Dell Inspiron 14z laptop review

An inspiringly designed budget notebook
Photo of Dell Inspiron 14z laptop
£589

This refresh of the Dell Inspiron 14z is the second laptop we’ve recently reviewed that plumps for a sporty red colour scheme along with black trim – and a very smart piece of hardware it looks, too. The 14z is also available in black as standard, and in this form you can knock a tenner off the price. We’d be tempted to stick with the red, but some may prefer the black or the slight saving.

Core specification
As a price-conscious notebook for those on a budget, the Inspiron 14z cuts one obvious corner, in that it relies on the integrated graphics of the Core
i5 2430M processor. 4GB of 1333MHz DDR3 system memory is also onboard, along with a decent-sized 640GB hard disk and a standard DVD writer.

Design
Fortunately, the build quality of this machine doesn’t suggest any corners have been cut here. The laptop is solidly built, and although the display lid is quite thin, it doesn’t feel flimsy in the slightest. The hinges open using a very smooth action. The Inspiron 14z is also pretty compact and at around 1.9kg, not too heavy, either – so it’s easy enough to carry about with you.

The keyboard is a well-spaced chiclet affair that’s comfortable to type on, and the touchpad is responsive – even if the buttons are on the stiff side. We found the occasional click didn’t register.

There is another slight downside when it comes to the physical side of this machine, though, and that’s the ports on board…

Covered ports
It’s not the number of ports we don’t like. There’s actually a plentiful range of connections provided – especially considering this is a lower-end portable – with a Displayport, HDMI port, a USB port and a generous helping of two USB 3.0 ports, along with a headphone socket and Ethernet port. The trouble is, these ports are all hidden beneath hinged plastic panels, the idea being that this makes the edges of the machine look neat when they’re not in use.

Dell Inspiron 14z

Unfortunately, they’re rather fiddly little things to open and close. The panel on the left-hand side that hides the HDMI and USB port didn’t want to click into place very easily when being closed. At any rate, these covers just get in the way when you’re plugging in cables. Forget neat, we’d settle for bare ports every time – it’s not like they’re particularly unsightly anyway.

Entertainment and gaming
The Inspiron’s 14in 1366×768 WLED display does well enough on the movie front, producing a reasonably bright picture with pretty good viewing angles, although the vertical plane is weaker than the horizontal. As with most laptops these days, it’s the glossy and reflective type of screen that Dell has employed here.

Dell Inspiron 14z

The 14z’s entertainment powers don’t quite stretch to gaming with any conviction, however, which isn’t surprising given the lack of a discrete video solution. It could manage to run DiRT 3 with low details at a just about palatable 25 frames per second, but even then it was still a bit jerky from time to time, causing us the odd unnecessary close encounter with a crash barrier.

A gamer’s machine the Inspiron most definitely isn’t, but it can perform with slightly older titles at a pinch, thanks to the reasonably powerful processor – which also produced pretty decent benchmark results under Windows.

Other features and battery life
In terms of the rest of the spec, you’ve got a webcam, Wi-Fi and memory card reader along with some decent software bits bundled by Dell. Granted, some of the latter you might not want, and they nag you with registration pop-ups from the get-go which is slightly tedious.

Overall, though, given the price and the range of connections provided along with this little lot, the 14z is pretty well specified in terms of trimmings.

The battery lasted well. Testing under light to normal Windows usage with medium brightness settings, the laptop managed to keep going for six hours before it headed for the hibernation hills.

Company: Dell

Website: http://www.dell.co.uk/

Contact: Dell on 0844 444 4699

Positives
  • Impressive build quality; good all-rounder at this price point.
Negative
  • No discrete graphics card; irritating port covers.

Verdict

Dell has produced a smart budget machine with the refreshed Inspiron. It's true that the laptop relies on integrated graphics, which means its power isn't everything when it comes to gaming. That said, the 14z is a good all-rounder that's well built and comes with a decent spec for the price.