Dell Inspiron 14z Review

Discussion in 'Notebook News and Reviews' started by Jerry Jackson, Oct 23, 2009.

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  1. Jerry Jackson

    Jerry Jackson Administrator NBR Reviewer

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    Dell spent most of 2009 making their laptops as thin and light as possible. Dell even went as far as adding a "z" to the names of the thinnest and lightest notebooks that offer the best battery life in each category. To that end, the Inspiron 14z offers consumers a laptop that promises "66% better battery life" for a modest price increase. Is the Inspiron 14z as impressive as it sounds? Keep reading to find out.

    Dell Inspiron 14z (Cherry Red) Specifications:

    • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo CULV SU7300 (1.3GHz, 800MHz, 3MB)
    • OS: Windows 7 Premium (64-bit)
    • Memory: 3GB Shared Dual Channel DDR3 at 1066MHz
    • Storage: 250GB 5400rpm HDD
    • Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X4500HD
    • Display: 14.0” HD (1366x768) WLED Display and webcam
    • Optical Drive: 8x CD/DVD burner (DVD/-RW/R) with Dual-Layer
    • Wireless: Intel Wireless 5100n
    • Battery: 6-cell Lithium Ion battery (48.8 WHr)
    • Dimensions: 1.0"-1.5" x 13.3" x 9.4" (H x W x D)
    • Weight: 4 lbs, 9.9 oz
    • Retail Price as configured: $839

    [​IMG]

    Build and Design
    The design of the Inspiron 14z looks virtually identical to the Inspiron 14. The chief differences here are that the Inspiron 14z uses an Intel CULV processor, 6-cell battery and WLED display ... all of which are intended to extend battery life. At first glance, the Inspiron 14z looks like an average budget notebook with a 14-inch display. The plastic construction, average screen resolution, and lack of a backlit keyboard certainly don't give this laptop the same premium look and feel as the Dell Studio 14z.

    The Inspiron 14z feels pretty durable despite the fact that the notebook chassis is constructed from relatively thin plastics. The only areas that suffered from flex were just above the keyboard next to the battery and the back of the display lid. If you press on the lid with your fingers you will create screen distortions, and you'll hear some minor plastic creaking if you press down next to the battery. There is some minimal flex on the top of the right palmrest next to the optical drive, but you have to press pretty hard to make that happen.

    [​IMG]

    When closed the Inspiron 14z looks thin compared to budget laptops from several years ago, but the weight of the 6-cell battery makes this system a bit too heavy to quality for the "thin and light" category today. The "Cherry Red" screen lid gives the Inspiron a nice candy-covered look, but Dell charges a $40 premium for the privilege of selecting red instead of black. Usually I don't complain about that type of surcharge from the Dell Design Studio which offers your choice of more than 100 different designs by various artisits, but charging $40 to stick a chuck of red plastic on a notebook is a little excessive.

    [​IMG]

    The bottom of the notebook features the battery and access plates for the hard drive and RAM. There isn't much to talk about here other than to briefly mention the location of the two speakers on the bottom of the front edge (more on that later).

    [​IMG]

    Screen and Speakers
    The 14-inch high-definition (1366 x 768) panel on the Dell Inspiron 14z isn't quite as nice as the vibrant 1600 x 900 screen used on our review unit of the Studio 14z. The colors on this screen are generally good but contrast wasn't as impressive. The WLED backlighting in our review unit is pretty even and offers a range of brightness settings. Yes, it is a 16:9 screen ratio, but that's the new standard ... we all have to live with it. Horizontal viewing angles are extremely good, so you won't have any trouble sharing a movie with the person sitting next to you on a plane. Vertical viewing angles are average or below average with colors quickly washing out when viewed from above and colors begining to distort and invert as you move the screen back.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I was pretty impressed with the stereo speakers on the Dell Studio 14z, but I can't say much in favor of the speakers on the Inspiron 14z. The stereo speakers produce average sound quality and are located beneath the front edge of the notebook palmrests firing downward at your lap. I usually call this type of audio "crotch speakers" because the speakers aren't pointed up toward the user. If you're using the Inspiron 14z on a desk then the audio from the speakers "bounces" off the hard desk surface and it sounds okay, but if you're using this PC as a "laptop" then the sound is going to be muffled.

    Bottom line, the speakers aren't horrible ... but the location isn't helping matters. You'll probably want to use a good set of headphones with this notebook, and the headphone jack produces clear, distortion-free sound.

    Keyboard and Touchpad
    The keyboard on our review unit has full-sized keys with acceptable key spacing and an excellentdepth tothe key throw. Each key has a textured black finish and a relatively flat surface. The keyboard is extremely firm so you won't have to worry about keyboard flex while typing. There is a hint of flex in the keys on the right side of the keyboard directly above the optical drive, but you have to press down very hard to create flex in this area. My only minor aggravation is that the keyboard isn't available with optional backlighting ... making it harder to type in a dark classroom or dorm room.

    [​IMG]

    The multi-touch, gesture-based touchpad is pretty average for a 14-inch notebook and the dual touchpad buttons have deep feedback with quiet clicks. The touchpad itself is an Synaptics model that uses Dell proprietary touchpad drivers, though I found the standard Synaptics drivers work as well. The touchpad was reasonably responsive with good sensitivity and very little lag. Touchpad accuracy was a bit off at times, but that may be correctable by tweaking the drivers.

    [​IMG]

    Ports and Features
    The port selection on the Inspiron 14z is retty average for a budget 14-inch notebook with one or two exceptions. Dell included three USB ports, VGA and HDMI video out ports, Ethernet, and a multi-format memory card reader. Unlike the Studio 14z, which sacrifices an optical drive for the sake of portability, the Inspiron 14z includes a standard 8x CD/DVD burner with dual-layer support. The Inspiron 14z lacks an ExpressCard slot, FireWire, and eSATA, so if those ports are important to you then you'll need to look elsewhere.

    [​IMG]
    Front: Microphone and headphone jacks

    [​IMG]
    Rear: Screen hinges and battery

    [​IMG]
    Left: Kensington lock slot, heat vent, VGA, HDMI, Ethernet, USB, and memory card reader

    [​IMG]
    Right: Two USB ports, optical drive, and power jack

    <!--nextpage--><!--pagetitle:Dell Inspiron 14z Performance, Benchmarks and Conclusion-->

    Performance
    The performance of the Inspiron 14z with an Intel Core 2 Duo CULV SU7300 processor and Intel X4500HD integrated graphics is good enough for typical daily activities (browsing the web, typing documents in Microsoft Office, or making simple edits to your digital photos or videos) but this laptop certainly won't win any awards for performance.

    As previously mentioned, the Inspiron 14z gets its "z" designation from the use of the Intel CULV processors ... in this case, the 1.3GHz SU7300. This gives the Inspiron 14z the advantage of better battery life at the expense of overall performance. In fact, the Inspiron 14z falls somewhere between a budget netbook with an Intel Atom processor and a typical full-featured notebook using a standard Intel Core 2 Duo processor. In other words, the Inspiron 14z has enough power to serve your basic needs as a family PC, but don't expect to play the newest 3D games or run the latest photo and video editing applications at extremely fast speeds. The only thing that might seem a little odd about this level of performance is the price.

    In fact,the $799 starting price for the Inspiron 14z exceeds the $699 starting price of the Studio 14z. Considering that the Studio 14z provides superior performance it's hard to justify the price tag of this Inspiron. You can buy a netbook that has better battery life for less money! True, the Inspiron 14z offers better performance than your average netbook, but it's downright odd that Dell is trying to sell this for more than the cost of a superior laptop.

    wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
    [​IMG]

    PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
    [​IMG]

    3DMark06 measures video and gaming performance (higher scores mean better performance):
    [​IMG]

    All of the 3DMark06 scores for all of the systems listed above were run at 1280 x 800 resolution (for 16:10 ratio screens) or 1280 x 768 resolution (for 16:9 ratio screens).

    HDTune storage drive performance results:
    [​IMG]

    Battery
    The 6-cell 48.8 WHr battery does a pretty good job overall. With the screen brightness set to 70%, wireless active, and the Windows 7 power profile set to "Balanced" the Inspiron 14zstayed on for 5 hours and 54 minutes. For use in the classroom or on your lap in front of the TV this amount of battery life was fine, but it isn't quite as impressive as we expected based on Dell's marketing of "66% better battery life." That said, it's worth mentioning that the default "balanced" power profile under Windows 7 will automatically dim the screen after a short period of inactivity ... which will extend the battery life even more compared to keeping the screen set to 70% brightness.

    Heat and Noise
    The cooling system does a reasonablyimpressive job keeping the external temperatures down. After extended periods of use the keyboard and touchpad areas get warm, but temperatures remain well below 100 degreesFahrenheit at all times. The temperature readings below were taken after stressing the system with performance benchmarks and web browsing for 60 minutes.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Noise levels are fairly quiet when running on battery as the fan produces a constant weak "hum" as hot air is pushed out. The fan gets louder when the laptop is stressed running benchmarks and plugged into the AC adapter, but the fan should only benoticeable by others in a very, VERY quiet room.

    Conclusion
    The Dell Inspiron 14z is a basic 14-inch notebook that delivers good battery life at the expense of performace.If your childoryourfamily is looking for aconvenient laptop for general use then the Inspiron 14z can handle daily tasks with ease. That said, the overall price/performance ratio is a little hard to justify when the Dell Studio 14z offers better performance at a lower price.

    The fact that the Inspiron 14z includes an optical drive while many CULV-equipped laptops do not provides some justification for buying this notebook. However, if performance is more important to you than battery life then the Inspiron 14z probably shouldn't be at the top of your shopping list. Still, if you want a notebook with more power than a netbook and better battery life than the average notebook then the Inspiron 14z is worth a look.

    Pros:

    • Good battery life
    • Attractive design
    • Firm keyboard

    Cons:

    • Weak performance
    • No ExpressCard slot
    • No backlit keyboard option

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    Last edited by a moderator: May 12, 2015
  2. Andrew Baxter

    Andrew Baxter -

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    I thought maybe you had looked at Dell's website during a weird pricing mistake, but that's not the case, they do indeed charge $100 more for an inferior laptop. The Inspiron 14z is also hard to find on their site, it's an up-sell in the Inspiron 14 area and nowhere is it listed in their menu navigation. Strange marketing and strange pricing, it seems to me Dell's product management went haywire somewhere here; the Inspiron 14, Inspiron 14z and Studio 14z should not all exist together unless the aim is confusion to us poor consumers :confused:
     
  3. Greg

    Greg Notebook Nobel Laureate

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    Just wait...in a week or two we'll see coupons come out for the i14z. That way Dell can sell it cheaper, and people think they are getting $200-300 off and practically getting it for a steal.

    Honestly, Dell needs to focus on offering higher quality...not higher quantity.
     
  4. Serg

    Serg Nowhere - Everywhere

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    Money money! That is why Greg.

    Nice review. Thanks! But this laptop is way to expensive for the specs...you can get an Asus UL30 which is smaller, gives the same performance and a much longer battery life.
     
  5. Darwin11

    Darwin11 Notebook Enthusiast

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    Not impressive. I looked at the new Sony CW yesterday. Looked pretty nice and is in this price range. Plus Dell nickels and dimes you for every add-on.
     
  6. WarcraftGod

    WarcraftGod Notebook Enthusiast

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    Wait so...they added in a low voltage processor and threw in a new optical drive?.. for like 200$ more than the original 14z T_T
     
  7. Jerry Jackson

    Jerry Jackson Administrator NBR Reviewer

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    Don't forget the $40 extra for the red lid. Those red plastics sure are expensive. :rolleyes:

    Oh, and the "Studio" 14z and the "Inspiron" 14z are not the same model ... and the Inspiron 14z is not intended to replace the Studio 14z. The "z" designation in the Dell lineup simply means it's the thinner/lighter/better battery life version of that model.
     
  8. compsavy

    compsavy Notebook Deity

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    Online the drivers for this model says the touchpad is a Synaptics not an Alps. Is that a typo?
     
  9. Jerry Jackson

    Jerry Jackson Administrator NBR Reviewer

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    Indeed it is. I was working on another Dell notebook at the same time that uses Synaptics. It's the down side to manufacturers using different OEMs for the parts on their various notebooks.
     
  10. allfiredup

    allfiredup Notebook Virtuoso

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    The Inspiron 14z and 15z were announced weeks ago, but they're very difficult to locate on the Del website (as you pointed out)!? The 15z also appears as an upsell on the regular Inspiron 15 page.

    Then on the Dell Small & Medium Business website, the Inspiron 14z and 15z are simple to find- LINK
     
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