Cooling, Portability, Software
Normally, thin systems run a bit hot. As I already explained in the design section, however, the Dell 14z really isn’t the ultra-thin laptop that it pretends to be. So does this mean it avoids the heat pitfall?
That depends on your use. While sitting the Dell 14z on my lap, I found that the bottom of the laptop became uncomfortably warm during basic operation. This is largely due to the aggressive exhaust on the left side, which spills heat across my left leg.
Desk use, on the other hand, is just peachy. There’s no noticeable warming of the keyboard and palmrest during light operation, and even benchmarking teased out only a bit of heat.
If you need a laptop to be quiet, this one won’t impress you. The aggressive fan ramps up a bit even when performing simple tasks like opening multiple browser tabs. It’s audible in nearly all situations, and becomes annoyingly loud during periods of high load.
Though the Dell Inspiron 14z is a 14” laptop, it’s overall size is comparable to most 13” laptops. Compared to my MacBook, for example, the Dell is less than an inch wider from left to right and barely half an inch longer from front to back. If you can pack a 13” laptop on your travels, you can probably pack the 14z without trouble, though some messenger bags designed only for 13” laptops might be too tight.
Weight isn’t a serious issue, either, as you’ll have to lug around just 4.3 pounds when you tote around this Dell. There are certainly lighter laptops available, but this is still light enough that most bags won’t feel like a burden with this laptop inside.
Battery life is a strong point. Though a 4-cell battery is available, most variants – including our review unit – come with a 6-cell 65Wh battery. That’s towards the larger side of the normal six-cell spectrum, and as a result battery life is competitive.
As you can see, the Dell Inspiron 14z lasted a little over six and a half hours in our light-duty Battery Eater Reader’s Test, and using it for real-world web surfing only shaved off an hour. That’s not the best performance we’ve ever seen, but it’s undoubtedly better than average. For most users, this is far more endurance than will be needed.
Bloatware has become less common in recent years, but this Dell apparently did not receive the memo. It comes with numerous annoying extras, all of which detract from the laptop rather than enhancing it.
The worst offender is Dell Stage, a user interface that is placed on the Windows Desktop. It provides quick, thumbnail previews of several popular folders such as music, photos, and videos. It feels slow, however, and the excessively large buttons and thumbnail used by the interface feel as if they were designed for a touchscreen tablet rather than a PC.
Other unwanted bonuses include an Accuweather widget that hangs out in the upper right hand side of the display, a backup disk program with pop-up warnings that lacked a cancel button, and McAfee Security Center which, as always, was all too eager to warn us of the terrible things that could happen if we didn’t purchase McAfee’s security software.
As usual, these bits of software can be un-installed, but most had no business being included. Hopefully, hardware companies will one day understand that if they don’t know how to properly bundle software, they shouldn’t bundle it at all.