the only thing I use a disc drive for anymore is OS installs, and even that can be delegated to a USB drive pretty easily.
      Aerowind
    • computers

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      ewihfieurs
    • Yep, there's still a case for DVD drives

      I use my DVD writer several times a year. Plenty of people need them for burning audio CDs for use in the car for instance (I exclusively use Spotify everywhere else), which is what I use my mine for. Yes I could use an external one for how much I use it though but oddly it's much cheaper to buy a computer with an optical drive (laptop) than one without (ultrabook).

      Not everyone has large film libraries stored on their hard drives too, something SSDs prohibit anyway. For plenty of people sticking a DVD in the drive to watch a movie is the obvious choice. Laptops often get used on journeys away from home.

      p.s - Do we really need to call them optical drives? You cannot buy CD writers any more, they're all DVD writers.
      bradavon
      • Optical Drives as opposed to DVD writer

        Yes, still a necessary evil.

        DVD-ROM, DVD-RW, BD-ROM, BD-RW.

        Sorry to be pedantic ;-)
        mountjl
  • This is why Dell is nosediving.

    This looks like crap, isn't an ultrabook, but pretends to be one. It's cheaper than an ultra book, thanks to what I can only guess is one of the hybrid storage, but that isn't something that is my primary concern.

    14" screen with a bad resolution, that's another strike.

    Finally, you have the keyboard.

    Three strikes, you're out.
    Michael Alan Goff
    • You're expecting a true ultrabook for the price this is going for?

      Get real. Corners have to be cut somewhere. It isn't for me either (it is pretty ugly) but I can see the logic behind it totally.
      bradavon
  • Not only looks bad but give us BREAK

    GET RID OF OPTICAL DRIVE; WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME U USED 1?
    USE ONLY SSD DRIVES; DO U THINK WE WERE BORN YESTERDAY?
    WITH STUPID DESIGNS LIKE THIS DELL HAS NO PLACE TO GO BUT DOWN
    MIKE MCCULLOUGH DELL USER FOR MORE THAN 15 YEARS!!
    amasys
    • It's an Insprion! The design is pretty much right on the money

      True ultrabooks still cost way to much for the average consumer and as nice as SSDs are they're either prohibitively expensive or so low in storage they're pretty pointless.

      I use my DVD writer several times a year. Plenty of people need them for burning audio CDs for use in the car for instance (I exclusively use Spotify everywhere else), which is what I use my mine for. Yes I could use an external one for how much I use it though but oddly it's much cheaper to buy a computer with an optical drive (laptop) than one without (ultrabook).
      bradavon
      • Not everyone has large film libraries stored on their hard drives too,

        something SSDs prohibit anyway. For plenty of people sticking a DVD in the drive to watch a movie is the obvious choice.
        bradavon
  • As a replacement for current functionality, sounds good

    The 14z sounds like the perfect consumer laptop for an individual who is looking to replace the complete functionality of a current device that may be getting obsolete. There are a lot of folks out there like that. It's value is that it brings processing power up to speed while still maintaining all the capabilities of previous generations of Windows-based laptops. Whether it's an ultrabook or not is secondary to what it offers the average consumer: DVD drive, hard-disk capacity, adequate graphics, expansion to HDMI, etc. at a reasonable price-point. At the same time, it's specifically targeted to those consumers who need better battery life and a lighter piece of equipment. In other words, it's a vanilla, usable piece of hardware without flashiness.
    I'm personally sick of people who bemoan the presence of a DVD drive. It's not a question of "when was the last time you used one." It's a question of what else you have to dig up if you are required to use one.
    Flash drives are wonderful, but capacity is still too expensive, so the 500 Gig drive is appropriate.
    The problem Dell is having has more to do with the longevity of their products that have been developed through a good manufacturing and QC process than with the move to mobility in the market. When you want to get down to real work, an iPad-like device doesn't cut the mustard. A basic laptop will.
    thomas.stockwell
  • not an ultrabook. doesn't meet intels

    weight limits. Intel should make them remove ultrabook from the marketing
    Johnny Vegas
  • Not everyone is rich!

    Something this article and the commentators forget. The Inspiron range is Dell's "value" range, meaning it will always cut lots of corners. (True) ultrabooks are simply way out of the price range of many consumers.
    bradavon
  • Garbage

    This looks like a real piece of crap, of course, its cheap and you ALWAYS get what you pay for. Dell makes some nice machines, but you have to pay more than Inspiron prices to get one.

    When I was in law school, most of the students started their first year with a new Inspiron. By the middle of the second year those Inspirons were all falling apart. Port covers falling off, missing keys, cracks in the cheap plastic cases.

    My ThinkPad and all of the high-end Toshiba, IBM, Apple and yes, even Dell laptops looked and worked fine even after graduation. You get what you pay for.
    Asiafish
  • I like how...

    Everything in this article is assumption ,"I guess it will be like it," "I'm skeptical if," and "I wonder."

    Maybe you could try some of these concerns you encounter? And if you don't have the hardware to perform the experiment, I'd readily assume most other people don't either, so problem solved. Mind you, I hate Dell, but this article is pure journalistic fail.
    Tea.Rollins
  • Installation of Linux distro

    I just got this machine a month ago. I have been facing problems with Linux installations on it. The problem is the partitioner of Linux OS does not identify disks on the machine. Is this due to the disk controllers on the machine? Views?
    Pushkar Joshi