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Dell Inspiron 14z ultrabook: An ultrabook in name only, with an optical drive

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal | July 13, 2012
Intel's original Ultrabook concept referred to ultraportable, ultraslim Windows laptops with a premium design and strict constraints on thickness and specs. But these days, vendors seem to label every semislim ultraportable they sell as an Ultrabook, and Intel has stretched the definition to include laptops that aren't in the same aesthetic league.

The large, matte trackpad, which is located in the center of the keyboard deck, is accurate but a bit too sensitive. In my tests, the mouse jumped around every time I touched the trackpad. After some acclimation, however, I found the trackpad (which is multitouch-capable) pretty easy to use. The two large discrete mouse buttons on the trackpad are soft and easy to press, but seem a little flimsy.

Four buttons are located on the keyboard deck: the power button, a settings button that takes you to Windows Mobility Center, an audio button that opens Dell Audio software, and a programmable hotkey.

This Ultrabook offers only two USB ports (though both are USB 3.0), an HDMI port, an ethernet port, and a combination microphone/headphone jack. The ports on the left side of the machine (one of the USB ports, the ethernet port, and the HDMI port) are covered by little flaps, which are mostly just annoying.

Screen and Speakers

The Inspiron 14z's glossy 14-inch screen has a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. The screen looks generally good, with bright whites, slightly grayish blacks, and good color representation, but overall it's a little too dim, even at the highest brightness setting in a darkened room. On a more positive note, the range of acceptable viewing angles is pretty impressive, with little darkening or washing out when you move a few feet to either side of the screen.

High-definition video playback looks good on the 14z, thanks to the discrete graphics card. Audio quality is solid, though the speakers don't get nearly loud enough. Dell includes special MaxxAudio enhancing software, which works well and achieves clear sound, but doesn't solve the volume problem. Audio through the headphone jack sounds very clean--and if you're near anything noisy, you'll definitely want to wear headphones while working on this computer.

The Bottom Line

The Dell Inspiron 14z Ultrabook is actually a thin, light, general-purpose laptop with Ultrabook aspirations and an optical drive. Thanks to its Ivy Bridge processor, discrete graphics card, and 8GB of RAM, the Inspiron 14z delivers respectable performance, but Dell surrenders style and hardware integrity in the bargain.


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