Performance and Conclusion

 Performance

The second-generation Core i5 processor is one of the best laptop processors to ever be available, so it’s little surprise that it is popular. Our Dell Inspiron 14z review unit came equipped with one of the less powerful versions, the Core i5-2410M, but it is still a quick processor. The base clock speed is 2.3 GHz, but Turbo Boost can run as high as 2.9 GHz. 

For comparison, we’ll take a look at some similarly priced laptops such as the MSI X370 and the ASUS K53E. We’ll also consider the much more expensive, but similarly sized, Lenovo X1 and the ASUS N55, which will provide a reference for how the 14z performs compared to one with more powerful hardware and a higher price. The specs for these systems can be found below.

Let’s start with raw processor performance. How does the Core i5-2410M stand up to the competition? SiSoft Sandra should help us with that. 

Overall, the 14z performs about how you’d expect. It’s on par with the other Core i5 powered laptops, and while the 14z is the least powerful of that trio, the difference in clock speed is rather small. This is a quick laptop, and you’ll only significantly outrun it if you’re using a laptop with a Core i7 quad-core. 

Now let’s have a look at our more general application benchmarks.

Once again, we see that the 14z performs about as you’d expect for a laptop with a slightly slower Core i5 than the previously tested models. In 7-Zip, for example, the 14z is about 10% slower than the Lenovo ThinkPad X1.

In PCMark 7, the Dell 14z is on par with both the ASUS N55 and Lenovo ThinkPad X1, no doubt due to a high computation score. Buyers should approach this score with some skepticism, however – I’ve noticed some very high computation scores on laptops with Core i5 processors, which is no doubt skewing the results. I’m not yet sure what to make of this, but as can be seen in our other benchmarks, there are many workloads where a quad-core Core i7 has the chance to show its extra muscle.

The 14z isn’t a gaming system, as is obvious from its reliance on Intel HD 3000 graphics. Even so, some users might want to try some 3D gaming, so let’s see how it holds up.

Once again, we see that the 14z performs similarly to previous Core i5 laptops tested. In less demanding 3D games, particularly that rely only on DirectX 9, the Intel IGP can provide reasonable performance. Dawn of War 2 is not smooth at the settings we use to benchmark, but becomes playable at low detail, while Far Cry 2 is generally playable at medium detail in DX9.

It’s also interesting to note that all the Intel HD 3000 systems outperform the Fusion E-350 from AMD by a significant margin. This may simply be due to the processor performance of the E-350 relative to a Core i5, but some systems with E-350 processors (like the previously reviewed MSI X370) come close to the Dell 14z’s price.

However, Just Cause 2 – a far more demanding game – brings all the Intel IGP systems to their knees. If you want to play a demanding 3D game, you’re still going to want a discrete GPU.

Last, but not least, let’s look at boot and resume times.

There’s nothing exciting here. The 14z seems a bit slow to boot, which may be due to the pre-installed software, or because of the large but slow hard drive. Resume times were also just slightly longer than average, most likely for the same reasons.

Conclusion

Dell wants people to think the Dell Inspiron 14z is a cool and hip product. According to the website, this laptop is “thin, sleek and fun.” In truth, it’s not that thin by the standards of today’s true thin-and-light laptops and as for fun, well, it’s a laptop. It works fine, but confetti doesn’t come shooting out of the exhaust every time you hit backspace.

Fortunately, none of that really matters. Once you get past the red paint job and the fuss over the thickness, you’ll find a laptop that’s precisely what an Inspiron has always been – a powerful, affordable workhorse. 

The 14z may not be all that thin, but for most users it will prove to be an excellent laptop. In fact, this is the perfect laptop for anyone who is considering an inexpensive 15.6” laptop, but would like better battery life – without paying much of a price in terms of performance or, well, price.

At $749, our Core i5 equipped unit is a bit expensive, but the $599 Core i3 basic model (which still comes with a 6-cell battery, but not with the backlit keyboard) is a bargain and, if it were my money, would be the one to buy. In most situations the performance gap won’t be noticeable, and the fundamentally good battery life and pleasurable chassis remains the same. 

No matter what hardware you pick, however, the Dell Inspiron 14z should prove to be a solid, quick laptop that’s more than capable of handling anything besides demanding 3D games.

 

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