Mini Laptop Windows 7 – 2012 Dell Inspiron 14z
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If you are in the market for a brand new ultrabook but you don’t want to pay top dollars for it, have a look at the 2012 version of the Dell Inspiron 14z which looks a little bit better than the price tag you pay for it. Although it is advertized as an ultrabook, it doesn’t really feel like one since it packs an optical drive and weighs 4.1 pounds. However, it still manages to remain quite slim and it’s a good solution for a mid-size laptop and some may consider it as a cheaper alternative to Apple’s 15-inch version of the MacBook Pro.
If you have seen the 2011 version of the 14z then you’ll immediately say that the refreshed model looks totally different. It has a starting price of just $699 while for $200 more you can get the following configuration. A third-generation Intel Core i5-3317U Ivy Bridge processor running at 1.70 GHz, working along with 8GB of DDR3 memory clocked at 1,333 MHz. For storage it comes with a 32GB solid state drive and a 500GB hard drive rotating at a speed of 5,400 rpm. It has been fitted with an integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics chip and a dedicated AMD Radeon 7570M video card.
The 2012 Dell Inspiron 14z runs on the 64 bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium and measures 13.7 x 9.5 x 0.8 inches. The laptop features a gunmetal gray brushed metal finish which is continued on the inside, while the keyboard tray has a light black look and packs black keys. Speaking of the keys, these are the usual variation of Dell’s island-style, widely spaced, flat topped keys that they put on most of their laptops nowadays. However, for this model the keys come with more rounded corners while the top row of the function keys has half the usual height.
We consider that this wasn’t a smart move from Dell since as you can see from these pictures there was plenty of room for larger keys which would have significantly improved the typing experience. In addition, the keys found on the 14z are a bit clacky and most likely you will notice some wiggle, but at least these are usable.
Sitting below this rather compact keyboard is a large touchpad that comes with left and right mouse buttons which we actually prefer rather than the clickpad found on Dell’s more expensive XPS laptops. Multitouch gestures work quite nice but not as good as on any MacBook on the market today.
When it comes down to the display of the 2012 Dell Inspiron 14z, it’s an average 14-inch screen with the usual native resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels. We don’t like the fact that this screen is wearing a glossy plastic coating which is way too shiny, plus it is surrounded by a thick bezel which gives the laptop a rather cheap look.
The stereo speakers of this 14-inch laptop form Dell come with the MaxxAudio software developed by Waves but you might want to know that the sound coming out is quite thin, but at least these speakers can get reasonably loud to fill a small room. The middle button located in that row of quick launch keys located above the 14z’s keyboard will switch between the available MaxxAudio presets while the button to the left will open the Dell settings menu.
When it comes down to ports and connectivity features, you get the essential that you’d want from a mid-size laptop, including here an HDMI port, a headphone and microphone combo jack, an SD card reader, two USB 3.0 ports, as well as Bluetooth, an Ethernet port, 802.11n Wi-Fi and the aforementioned DVD burner for an optical drive.
The entry-level version of the 2012 Dell Inspiron 14z is powered by a Sandy Bridge-based Intel Core i3 processor that has only Intel HD 3000 graphics, along with 6GB of DDR3 RAM. If you are willing to spend $999 on the new 14z, you can get it with an Ivy Bridge Core i7 CPU, along with the same RAM and GPU as the $899 version we’ve talked about. Regardless of the configuration you choose, all of the Inspiron 14z versions come with a 32GB SSD and a 500GB SATA HDD.
The choice for that AMD 7570M video card is rather odd since most of the current Ivy Bridge-based laptops are running with Nvidia graphics cards. This AMD GPU is a mid-range DirectX 11 card that in this configuration can run Street Fighter 4 at a 720p resolution at 44.7 FPS, according to CNET. This is a decent result which probably means that you will be able to play the most current games if you are willing to turn off some of the graphics options.
As far as the battery is concerned, the one in this 2012 Dell Inspiron 14z is not very impressive from an ultrabook point of view since during a video playback test it can survive for less than five hours which is a lot less than what other true ultrabooks are capable of. However, if we consider this a mid-range laptop that comes with a dedicated video card, the performance of the battery is not so bad, but keep in mind that if the laptop uses the discrete GPU more, it means that the battery life will be significantly shorter.
All things considered, for the money you’re paying for this refreshed Inspiron 14z from Dell you get a pretty good deal as it manages to blend in the latest Ivy Bridge CPUs, a far better design, new features and also a decent battery if you consider it a mid-size laptop and not an ultrabook. Some would probably prefer that Dell ditched the optical drive to make it more portable and lighter as well, but the end result is a compromise between the functionality of a mid-size laptop that has a 14-inch screen and an ultrabook which will certainly sound appealing to some of you that are in the market for a new laptop.
We end by mentioning that the 2012 Dell Inspiron 14z is sold with a one-year warranty that comes along with in-home service, while upgrading to a three-year plan will cost you an extra $149.