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Dell XPS 14 Ultrabook review: Dell XPS 14 Ultrabook

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The Good Thin and sleek design; latest Intel processors; sturdy construction.

The Bad Pricey; unattractive keyboard.

The Bottom Line The Dell XPS 14 Ultrabook offers a minimal design that will be instantly familiar to Apple MacBook Pro fans. The latest Intel processor and a beefy portion of RAM make it a powerful, portable workhorse.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.3 Overall

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Dell has been busy showing off a whole fleet of new computers recently, from the enormous XPS One 27 to the bright pink, family-friendly Inspiron 17R. This time it's the turn of the XPS 14 -- a new 14-inch addition to the ultrabook category that aims to provide serious power from a slim and portable body.

Inside my review model is the latest Intel Core i5 processor, a healthy 8GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. That base configuration will set you back £1,029 from the Dell store, but like most of Dell's products, you can configure it to be more powerful. The top model packs an Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB solid state drive for £1,529.

Design and build

Dell might not be the first tech company that springs to mind when you think of stylish products, but it's clearly hoping to change your mind with some of the tweaks in its latest line-up. Outwardly, the XPS 14 is a thin and sleek slab of aluminium with square edges and minimal styling.

It might look very sleek but it's far from original. The simplistic all-metal chassis is extremely reminiscent of Apple's MacBook Pro, which has clearly been referenced at the design stage. Dell's XPS One 27 took a similarly large handful of design cues from Apple's iMac, so if mimicry is the most sincere form of flattery, then Apple must be blushing a deep shade of scarlet right now.

Dell XPS 14 Ultrabook lid
Apple provides 'design inspiration' for yet another piece of tech...

Whether you like the aesthetics of the XPS 14 depends on whether the stark designs of Apple's kit appeals to you. Judging by the huge popularity of the MacBooks though, it's safe to say there's a few fans out there. I found it to be very attractive and it manages to look both stylish and professional, making it well suited to one of those fashionable East London offices where everyone has ironic hair.

At 20.7mm thin, it's ever so slightly thicker than Apple's new 15-inch MacBook Pro, which comes in at a super-slender 18mm. It might be chubbier than Apple's offering but it's still very slim and will be considerably easier to slide into a bag than beefier machines like Dell's own Inspiron 15R. The metal casing feels extremely well built, with no flex found anywhere in the chassis.

Dell XPS 14 Ultrabook width
...although Apple's MacBook gets to brag about being a couple of millimetres slimmer than the XPS 14.

The base of the XPS is made from black, rubberised plastic, which isn't quite as nice as the metal on top but it's very sturdy. It really seems like a laptop that's built for a tough life on the road, being shoved into bags and plonked carelessly down on train tables.

Around the edges you'll find two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot, a DisplayPort, an Ethernet port, HDMI-out and a headphone and microphone jack.

Dell XPS 14 Ultrabook side
You get a DisplayPort and HDMI-out this side of the XPS 14 and an SD card slot on the other.

Keyboard and trackpad

Under the lid, things become rather less MacBook-ish. The keyboard tray and wrist rest dispense with the metal, replacing it with a black, rubberised material. It's quite pleasant to stroke although it's likely to show up scuffs, fingerprints and grime easier than the metal portions.

It's the same keyboard found on the XPS 14Z, meaning you get a large helping of rounded, isolated keys with a rather odd font. That might not be a massive issue, but I can't help but feel the XPS would look a little more suave with a classic typeface.

Dell XPS 14 Ultrabook keyboard
At least the rubberised material on the keyboard surround is a design departure, although it could show up marks.

It's reasonably comfortable to type on, although the glossy coating means your fingers can slide over them a little too easily, which I found resulted in a few more mistakes than normal. It's a small issue though, and I have no doubt you'd get used to it after an hour or two of typing. The keyboard is backlit too, so you can keep on typing way into the night, or in an aeroplane when the cabin lights have been dimmed.

The trackpad is particularly big and has been given a rubberised feel, rather than offering an all-glass pad, as seen on ultrabooks like the Asus Zenbook or Apple's MacBook Air. It's clickable though so there's no space taken up by separate buttons. I found it to be very responsive and comfortable to click, which helps make fast web browsing that bit more enjoyable.

Dell XPS 14 Ultrabook trackpad
The large clickable trackpad is fast and responsive, which makes web browsing a pleasure.

Screen

As the numbers in the title hint at, the XPS 14 offers a 14-inch screen. If you want more space to play with, opt for the 15-inch XPS 15 instead -- although you will find it slightly less portable.

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