Laptops with 14in screens are relatively unusual in our part of the world, where 15in laptops are king. In Asian and Far Eastern markets, though, the 14in laptop is massively popular. 

But if there ever was a 14in model to excite a western audience, the Dell XPS 14z is surely it.

Taking plenty of inspiration from Apple's MacBook Pro, the design of the XPS 14z is modern, stylish and robust. The anodized aluminium chassis looks smart and the rounded edges add to the sleek appearance. 

When it’s opened up you'll find a backlit keyboard that offers plenty of room for even the most inaccurate of typists, while still fitting in large speakers either side. We had a minor issue with the keyboard; the keys’ font, though modern, doesn't seem quite in keeping with the rest of the design.

Looking up from the keyboard, you'll spot what is probably the Dell's real achilles heel - its screen. The 1366 x 768 resolution is meagre in comparison to other models - the XPS 15z we tested had 1920 x 1080 resolution - but definition is reasonably sharp and clear. 

The colours look washed out, but it’s the glare from the glossy display that really irritated us. Reflective screens do not equate to comfortable use in most normal lighting conditions.

But we did appreciate how it takes up almost the whole width of the chassis, so you're not left with a wastefully wide bezel. This means that the 14in screen can be fitted in to a chassis that's only 10mm wider than the 13in MacBook Air.

Weights and measures

The diminuitive frame and weight of just under 2kg mean that the XPS 14z is easy to carry around, even if it is far from attaining 'ultraportable' status. It should stand up to a battering if you do spend a lot of time on the road, though, and we're sure it'd be able to take the odd bump in its stride. The screen hinge looks particularly robust.

Blessed with a second-generation Intel Core i7 processor, the 2.8GHz i7-2640M with Turbo Boost 2.0 technology (to push it to 3.5GHz when needed), and 8GB of RAM, the XPS 14z has more power than you can shake a stick at. 

A WorldBench 6 score of 143 is highly creditable, and though the nVidia GeForce GT 520M graphics card could only hit average frame rates of 46fps in FEAR at maximum settings - far from the best score we've seen - this is still quite respectable.

For entertainment purposes, the lo-res screen and absence of Blu-ray drive means HD video is not on the cards. Sound quality is pretty good though. It's more of an all-rounder that will offer decent performance and a good turn of speed in any task you should choose to set for it, rather than an out-and-out gaming, multimedia or work-focused laptop.

The Dell has got a very capacious battery, lasting nearly 7 hours (406 mins) in our MobileMark 2007 Productivity tests. Given the quality and power of components this battery has to support, this is impressive. 

Connectivity options are decent, with two USB ports - one of thee USB 3.0 - located at the back of the unit, as well as HDMI, Mini DisplayPort and gigabit ethernet. On the left-hand side you'll find a mic input and headphone jack as well as a multi-format card reader. 

Dell XPS 14z: Specs

  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-2640M processor
  • 14in (1366 x 768) glossy LED-backlit LCD
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • 8GB DDR3-1333MHz RAM
  • 750GB 7200rpm hard disk
  • nVidia GeForce GT 520M graphics with 1GB memory
  • DVD±RW drive
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • gigabit ethernet
  • HDMI port
  • 1 x USB 3.0 port
  • 1 x USB 2.0 port
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • stereo speakers
  • headphone jack
  • mic input
  • SD/MS Pro Duo/xD Card slot
  • webcam
  • 58Wh lithium-ion non-removable battery
  • 335 x 234 x 23.8mm
  • 2006g
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-2640M processor
  • 14in (1366 x 768) glossy LED-backlit LCD
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • 8GB DDR3-1333MHz RAM
  • 750GB 7200rpm hard disk
  • nVidia GeForce GT 520M graphics with 1GB memory
  • DVD±RW drive
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • gigabit ethernet
  • HDMI port
  • 1 x USB 3.0 port
  • 1 x USB 2.0 port
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • stereo speakers
  • headphone jack
  • mic input
  • SD/MS Pro Duo/xD Card slot
  • webcam
  • 58Wh lithium-ion non-removable battery
  • 335 x 234 x 23.8mm
  • 2006g

OUR VERDICT

Dell's XPS 14z could be accused of looking rather like a MacBook Pro. If this was a deliberate ploy, it’s also a risky one, as few laptops can stand comparison with the MacBook Pro's design, build and feature set and still walk away with their reputations intact. Fortunately, the Dell XPS 14z is one that almost can. In all, there's a lot of laptop on offer here for under £1000, despite our mixed feelings about the display. A fine looking, sturdy and fast laptop with an attractive price tag, we've no hesitation in recommending it.

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