Dell Inspiron 14z Ultrabook (5423)

Just like the 13z, for the price involved, the 14z does well. The main sticking point is the battery life, which has been outgunned by competitors.


7.5
CNET Rating

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About The Author

CNET Editor

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.


It's a weird space, that delta between 13.3 and 14-inch screens. Nothing highlights it more than Dell's Inspiron 13z and 14z Ultrabook (not to be confused with the plain old Inspiron 14z). The hardware inside is pretty much the same, although the 14-inch screen does use a Chimei panel rather than LG, the result being a slightly less saturated look. For reasons that confound us, the 14z is apparently an ultrabook, while the 13z is not. We don't think you'll notice.

Connectivity

  • USB 3.0: 2
  • Optical: DVD±RW
  • Video: HDMI
  • Ethernet: 100Mbit
  • Wireless: Single-channel 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0

The industrial design is pretty much the same, the big rounded corners and large screen bezel giving you a feeling that you're playing with a toy. The resolution of the screens are identical. The major differences, aside from screen size, include a DVD±RW drive at the cost of a USB 3.0 port and, unlike the 13z, you can't remove the lid to swap it out for another colour of your choice — not that Dell is selling those lids locally yet.

Fewer ports are covered by those very annoying flaps that get in the way of plugging things in. Hiding under the cursed covers, you'll find an HDMI port, 100Mbit Ethernet and a USB 3.0 port. On the other side, blessedly exposed, is another USB 3.0 port, SD card reader and headset jack.

The upshot of all this is: the 14-inch is what you get if you still need an optical drive. Sure, it comes with a 500GB drive in its base configuration rather than 320GB, but you can spec the 13z up to that if you want. The 14z gives you more options though — our review sample had an 8GB cache SSD inside, however the selling model features a 32GB mSATA drive, to give the old mechanical drive that extra boost.

Just like the 13z, you can opt for a second or third generation Core ULV processor up to Core i7, depending on your budget. A nice addition here, though, is the option of either a 128GB or 256GB solid state drive. The top AU$1199 model can even be equipped with an AMD Radeon HD 7570M, if Intel HD Graphics just don't do it for you.

The base model, selling for AU$799, comes with a Core i3 2367M @ 1.4GHz, 4GB RAM, and support for Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11n 2.4GHz. It's got a 6-cell battery rather than the 4-cell found in the 13z, although it is curiously rated at 44WHr, rather than the 49WHr found on its smaller brethren, sadly putting the larger laptop in a worse battery position.

At the top right, under the screen, there are three hardware buttons: one customisable, one to load laptop settings and one to change the audio profile. We had to install updated audio drivers in order for the audio mode button to do anything. The 14z does a better job with sound stage than the 13z, but it is still nothing to write home about.

Application performance

Choose a benchmark: Handbrake | iTunes | Photoshop | Multimedia


For the most part, the 14z keeps pace with the 13z, although usually a couple of seconds behind. It works perfectly as a day to day laptop, where tasks such as web-browsing, movie watching and office work are involved. If you need more performance, you can pay more to get a higher level processor inside.

Battery life


Here's the let down: with a lower rated battery than the 13z, but with more hardware, the 14z doesn't cope so well. It's still decent within the price-point, but machine's like HP's Envy 6 do much better.

Conclusion

Just like the 13z, for the price involved, the 14z does well. The main sticking point is the battery life, which has been outgunned by competitors.



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