A typical 14-inch laptop is likely to be portable, but the 14z is particularly easy to carry around. Because of the small bezels around the display this laptop is actually just slightly larger than some laptops packing 13.1-inch or 13.3-inch displays. Combine this with a profile that’s less than an inch thick, and a weight of about four pounds, and you have a device that’s easy to slip in a bag.
Our review unit came with a six-cell battery, which is standard. With this battery the 14z was able to last an impressive six hours and thirty-two minutes in the Battery Eater Reader’s Test, and a respectable one hour and forty-three minutes in the more intense Standard Test. Typical web browsing will put you much closer to the former figure.
One quick note about that six-cell battery: it sticks out from the bottom of the laptop slightly. If you want a flush battery you have to take the optional four-cell. We advise that you stick with the six-cell and put up with the slight increase in bulk.
There are certainly laptops with better endurance, but not many, and they’re typically much more expensive or much smaller (i.e. a netbook). It’s nice to see robust battery life from a mid-size laptop that doesn’t cost a fortune.
Dell is one of the worst bloatware offenders today, and the 14z is just another victim of the company’s overzealous software strategy. There are several hokey desktop overlays installed by default, including an Accuweather widget and a row of folder and utility icons that seem entirely redundant with the desktop itself. Several of the choices, such as “Books,” launch pre-installed software instead of sending you to a folder or giving you an option to choose what you want to use to read e-books.
To make matters worse, Dell includes backup and update utilities that love to produce annoying notifications. If you choose to close them, they slide away using the slowest animation ever created by man.
With all of this said, you can simply uninstall the software and be done with it. There is nothing here that causes a performance problem.
As mentioned, our Inspiron 14z review unit arrived with a Core i5-2430M processor, which has a base clock speed of 2.4 GHz. This is a nice mid-range Core i5 processor, and in benchmarks, it proved capable of performance on par with other laptops we’ve reviewed. SiSoft Sandra’s Processor Arithmetic benchmark returned a combined score of 40.38 GOPS, which is on the high end among the Core i5 laptops we’ve reviewed. 7-Zip provided a more mid-range result of 6823.
PCMark 7, which provides a general overview of performance, returned a final score of 2183. That is a mid-range result among laptops with mechanical hard drives. The 14z did extremely well in Computation, but faltered in the Entertainment and System Storage categories.
3DMark 11 won’t run properly on this laptop because the Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics component is unable to handle DirectX 11. We instead relied on 3DMark 06, which returned an average result of 4579. That is right in line with similarly equipped competition, and indicative of a laptop that can play many modern 3D games, but only at reduced detail settings.
Overall, this laptop is a strong — but not exceptional — performer. We guessed this would be the case from the start, as there’s nothing exotic about the hardware used or the way it has been implemented. Most buyers will be happy with what is on offer here, so long as games are not a priority.
The Inspiron 14z lives up to its promise as an obtainable thin-and-light. It ticks off the three check-boxes that concern buyers looking for a portable laptop in this price range. It’s fast, it has good battery life, and it’s affordable.
Of course, this laptop isn’t hurt by the fact that is has a great keyboard and solid design. Anyone going in expecting only average quality will find themselves pleasantly surprised once they handle the 14z. This laptop looks and feels more expensive than its price tag suggests.
You will find the corners that have been cut, if you look hard enough. Touchpad quality is lackluster. The lack of a higher resolution display option is disappointing and some other laptops offer better audio quality. We’d also like to see a discrete graphics option — though Dell’s marketing department is probably concerned that this would step on the toes of its own XPS 14z, which does offer an optional Nvidia GT520M.
These complaints are not major concerns, however. What you receive is excellent for the price. Speaking of which, we recommend that buyers keep towards the lower end of this laptop’s price bracket. Higher-end models heap on the RAM (which isn’t needed) and offer slightly better processors. We feel our $649 review unit is the sweet spot, but the Core i3 powered $549 base model would be a fine choice for anyone on a shoe-string budget.
- Solid build quality
- Great keyboard
- Long battery life
- Affordable pricing
- Small touchpad
- No high-resolution display option
- Annoying bloatware
- No discrete graphics option