Dell XPS 14 Ultrabook (2012) Mini Review

Overview

I was given a budget and allowed to choose my work laptop. This was one of the best work ethic I have come across because it allows me to choose what is suitable and would like to use rather than being given something which you may or may not get on with / fit your purpose. I chose the Dell XPS 14.

Specification

Packaging


There were two boxes when it was received. The outer box was a very different, black cardboard box with only the Dell logo and delivery stickers. The black box itself makes it stand out.


Inside the are foam inserts holding a smaller box with box art. This looks to be a display box. Inside this box is contains the product itself. The box uses “natural” material such as bamboo material inside the boxes and inserts. All the packaging is similar to Apple products.

Exterior


The laptop itself is made of single (dare I say unibody) aluminum with rubber top and bottom. The top covers about 90% and leaves a thin edge of metal showing. Personally, I think this is a nice touch so your palms do not rest on the metal when typing especially when it’s hot or cold. The bottom is the same but has more depth to raise the laptop up and has bents crafted in. The rubber button stops the computer form sliding on desktop surfaces and also serves as a good temperature insulator. There is metal a hatch at the bottom which hides the Windows sticker.

The laptop does weigh a lot for an ultrabook (2.1kg). It’s not light and feels almost as heavy as a 13″ laptop but for the size is very compact for a 14″ screen.

Keyboard And Mouse


The Keyboard is backlit and uses the chicklet style keys. The touchpad is a single pad with no physical keys for the left and right clickers. It is multitouch capable but I felt it was not as good as the Apple touch pad because the scrolling wasn’t smooth and it didn’t always work. This may be down to the driver or the way Windows work. The most annoying thing about the touch pad is the lack of physical keys. Whilst aesthetically it’s very minimalistic the use is far worse from the look. If you want to click on left or the right mouse button you must not have any other finger touching the pad or it will detect it as a multitouch gesture and interprets it as a scroll gesture. This is evident when trying to drag something on screen.

Ports


Most of the ports are on the left side on the computer. The network jack is very cleverly designed to fit in the width which is smaller than a RJ45. There are no ports on the back or the front of the device.

SSD

I was lucky to catch the XPS 14 on offer so I was able to get 512GB SSD included. The system boots in less than 15 secs. Usually around 10! SSD have been around for some time but I have yet to migrate to one and I won’t be able to afford 512GB either. The boot speed will most definitely reduce the time I’m sitting in the morning waiting for it to start up but I also lost my docking station functionality and spend longer plugging in the power, USB hub and HDMI cable.

Graphics Card


For an Ultrabook to pack a dedicate graphics card is very good! Whilst it won’t be able to play some the latest and greatest games it will be sufficient for casual gaming and those pesky Flash videos. For a work machine it will most likely use the onboard Intel graphics for 99% of the time, keeping the load off the battery. I was disappointed to find out the system doesn’t use nVidia’s Optimus technology which means it relies on Dell to push out graphic driver updates. Stand nVidia graphics drivers are not compatible and at the time of writing the system is running on 298.xx and the latest version from nVidia is on 301.xx (approximately 1-2 versions behind). This is a major blow to the system if it was used for more 3D activity.

Summary

Overall this is a very compact machine and one that I would happily show off to clients. It’s not the lightest nor the most powerful system but it does the job in style. The battery lasted approximately 4 hours of constant use with wifi and screen brightness turned on near maximum. With power saving and “a light day at work” it will easily go over 6 hours.

About Danny

I.T software professional always studying and applying the knowledge gained and one way of doing this is to blog.

Danny also has participates in a part time project called Energy@Home [http://code.google.com/p/energyathome/] for monitoring energy usage on a premise.

Dedicated to I.T since studying pure Information Technology since the age of 16, Danny Tsang working in the field that he has aimed for since leaving school.

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