Dell XPS 14z pictures and hands-on

The Dell XPS 14z is a smaller brother to the existing Dell XPS 15z which we've already reviewed, continuing Dell's focus on design and quality of construction.

The Dell XPS 14z was announced in China recently and we're yet to see a definitive announcement for the UK, US or Europe. But with Dell World 2011 about to start (12-14 October in Austin, TX), we strongly suspect that it will see a global launch this week. 

We were, however, lucky enough to get our hands on the new notebook, but under close guard from Dell, so we weren't able to dig deep and find out what lurks inside the European version. 

As such, we don't know what the UK specs will be and we don't know the pricing, but we can run through some of the design and build points and compare these to some of the specs from the information on the Chinese Dell page.

The Dell XPS 14z is encased in aluminium and feels great to the touch. It is compact, with a 14-inch 1366 x 768 resolution display, but the casing is closer to a 13-inch notebook. We put it alongside a 13-inch MacBook Pro and found the chassis dimensions to be similar, but the screen is slightly larger naturally. 

Connectivity runs across the back, where you connect the power as well as DisplayPort, HDMI (full sized), 2x USB (one of which is USB 3.0) and Ethernet. There is a slot loading CD drive on the right-hand side and an SD card slot on the left, along with 3.5mm headphone and mic jacks.

There are cooling vents on the left and the rear, as well as on the underside, but cut from the aluminium casing they look great, far removed from the sort of plastic mess that used to adorn Windows notebooks.

There is an external battery meter on the right and at the press of a button it will return the battery charge level with five indicator lights; the details we have tell us you can expect to get nearly 7 hours from the battery.

The hinge for the screen sits on the top of the base (rather than the drop-down style used by Apple) but does sit in a slightly recessed trough. It all works nicely, looks neat and tidy and we like the fact you can open the lid one-handed without the XPS 14z rocking back.

The deck is darker plastic, with a chiclet-style keyboard sat in the middle. A large central trackpad offers up two buttons beneath the keyboard. The keyboard is backlit, but we did notice from our quick glance over it that some letters illuminate better than others and there is some light leakage from under the keys. Whether this is a problem will have to wait until we have the Dell XPS 14z for a full review.

First impressions are good, it feels great in the hands and the display looks good, even if the reflections might be a problem for those wanting to work outdoors. Construction seems solid enough from our initial play and the response from the keyboard and trackpad was good.

As we said, our access to the specs were limited, but an Intel Core i5 sticker on the chassis reveals what's inside, although the Chinese version offers Core i7 - so hopefully you'll get options.

Other than that we saw that it was running Windows 7 Home Premium, and the Chinese version details Nvidia graphics, 4GB RAM, 750GB hard drive, which sounds like a fair loadout.

No word on UK pricing, but the CNY8,999 price of the i7 would equate loosely to around £900.