Dell’s XPS 13 is hands down one of the nicest looking and well-built Ultrabooks in the market that come at quite a premium. The company only recently added another model to their Ultrabook portfolio, the XPS 14, which strangely looks nothing like the XPS 13. We expected this model to have the same design as the XPS 13 but with a larger screen. However, Dell has gone with a completely different design with the XPS 14 which makes us wonder how they’ve managed to qualify this as an Ultrabook. In any case, let’s see how well it fares and if it lives up to the mark.
Design and Build
The XPS 14 is a class apart when it comes to the design and build. The chassis is made of machined aluminium which gives it a very sturdy feel. There’s no noticeable flex anywhere, even with the lid, which makes it very durable in the long run. Dell has also used bonded Corning Gorilla Glass for the screen which makes it tough and resistant to scratches. They’ve done away with the carbon fiber base like the one on the XPS 13 and have switched to one with silicone finish. By Ultrabook standards, the XPS 14 does not fit the criteria at all. It’s not slim by any means and certainly not lightweight at 2.1kg.
Excellent design and build
For connectivity we have a Gigabit LAN jack, HDMI, DisplayPort and two USB 3.0 ports on the left while the right hand side features a card reader and the headphone jack. The battery indicator light is placed in the front and turns amber when charging. The XPS 14 does resemble the MacBook Pro a lot but then again when you’re using the same materials and design principles, it’s really hard to sidestep this. The backlit keyboard is very comfortable to use and is the same one used on the XPS 13. The sculpted keys give your fingers a good grip while typing and are well spaced out so it’s difficult to mix them up. Overall, Dell has once again done an excellent job with the design and build of the XPS 14. The notebook looks stunning and even though it’s not thin or light by Ultrabook standards, the attention to detail is impeccable.
We wish it had more USB ports, given the size
We received the base model for review, which comes with a Core i5-3317U Ivy Bridge CPU, 4GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive with a 32GB mSATA SSD for caching, and onboard graphics. Prices go up to Rs.1,20,000 for which you get more RAM and a dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 630M with 1GB GDDR5 memory. As long as you don’t plan on gaming then the base model should do nicely for even heavy computing tasks. The onboard HD 4000 graphics can easily handle 1080p video as well as a bit of casual gaming, so it’s not completely useless.
Software-wise, you get some utilities from Dell, including DataSafe Online backup and a webcam utility. You also get McAfee Security Center (30 day trial) and Office Starter 2012, which includes Word and Excel. Other services include one year Dell Online Backup up to 2GB.
Despite the Intel Core i5 onboard, the XPS 14 easily manages to keep up with the more powerful Core i7-based Ultrabooks. In SiSoft Sandra 2012, we got a ‘Processor Multimedia’ score of 82.56Mpix/s, which is amongst the highest we’ve seen in Ultrabooks. Disk read and write performance is also pretty good thanks to the 32GB SSD used for caching, although not as good as having a dedicated SSD. Still, with that small compromise, you do get a lot more storage. Our PCMark 7 test returned an overall score of 3260 points.
Comfortable backlit keyboard
The XPS 14 seldom heats up under regular usage and is very comfortable to use even over long stretches. You might not be too comfortable with it on your lap due to the weight, but it feels right at home on a desk. The rubberised padding used for the palm rest area makes it very comfortable to type on even for long durations. The backlighting is consistent across the keys and works well. We found the audio quality to be very good as well. Not only is the volume level loud, the quality of the sound is also very good with warm tones and clear and well defined mids and highs.
The larger body of the XPS 14 has given Dell the liberty to add a larger battery pack. The 69WHr 8-cell battery gave us an impressive battery life of 2 hours and 50 minutes in Battery Eater Pro, which is one of the best we’ve come across so far.
Verdict and Price in India
The XPS 14 Ultrabook is quite expensive and prices start at Rs.79,100 for the base model. The one thing that really annoys me is that Dell got away with the ‘Ultrabook’ sticker for the XPS 14, when it’s plainly not. Apart from using a ULV CPU and lacking a DVD drive, the two main traits that define an Ultrabook–light weight and slimness, are simply missing. As a notebook, it has an excellent design and build but it falls short on connectivity as you only get two USB ports, which is not forgivable when you design such a thick notebook. Just like the Dell Adamo, the XPS 14 is stuck uncomfortably between two different notebook categories, leaving it in limbo. It’s simply too expensive as a regular notebook and too heavy and fat to be an Ultrabook.
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