Friday, November 4, 2011

Dell XPS 14z Notebook Review

Beauty hurts. The first step towards a more robust design was created with XPS 15z, and now more compact 14-inch version is the logical progression. Like its big brother, the Dell XPS 14z hope to win the heart of customers with its good looks. He also solid material, but by ...

So, you liked shiny metallic silver Dell XPS 15z, but it was just a touch too big and too heavy? Help is at hand: Dell has just introduced a new XPS 14Z, which, as the name suggests, offers a 14-inch display case and a correspondingly smaller.

The 14z up to the traditional "Dell XPS" brand that has always stood for high performance with its powerful Intel Core i processors generation later the bridge of sand. The entry-level option is a i5-2430M, or you can go after the most powerful dual core i7-2640m.

While Intel Graphics HD 3000 graphics rendering takes care of the basic configuration, the more valuable models equipped with GeForce GT 520M graphics card and Nvidia's Optimus. In each case, a 7200 rpm hard drive is used. Sorry - but more on that later.

Price, the new Dell XPS 14Z is between 899 and 1049 €, depending on the settings chosen. Means of comparison: the higher the 15z starts XPS 840 million online purchases, and can be configured with up to a maximum of 1300 €.

Specifications Dell XPS 14z :
  • Processor : Intel Core i5 2410M 2.3 GHz
  • Mainboard : Intel HM67
  • Memory : 4096 MB, Hynix 2x2GB DDR3-1333
  • Graphics adapter : NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M - 1024 MB, Core: 740 MHz, Memory: 800 MHz, DDR3, 268.86
  • Display : 14 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, LGD0327, glossy: yes
  • Harddisk : Seagate ST9500423AS, 500GB 7200rpm
  • Soundcard : Realtek ALC269 @ Intel Cougar Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
  • Connections : 1 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, 1 HDMI, 1 DisplayPort, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: microphone, headphones, Card Reader: SD card reader (Realtek)
  • Networking : Atheros AR8151 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230 (abgn)
  • Optical drive : HL-DT-ST DVD+-RW GS30N
  • Size : height x width x depth (in mm): 23 x 336 x 235
  • Weight : 2.031 kg Power Supply: 0.51 kg
  • Battery : 58 Wh Lithium-Ion
  • Price : 949 Euro
  • Operating System : Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
  • Additional features : Webcam: 1.3 MPix, 12 Months Warranty
If you saw the XPS 15z, you know what this looks like a small 14z. Before us, we have what is virtually a perfect copy of the large model, with slightly smaller dimensions. To give the details, we're talking about 336 x 235 x 23 mm to 385 x 260 x 25 mm, at least 5 cm, 3 cm wide and a height of less than a little thinner. Weight: 2,020 g, approximately a half pound lighter than the 15z. So it's a clear victory for the 14z regard to portability.

As for the materials used, the 14z also has aluminum parts that are perfectly aligned in a symphony of colors, the board of the basic unit of money, the key steel case blue - separated by a thin chrome bar - dark box gray screen with a rubber feel to it, and finally, the display of the cover itself is new money. The chiclet-style keyboard with money, backlit buttons fits perfectly into the overall visual scheme. Who is responsible for this area to be sure of the gratitude of all lovers of design clients.

XPS 14z is also nice in his trade. We could not find any paint defects or other weak point, except that the joints of the pieces on the trailing edge, around the part that covers the ports are visible, but always clean finish. Two minor criticisms always the case: plastic imitation of the central hinge is still recognized as a quick look cheap and the display itself also wobbles slightly when you adjust the angle. All in all, you must call the case a success.

We were also curious to see what things look like inside the XPS 14z. After a very difficult movement access panel on the bottom of the laptop, in addition to live is also guaranteed with plastic hooks that have gained access to internal components. This statement opens the album and sticks of RAM, can be easily removed and replaced. Also remove any accumulation of dust in the cooling fins of the two heat sinks.

Most ports on the Dell XPS 15z were on the left side of the back box, providing access, but away from the area potentially embarrassing side of the laptop. With the XPS 14z, however, almost all the ports have moved to the rear.

It's a good idea in principle but not a single USB port is in a visible location directly, simply plug a USB drive or digital camera, a small device or another smartphone, this apparent advantage is moving rapidly on the downside of the class.

The left side is now offering the SD card slot 3.5 mm connector for headphones and microphone. In the back, we now have a Kensington lock, outlet, miniDisplayPort, HDMI, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, and RJ-45 LAN port.

We have nothing against the quality of the ports, our tests are discussed below. The only thing that hurts is the lack of one, the easy access USB port on one side.

The USB 3.0 port reached transfer rates of up to 150 MB / s in our tests, slightly less than the M18x Alienware (165 MB / s) which has the same Intel SSD 510 (SM10510 AsMedia three cases USB chipset). We measured a maximum transfer speed of 28.4 MB / s for USB 2.0 ports, which is within specification.

We also tested our 27-inch miniDisplayPort test track. Max resolution 2560 x 1440 pixels the port was not problem.


WLAN, LAN and Bluetooth, the Dell XPS 14Z is expected at the level of connectivity in terms of communication. This also applies to the power of individual standards on closer examination, the WLAN, we got about 45 MB of our tests (and a few 'years, the TEW-633GR router). Gigabit LAN ran a little 'disappointing 815 MB (see M18x: 851 MB), for example, Sandy Bridge experimental plant operated 940 MB here.

The integrated webcam at the screen provides an acceptable image to our interlocutor. The quality of sound transmitted by the microphone is also very good.

At the time of this writing, no details yet available on the warranty, but we can assume that the same options that are available for large XPS 15z. This means: 1 year warranty included, 1 year on-site service for about 25 euros more, and an extension of up to 3 years next day on-site service for around 250 Euros.

Input Devices
Our evaluation of the keyboard on this model has proven to be a bit more problematic. In principle it should be the same keyboard used in the model of the Dell XPS 15z great as the difference in size between the two was offset by the use of narrow openings for the speakers beside the keyboard. The appearance and layout and key size are the same as the larger model.

Typing feel of this model, like the 15z, can be described as a short distance of major depression a little 'confused tactile response point. Another critic called spongy, especially in direct comparison with those used in the latest MacBook. In the end, it's probably down to personal preferences, whether to accept or reject. We did both agree that we had a company install the appropriate keyboard - unfortunately this is not always the memory books.

Again, Dell has been able to use the same units as the 15z. The touchpad is quite impressive with its high surface area, good reactivity and physical properties, and its two buttons, with a generous distance from depression and produces a very quiet shutter. In contrast to the XPS 15z test model (which has had a significant pre-sample), multi-touch input 14Z test this model worked smoothly enough to be practical for everyday use.

The 14-inch screen used in this model were hidden behind a plastic plate by Dell. This gives the visual effect of a design peak-to-edge, with only display surrounded by a rubber lip that runs around it, which replaces the rubber plugs that normally keep a distance between the cover and base.

But as soon as you turn off the machine, the optical illusion of a panel that fills the entire eyelid becomes clear. While the panel is "only" 5 mm inwards from the edge to the left and right, there are 12 and 8 mm between it and the top and bottom edges, respectively.

Now the facts LGD0327 panel used here: a maximum resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels is standard fare, but it's fine on the screen diagonal. You may be angry if you are looking to work closely with multiple windows open at once, in this case, you should contact an external monitor.

For my testing of the Dell XPS 14Z, we had two engines: a near-final pre-sample, and also the retail-ready model. The measures we have taken two screens varies a bit 'from each other, if they have the same model numbers. Machines for trade, we measured a maximum brightness of 225 cd / m², with an average of 203.9 cd / m². The prototype machine was approximately 20 cd / m² darker.

Even if the brightness is good in and of itself, we found the black level, which plays a crucial role in determining the image contrast, to be an obvious weakness: 1.51 cd / m². This will bring up the contrast 141:1 maximum brightness at maximum low (144:1 100 cd / m²). This can also be seen with the naked eye, for example, a movie dark, or on-screen graphics and games, where the black parts really look more gray than black.

You can also say that the screen quality is not very large due to the color space that can be represented. Compared to sRGB, the panel is left behind. Business users of photography and graphics fields will not be happy with that, but should not have much effect on the average consumer. The contrast values ​​are much poorer than a consideration for them.

This is a thin 14-inch machine weighs only two pounds, the question of external use, and use the move is important. The average brightness of 200 cd / m², the XPS 14Z should in theory be a good opportunity, but not decrease the brightness of 180 cd / m², while running on battery. We have not found a way around this, even if the BIOS.

Limited brightness, contrast, below average and a reflective screen surface, which unfortunately does not look good practical use of a laptop, while outside. Need to find a well-shaded spot, if you want to be able to make the contents of the screen.

While viewing angles along the horizontal line of sight is correct, you can very quickly get annoying distortion of the image when the angle of the screen is set. This means that the vertical angle to be adjusted continuously, if you use the machine on your lap.

As already described in the opening, the Dell XPS 14z is available with two different processors, and two different graphics devices. The entry-level option is an Intel Core i5-2430M processor, the successor to the popular 2410M CPU with clock speed of something better (2.3 to 2.9 GHz with 2.4 to 2410M against 2430M 3.0 GHz).

Our reference test that comes from Dell XPS 14z sample with a pre-2410M CPU, which means that the results could be slightly, but very slightly, in general, lower than the CPU in the 2430M series model. We also add some tests with results from XPS 14z detailed features of the processor 2640m, currently the most powerful dual-core processor is in the range Intel Sandy Bridge. This allows us to define the upper and lower markers of the Dell XPS 14z is the power range.

Both machines are based on NVIDIA GeForce GT 520 for their image processing, it will automatically use the Optimus Graphics HD 3000 is an integrated processor, which is trying to find the best possible configuration for each application situation. The cheapest Dell XPS 14Z, dedicated graphics card is omitted, and the Intel integrated graphics, which covers everything.

This is more than enough, if the laptop is used mainly for office work. In fact, the GT 520 can only be the start of the Intel integrated solution for a small margin of power. But the advantage of the Nvidia graphics, a wide range of integrated features that are very positive regarding the use of multimedia (audio and video). How computer games, the GT 520 to give a significant benefit of a few individual games, more on that later. Nvidia driver also supports the further advantage of the GT 520 is calculated

About the drivers: our production model XPS 15z had a total of 268, 86 relatively old drivers preinstalled. Our attempt to install the latest version of Nvidia 280.26 was a definite failure. According to information from Dell, however, the 14z must be supported by the Green NVIDIA drivers in the future.

In our tests, we also noticed that the latency that we observed using the DPC Latency Checker, continued to turn briefly outside the Green Zone when WLAN is activated. Without WLAN, always remaining in the green zone. This may be of interest to users working with audio and video streaming.

Application Performance

To start, we had to go to a more practical applications, such as demanding but potentially Photoshop CS 5.1 by example. Manipulation of RAW photos from a digital SLR camera was pleasantly quick (filter) and no long waits.

The traditional hard drive turned out to be a more limiting factor than the processor. The processor is almost never reached the mark of 100% utilization during our test, but the hard drive is standard, although it is one of the fastest 7200 rpm models.

Same with Premiere Elements (video editing), we could edit and add transitions in Big Buck Bunny at 1080p with no problem. We have not noticed any annoying delays. And it is also true here that the loading of data and clips were a burden on your hard drive, but not the CPU, even entry-level i5 2430M (2410M tested) had enough power for these applications.

In general, it's a shame that Dell does not offer a solid state drive faster, at least as a configuration option, which would have fit perfectly with the concept of high performance XPS series. Users who want one will have to take matters into their own hands.

System policies, which we did, our XPS 14Z pre-sample (2410M, GT520M) achieved good results, presenting itself as more than half a league similar portable devices. XPS and retail data Top Model 14Z was able to do even better, with 8010 points PCMark Vantage, the top-spec laptop is at the same level of the HP EliteBook 8560p, for example (2540M, 6470M HD). The basic configuration, the sample was not finished so far is 7604 points.

7 results in PCMark testing was the same: to reach 2010 points ranging from (pre-sample 2410M) with up to 2236 points (2640m, a high-end), the result is equally impressive when it is on the level of the HP EliteBook 6460b ( 2520M/HD 3000) or the same level Dell Inspiron 14Z (2430M/HD 3000) which was recently again.

If the SSD is used, these results would look different, and start-ups would be greatly accelerated along with the time needed Launching programs and various documents to download, even if the 7200 rpm HDD is used here to give some lightweight benefits of the standard 5400-rpm. Cons: hard drives are also faster much more difficult than their counterparts, which rotate more leisurely pace.

Video Performance
HD video playback is a simple combination of Core i5 and GeForce GT 520 with resolution of 1080p H.264 can be played fluently with Windows Media Player and support for the 8% of CPU and GeForce video engine of 24% for the use. 2K and video playback through VLC without support GPU could also simply load the CPU up to 20% utilization.

The unique system will reach its limits with 4K Flash and YouTube videos. Internet Explorer 9 4K video game, "Life in the Garden", but only with heavy masses of stuttering and dropped frames. However, Google Chrome is able to play without stuttering problems in a few at first, even if the CPU usage would require about 90%. In 1080, both browsers had no problems at all, CPU utilization of 23%.

CPU performance / throttle

We did observe some limited testing machine CPU up the hardware configuration of the system at full load (at room temperature at 23 ° C). In the stress test the CPU temperature rose to about 95 ° C, heating the GPU up to 94 ° C, and then strangled 2640m 800 MHz, when the internal temperature of the chips to fall to around 80 ° C and the CPU speed back up to 2.8 GHz This sequence is repeated.

Our basic configuration of the GPU and the CPU has reached a temperature below the limit of 99 ° C without limitation (at room temperature to 21 ° C). But even a small obstacle near the air intake was enough to tip the system on, and then the CPU throttled here.

Total cooling system could operate more or less in its border with the CPU and about 35W 17W TDP of the graphics card GT520M. The hot summer days, it could become a problem. In realistic scenarios we could not observe the limitations that result from suffocation. In benchmarking tests Cinebench (R10 single core) CPU Turbo 2640m bandwidth is used to its full potential from 3.3 to 3.4 GHz for example.

Graphics Performance

Nvidia GT 520 used in this entry-level dedicated graphics card. Can not ignore the clear on Intel HD 3000 (integrated in CPU) for all applications, but the individual games can benefit from the graphics card because of a better driver customization, while the various scenarios of multimedia applications can be used as a result of the characteristics Special (PureVideo HD, CUDA 2.1 DirectCompute ObenCL ...). However, fans of computer games should avoid this GPU. For them, the GeForce GT 540M is the lowest level of the scale to make a choice of products.

We tested the performance of graphics cards with the help of Futuremark 3D Mark tests, among other things. In 3D Mark Vantage, the output level of the plant samples were placed in finished 2277 points (PhysX disabled), with discreetly between the same machine (Asus 2410M/GT520M U30D: 2281 points).

Our set-up Top 2640m CPU only managed a little 'better here at 2332 points, moving closer to the same P43SJ Asus (2410M/GT520M), for example. To compare: the machines with Intel HD Graphics 3000, sat a short distance from the back of this test, with results up to 2000 points.

In the last test of 3DMark 11, we carried out a range of 450 points (2410M) to 566 points (2640m). These results also perfectly into the image we expect the GT 520M. In a similar level or slightly above is AMD Radeon 6470M for example.

Mass storage
For the XPS series 14z, Dell has gone to start with traditional hard drives with a speed of 7200 rpm. In our model pre-test sample, a Seagate ST9500423AS with a capacity of 500 GB has been used, while our top model specifications retail comes with a 750 GB hard drive is Western Digital (WDC WD7500BPKT).

When comparing the Seagate with its competitors, it will be towards the bottom half of the standings at 7200 rpm hard drive that we tested, while the WD hard drive is more effective than good results in the HDTune benchmark test. A very noticeable vibration will not be ready to further strengthen our model of retailing, but the sound was still on the hard drive is often stronger than the fan, so that the laptop is always clearly audible.

Of course, the ideal solution would be an SSD fast and quiet. But the normal 2.5 "was used in the same country, you can upgrade themselves.

Gaming Verdict
As already observed in many previous tests on the graphics card Nvidia 520M GT, the GPU is not your first choice when looking for the best possible performance for modern games. However, some recent and older titles are definitely playing in the low to high settings and graphics, as shown in the table below.

Again, depending on the game, the benefits of the GT 520M compared to the HD 3000 Integrated Graphics is obvious. Far Cry 2 benchmark, for example, showed 32 fps on high graphics setting with GT 520M, unlike the integrated HD 3000, which still provides less than 20 fps. The results of FIFA 12 was similar, with 63 fps on high graphics settings compared to 46 fps for HD 3000th

Of course, only in rare cases, this is enough for a stage in the implementation of graphics that you are able to choose, but it is already playable a security buffer for smooth gameplay. You can also take advantage of NVIDIA drivers technically more mature.

System Noise
If you consider the fan noise which is integrated in the housing, the Dell XPS 14z is always in the background during office and outside the system load of any note. It is 7200 rpm drive that allows the constant hum audible.

When the computer is on, the fan starts immediately and permanently increase your speed when necessary. You can also become very important, even when on the Internet, which seems very difficult. The two machines we tested produced a similar type of noise, but the 7200 rpm hard drive in the model of retail with the highest specifications worked much more slowly.

In the diagram of the diffusion of sound (produced with Arta, a measurement related to MCE-8000 and USB sound card 6Fire DMX) can clearly see the jump to 125 Hz at 36 dB. This could be due to the strong vibration of the hard drive (in the sample pre-).

Dell XPS 14z proves to be something of a double-edged sword when it comes to surface temperatures. With the use of light (idle desktop) or not at all, it remains constant at a comfortable temperature.

But that's another story, with heavy use, not just the inner core quickly becomes eligible for higher temperatures, but also the whole body has a very high temperature up to 46 and 47 ° C, the upper and underside of the base accordingly. Hotspot is no doubt that the position of the GPU and the CPU, which is very close to each other in a rear corner.

As described in "choke" section, the cooling system seems to have some problems with the internal components in what is after all a very thin case.

Dell XPS 14z has two stereo speakers for left and right of the keyboard that sends the sound up to the user through openings in the cabinet. The sound quality can be described as very close and clean, but perhaps a little thin and lacking bass. In direct comparison with the small speakers in the MacBook Pro 13 Product XPS 14z sound slightly better.

The audio output port (3.5 mm) did well without any hiss or static when tested with a GHS1 AKG headphones, and delivered a maximum amount of good. Even the high ohmic AKG K701 was monitored with a sufficient amount (maximum volume).

Battery life
Our pre-basic specification shows everything is allowed 14.8 watts at idle. Our measurements with high CPU specifications 2640m version covers the same range. Only when under stress of our stress test, increased high-spec model a little more basic model with 2410M CPU, with a maximum of 83 watts. Power 90 watts, however, is large enough to handle this.

The interior of the box Dell has included a 58 Wh lithium-ion, which is screwed, but can in principle be exchanged. In combination with energy consumption, as described above, we obtain an expected maximum life of about 6.5 hours (tested with Battery Eater test drive, screen brightness at a minimum, WLAN off , power save mode). Realistic daily use when you surf the web, for example, a range of about 5 hours expected.

Under stress, the XPS 14z last for only about 1.5 hours on a full charge. As long as you choose 'high performance profile "in Windows Energy Manager, you can also avoid reducing the CPU performance when using the battery. The" Dell power profile "on the other hand, holds the CPU 80% (2 points against CB 2.47 CPU test 11).

In "verdict" on our review of the Dell XPS 15z, which was launched prior to this model, so hopefully in the direction of models yet to come, we are now faced with reality.

With matter, Dell has done almost everything right, especially with regard to the visual effect. XPS 14z is as elegant as its big brother, and will look good in any environment imaginable. The successful harmonization of colors and shades with aluminum made an excellent impression.

The first weak point is the port, first and foremost, the decision to place almost all the ports on the back, leaving no one USB on the side, is incomprehensible to us. This means that even plug in a USB drive simply requires awkward groping behind the machine. If you look in the book, the reason for this becomes clear, as space is limited on the motherboard, but it does not change the fact that it is inconvenient for the user.

Power supplies that Dell has chosen to correspond in large part to the larger Dell XPS 15z. The keyboard has LED backlighting, and a very spacious layout. Touch can be a bit 'vague, or even porous, based on your selection.

The second weakness is undoubtedly the point of view. You can not complain a bit more brightness of 200 cd / m², although we have seen better. However, the contrast ratio of 144:1 only evil indeed, especially in view of the image of the high-end XPS series. That makes it almost irrelevant that the color space is only an entry-level standard, the surface of the screen that reflects allows outdoor use is virtually impossible, and that the viewing angles are not the best.

As for power, you can be happy with the high performance you get from the latest Intel Pentium. The 7200 rpm hard drive does not rate slightly better than the usual models 5400 rpm, which is manifested in the success of the application benchmarks, but the reverse is the result of higher noise. It's a mystery to us why Dell has not systematically use SSD line up their portfolio of multimedia laptop (with a price match!).

Graphics performance of the GT 520M is low on the side, but the laptop probably would not have been able to take much more than that in terms of cooling capacity, as is already difficult to maintain the base temperature and the case under the control of stress.

On the positive side: the life span of more than 6 hours means that meets the expectations of mobility that have a thin 14-inch machine.

Overall, we see little advantage for choosing this Dell XPS 14Z more than its bigger brother, the XPS 15z, in addition to a slightly more compact, lighter weight and 500 g, 15z is an obvious advantage in the first place, and a display much better (available FHD) and the battery life is better too.

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