The Dell Inspiron 14z isn't part of the peacock crowd that flaunt themselves with bright designs but rather offers a sleek, aluminium design packed with decent specs.
Our model came equipped with a 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-2430M processor paired up with 4GB RAM. It's available later this week direct from Dell for £629 which incudes those pesky postage and packaging costs too.
Design and build quality
The 14z isn't one of the most remarkable looking laptops you could go for -- there's no swirling patterns or searingly bright colours here. Instead, it offers a more sophisticated appearance that would look at home in a business class lounge or atop a glass desk on the 16th floor of some swanky office block.
Our model came with a dark grey colouring but in certain lights gave off a more reddish-brown hue that we actually found quite attractive -- it certainly added an extra touch of class to the aesthetics.
The shell is made from brushed aluminium that -- apart from giving it a more premium feel -- made the whole thing feel more robust. There was a fair bit of flex in the lid, which we weren't too keen on, but the metal casing feels like it can take a few knocks, so we wouldn't be too scared of chucking it into a bag and skipping off across town.
As it only packs a 14.4-inch screen, the 14z's body is kept pretty compact. With a width of 346mm and a depth of 245mm, it's small enough to slide into a backpack without much hassle and can be comfortably carried around in a sleeve, tucked under your arm. It has a thickness of 25.5mm, so it's pretty slim too.
The lid opens up from a hinge set slightly forward from the back of the machine, which at first seems an odd move (maybe Dell could have made the whole body slightly smaller?). But the positioning does mean that the lid can be opened with one hand without the laptop rocking backwards or flexing the screen.
Keyboard and trackpad
Under the lid you'll find more brushed metal surrounding the keyboard and over the wrist rest. We immediately set about squeezing, poking and banging it and were pleased to find very little flex -- much less than was offered by the lid. There's also very little flex on the keyboard base so it feels like a very well built piece of kit if you've been sat typing for a while.
The keyboard has isolated keys and is fairly comfortable to type on. The keys are spaced a little far apart for our liking but we were able to pick up a decent typing speed once we'd gotten used to it.
The trackpad is rather on the small side but it's pretty accurate and supports multi-touch for scrolling, which is handy if you're trawling through long documents or Web pages.
Sadly, the two trackpad buttons are horrible. They provided a very spongey click, which often didn't register unless we pressed firmly in the middle, making speedy navigation considerably more awkward than it needed to be. Trackpad buttons may not seem like the most important aspect of a computer, but if you intend to use them a lot, it's worth bearing in mind. If you're going to be using your laptop mostly at a desk, we suggest you invest in a cheap USB mouse.
Screen and ports
The 14z has a screen size of 14.4 inches, with a 1,366x768-pixel resolution. It's not the highest resolution screen you can get your hands on, but it's pretty good for the size, and small text and icons are displayed with comfortable clarity.