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This will be a cursory review, because I only got to use the Dell XPS 14 for about an hour before it went to sleep and refused to wake up. Still, in that time, I was able to glean some useful information about it. And I’m not really going to hold the conking-out against the XPS 14 because (a) I’ve owned several Dells, and I’ve never had that problem before, and (b) it could very well have been my fault (though I doubt it).
Like the XPS 13 that I loved, the Dell XPS 14 has good looks, a great keyboard, and good battery life. But it’s no ultrabook, whatever the marketing materials may say. It may satisfy the technical requirements, but it violates the spirit of the classification. It may look like an ultrabook, but it weighs nearly as much as two ultrabooks, and it’s sporting a regular old hard disk, instead of a solid-state drive.
The Dell XPS 14 clocks in at a hefty 4.6 lbs. To give you an idea of how heavy that is, my ThinkPad T400 shipped (3.5 years ago) at a half pound less, and it has an optical drive and a faster processor. (I notice the newer ThinkPad T430 has packed on the ounces, however.) Most ultrabooks weigh about 3 pounds, or less.
Given that the XPS 13 is relatively svelte at 2.99 pounds, you wouldn’t expect that a 1″ (diagonal) bump in screen size would result in more than a pound and a half. At least some of the weight must be due to the fact that, unlike the XPS 13, the XPS 14 doesn’t have a carbon fiber chassis, which probably takes off a few ounces. The extra battery life is part of it, too. So is the heavier hard drive. Add all that up, and maybe you’ll find the extra pound and a half. Or maybe there are more reasons for the extra chub.
I’ll grant you that 4.6 lbs. is light compared to the laptops that a lot of people lug around. But those laptops generally have all the trimmings, like optical drives, card readers, and a full selection of ports.
In short: this is no ultrabook. It’s a thin laptop with decent specs , but if it’s thin and light you want, go with its little sibling, the excellent XPS 13.
Aside from the weight, the XPS 14 is a gorgeous laptop. Yes, it’s a(nother) Macbook Air doppelganger, but that’s only a bad thing if you own Dell stock and Apple hasn’t lost its appetite for patent litigation.
Typing on the backlit keyboard is a pleasure. I really like the rounded, chiclet-style keys Dell has come up with. They may be inspired by Apple, but if anything, they are an improvement. Finally, the battery life is pretty great. In real-world use you won’t get close to the 11 hours that Dell claims. The Verge got right around 7 hours — which is still very impressive.
If you are looking for a thin laptop with great battery life, you don’t mind lugging around an extra pound or so, and you won’t miss the optical drive or more robust port selection, the XPS 14 is a decent buy. But you can load up a ThinkPad T430S for the same price, get the bells and whistles, and still stay under 4 pounds. Sure, it won’t look like a Macbook; it will look like a badass ThinkPad that doesn’t care what you think about its looks.