Dell XPS 14 (mid 2012) review: Dell XPS 14 (mid 2012)

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Category leading battery life. Great performance for a decent price. Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI and mechanical hard drive options make it a good "all rounder".

The Bad Shallow viewing angles, particularly on the verticals. Touchpad scrolling a little erratic in some applications. GeForce GT 630M brings limited benefits, especially in Dell's implementation.

The Bottom Line It's built well, performs well and is our new battery life king. At 2.1kg, it's heavier than most ultrabooks, and minor usability issues and shallow viewing angles could turn some off. If your focus in an ultrabook is purely performance and battery life though, then add this to your short list.

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Dell's XPS laptops are now out in force. Along with an XPS 13 refresh, there is also a 14-inch and a-not-quite-ultrabook XPS 15 that joins the club.

Not to be confused with the XPS 14z, or even the previous XPS 14 , the new XPS 14 comes in five different SKUs — from a Core i5 3317U, all the way up to an i7 3517U — with the top model packing a 512GB SSD. There are a few things included over standard notebook fare; the 1600x900 resolution screen, for instance, is quite welcome. We're a bit puzzled by the inclusion of the GeForce GT 630M, but more on that later.

Connectivity

  • USB 3.0: 2
  • Optical: None
  • Video: HDMI, mini-DisplayPort
  • Ethernet: Gigabit
  • Wireless: Dual channel 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0

The XPS 14 commits some of the same sins the original XPS 13 did — washed out screen colours as a result of poor viewing angles; shallow keyboard that is hard to adjust to; and you can't tell the thing is actually on when you press the power button, as it takes time for the screen to power up and the button itself is not lit. We found ourselves bending over to keyboard level to see if the back-lighting had turned on and the boot up process had begun.

One repented sin has been that of the Cypress touchpad, now thrown out in favour of standard Synaptics. While this improves the experience markedly, something weird is going on with Synaptics' scrolling settings in its drivers. While it worked fine in most places, in Steam it was sketchy and often unresponsive, something we haven't seen before. For the most part, Synaptics is fine, but Elan definitely packs the best hardware/drivers to date.

The added size of the 14 brings some more ports: while the original 13-inch features one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0, a headset jack and mini-DisplayPort, the 14 gets two USB 3.0 ports, headset jack, mini-DisplayPort, HDMI, drop-down gigabit Ethernet and an SD card reader.

Application performance

Our particular XPS 14 came with a Core i7 3517U at 1.9GHz, 8GB RAM and a 500GB mechanical hard drive that is complemented with a 32GB SSD cache, putting it at AU$1799.

Choose a benchmark: Handbrake | iTunes | Photoshop | Multimedia


Performance is excellent, all round, with the newer Ivy Bridge-powered CPUs making significant ground with their predecessors. We'll be very interested to see how the Core i5 variants hold up when we get one in.

Gaming performance

Our XPS 14 featured a GeForce 630M — indeed, all but the bottom rung SKU.

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Where to Buy

Dell XPS 14 (mid 2012)

Part Number: CNETDell XPS 14 (mid 2012)

Typical Price: $1,799.00

See manufacturer website for availability.