Dell XPS 14 Review – Why This Laptop is NOT Worth It

Dell’s XPS 14 is the latest laptop to join the 14 inch laptop club, but are its premium features worth the premium price tag? Spoiler: No – But let’s find out why in this review! The XPS 14 comes in Dell’s platinum or graphite finishes – I’ve got the lighter

platinum version here, which is kind of silver looking. It’s made out of CNC aluminum and feels very nice. There’s hardly any flex to the keyboard or lid even when pushing hard due to the solid metal build – it looks and feels great. For some reason there’s nowhere on

the front to get your fingers in, which made it extremely difficult for me to actually open the laptop and use it. I ended up gripping it from the sides most of the time. Once you’re able to open it, the hinge is super smooth and sturdy. The XPS 14

is quite small, but not quite as much as a MacBook Pro 14. It’s very portable, but not quite as light compared to others like ASUS’s Zephyrus G14. Still, 2.1kg or 4.7lb with the 100 watt charger isn’t bad at all. My configuration has Intel’s Core Ultra 7 155H processor,

Nvidia’s RTX 4050 graphics, 32 gigs of RAM, and a 14.5” OLED touchscreen. But it’s available for more or less money depending on how you configure it with

the link below. The keyboard looks a bit different as there’s less space between the keycaps. Dell says this makes typing more

efficient, but prior to some practice I felt like it was easier for me to hit the neighboring key by accident. Maybe I’m just not that accurate. The function keys up the top are capacitive, so there’s no feedback when you press them. They worked fine for us without any

problems, but I still prefer physical keys, and I know plenty of programmers do too. Holding the function key swaps between media and function keys, and you can lock it with function and escape. Dell says the lack of physical keys at the back means more room for the cooling

inside. All keys and secondary functions get lit up with white backlighting, and the F6 shortcut key can be used to turn it on or off. You’ve got to dig into the BIOS if you want to customize how long it stays on though. The seamless glass haptic touchpad feels

super smooth, and I was skeptical at first, but it feels nice to use. You can’t actually see the borders, so I was concerned I’d go over the edges without realizing it, but that never happened as the touchpad area is quite large, running between the Windows key and left

arrow key. The power button is hidden within the keyboard, right next to backspace. By default an accidental press puts it to sleep, but you can change that in Windows like I have so that you have to hold it down for a while for any action to happen. The

power button also acts as a fingerprint scanner, which I found to work fast and accurately. As for ports, the left side has two Thunderbolt 4 Type-C ports, while the right has a third, as well as a UHS-II MicroSD card slot and 3.5mm audio combo jack at the back.

There aren’t any ports on the back, but it comes with this Type-C dongle that has USB Type-A and HDMI 2.0. All three Type-C ports can be used to charge the laptop, but because the included 100W charger uses Type-C, if you’ve got it plugged in to power then you’ve

only got two ports remaining. And if you need to use that included dongle then you’ve only got 1 left. And all three of those Type-C ports have support for connecting screens, but all three of them connect to the Intel integrated graphics. So just to be clear, you can

still run games and stuff on the RTX 4050, it’s just that the display signal goes via the Intel integrated graphics before getting to the screen. None of the ports connect directly to the 4050, which I think is just required in order for all of them to be Thunderbolt.

The dongle could run our LG B9 TV at 4K 60Hz 8-bit, but without G-Sync, as none of the ports connect to the Nvidia graphics. Getting inside requires unscrewing 8 small TR5 screws, all the same length. I was only able to get pry tools in around the back. I’ll

leave a link to the ones I use below. Inside we’ve got the battery down the front and single M.2 2280 SSD slot just above. The Wi-Fi chip is soldered up the back and RAM is soldered too, so make sure you buy it with the RAM you need because

you can never upgrade it. Only the SSD can be upgraded, but as there’s only one slot that would require either cloning or reinstalling Windows. At least a larger double sided drive can fit, once you remove the included thermal pad. The speeds from the 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD

were great, and the MicroSD card slot was quite fast too. The card clicks in and sits most of the way into the laptop, so having fingernails will help getting it in and out. It’s got Wi-Fi 6E and performs at the higher end compared to other options. Only the

newer and faster Wi-Fi 7 offers a significant speed boost. And it’s a shame that wasn’t included given you can never upgrade it. It’s no surprise that the upgradeability score is well below average. Only Apple’s MacBook Pro is worse out of the 14 inch laptops, all the other Windows

machines have more upgrade options. There are front facing speakers on either side of the keyboard, and subwoofers underneath. They sound alright with some bass, but don’t sound as clear after 50% volume or so with some wrist rest vibration. The latencymon results weren’t great, but still better compared to

a lot of laptops we tested last year. The XPS 14 is powered by a 6-Cell 70Wh battery. Battery life was quite good considering the size of the battery, lasting for over 9 hours in the YouTube video playback test. This is quite a bit better compared to the last

time I had a small XPS, and is matching Razer’s Blade 14 with a similar sized battery, despite the XPS being Intel based. Dell’s website claims that the lower tier 1920 by 1200 screen lasts for more than twice as long compared to the OLED panel that my configuration has

though. Let’s check out thermals next. The XPS 14 has 2 fans inside with heatpipes shared between the CPU and GPU. Air gets sucked in through these holes on the left and right sides and exhausted out of the back, so no hot air coming out the sides on your

hands. The MyDell software lets us change between different performance modes, including quiet, cool, optimized, and ultra performance. The internal temps were fine when sitting there idle. The rest of the results are from combined CPU and GPU stress tests which aim to represent a worst case full load scenario.

None of these results are bad at all, so no problems here. It looks a bit strange that running with the lid closed was quite a bit cooler than running with the lid open, and using a cooling pad was actually warmer compared to not using it. But why? The

CPU was reaching higher clock speeds with the cooling pad. The laptop realizes that more thermal headroom is available and increases the CPU performance as a result, which equals higher temps. Likewise, with the lid closed it must think that it’s going to have a tough time keeping things cool,

so the clock speeds go back. Based on these results, I think it’s overdoing it a bit. Most other laptops actually run at the same temperature with the lid closed, so you still get similar performance, but that’s not the case with the XPS 14. Expect worse performance if you

dock the laptop. The RTX 4050 graphics runs up to just 30 watts. The Nvidia control panel says that up to 40 watts is possible with dynamic boost, but I never saw that happen, even in a GPU only workload with the CPU idle. Based on the fact that it

seems to max out at 30 watts in workloads like games, it’s not actually living up to Nvidia’s minimum 35 watt limit. Here’s how an actual game performs with the different performance modes. Cool mode is useless if you need GPU performance. As we just saw, the GPU gets limited

to like 8 watts to keep the laptop cooler. The CPU can use a bit more power if the GPU is idle, like in Cinebench. Cool mode was basically the same as optimized here, while ultra performance was best. It’s performing the same as MSI’s far cheaper but bigger Cyborg

14 laptop, despite that having fewer cores and threads with a last gen processor. The XPS is beating ASUS’s Zenbook 14 with a higher tier Intel Core Ultra 9 185H processor though – at least in multi core. The Ultra 9 has a higher single core boost, which results in

a slightly better single core score. All the other 14 inch laptops perform a fair bit better. Performance lowers if we unplug the charger and instead run off of battery power. The XPS doesn’t lose too much performance, but the zenbook 14 is much closer now. Some of those other

14 inch laptops that ran better with the power cable connected are worse off now. But that’s not always the case. Most laptops I test are in the low 30 degrees Celsius range on the keyboard at idle, and the XPS 14 was in line with this and felt cool.

Quiet mode with the stress tests running was warmer, but worst case in the middle it was only a bit warm, not hot. Cool mode was cooler, as per the name, but that’s due to a combination of very low GPU power limit and louder fans. Optimized mode was warmer

and similar to the touch to quiet mode. The WASD area stays cool as air comes through the keyboard. The highest ultra performance mode isn’t that different. The F keys at the back are the warmest point, but don’t feel hot. The fans are the loudest now too, let’s have

a listen. The fans were barely audible at idle in quiet mode. They get louder when under load in the higher modes, as expected, but maxed out in ultra performance mode wasn’t anywhere near as loud compared to most other laptops tested. When compared to 200 other laptops, the XPS

14 was the 14th quietest result at full speed, and even slightly quieter than Apple’s MacBook Pro 14. The XPS is available with two different screen options. There’s a 1920 by 1200 500 nit panel, or you can spend $300 more to get the 3200 by 2000 120Hz OLED touch

screen that I’ve got here. The screen offers excellent colors and perfect contrast as OLED can turn off individual pixels for black. It gets fairly bright at around 400 nits in SDR mode, and a little brighter with HDR enabled, as per the red line. This puts it in-line with

other 14 inch OLED laptops that we’ve tested recently. So nowhere near as bright compared to Mini-LED panels, but hey, it’s brighter than the more expensive Alienware laptops. It looks great when viewing content, I like that there’s no bottom chin below the screen. Backlight bleed doesn’t exist due to

the way OLED works, but this would of course be different with the cheaper panel option. The screen response time is super fast, and this is one of the advantages of an OLED panel. The cheaper non-OLED screen option wouldn’t be anywhere near this fast, but if you do go

OLED, it’s competitive against other 14 inch OLED laptops tested. That’s only half the story though. The total system latency is the amount of time between a mouse click and when a gunshot fire appears on the screen in Counter-Strike 2. Although screen response time is a factor, the fast

OLED screen isn’t enough to make up for the weaker CPU and GPU power. The other 14 inch laptops with OLED screens are a fair bit more responsive here. The XPS 14 does not have a MUX switch. This means there’s no G-Sync or advanced optimus either, but that’s less

important since the CASO update anyway, and it still has adaptive sync. There’s a 1080p camera above the screen and it has IR for Windows Hello face unlock. Here’s how the camera and microphones look and sound, and this is what it sounds like while typing on the keyboard. Although

the XPS 14 isn’t designed to be a gaming laptop, with the RTX 4050 graphics inside it should still be capable of playing some games after you’re done with work. Cyberpunk 2077 was tested with our own custom test run, and I’ve got the XPS 14 shown by the red

highlight. At 1080p it’s the lowest result from an RTX 4050 laptop that we’ve seen so far. Even MSI’s budget GF63 or Cyborg 14 were reaching a 39% higher average frame rate, despite only being a little more powerful. Red Dead Redemption 2 was tested with the game’s benchmark. It’s

basically tied with an RTX 3050 laptop that had double the power limit from 3 years ago.. It’s a similar deal in control. The laptops that are performing similarly to the XPS 14 are easily a quarter or a third of its price. Of course the XPS isn’t intended to

be a gaming device, so if gaming is a priority, you’re definitely better off looking elsewhere. Here are the 3DMark results for those that find them useful, now for some content creator tests. Just like the games, the XPS 14 performs below most other laptops with more powerful CPUs and

GPUs. That said, it can still absolutely be used for light content creation work, and doing that looks nice with the OLED screen. These sorts of workloads are probably the main reason to spend more for the RTX 4050. Dell’s BIOS is only second to MSI when it comes to

customization. There are way more options available here compared to most other laptops, like ASUS’s Zephyrus G14 or Razer’s Blade 14. MSI’s Cyborg 14 offers much more tuning for enthusiasts, despite being a much more budget friendly option. Linux support was tested with an Ubuntu 23.10 live CD. By default

the keyboard, touchpad and touchscreen work. The speakers, camera and Wi-Fi did not work. Keyboard shortcuts for adjusting keyboard lighting work, and so does swapping between function and media keys, but that’s it. Pricing and availability will change over time, so check the link below for updates and current sales.

And if the XPS 14 does have a good sale, we’ll be sure to add it to our website. Although as you’re about to see, it’s going to have to be a pretty crazy deal for us to ever add this thing.. But hang on, let me finish my

ad for my own website first. We update the website every day with the latest sales, so make sure that you check it out regularly to save money on your next gaming laptop. At the time of recording, the XPS 14 starts from $1700 USD without any discounts, and

that’s just with the integrated Arc graphics. If you upgrade it to the configuration that we’ve looked at in this video then we’re looking at $2400. That’s extremely expensive for an RTX 4050 laptop. Alright say we spec it a bit lower. No OLED screen and 16 gigs of RAM,

we’re still looking at $2200. But for the same amount of money Razer has their Blade 14 available with higher tier RTX 4060 graphics, a better screen, and better performing processor. I never thought that I would see a Blade 14 looking competitive, but Dell have managed to pull it

off. Even Apple’s MacBook Pro 14 with M3 Pro and 18 gigs of memory is the same price. While ASUS’s new Zephyrus G14 with OLED screen, RTX 4070 graphics and double RAM is $200 less. And all of these are just better performing options than the XPS 14. Of course,

it’s not all about performance. But my point is that Dell are charging a massive premium for the XPS 14, and I just don’t think that it’s worth it for most people. Because other options like Razer’s Blade 14 or Apple’s MacBook Pro 14 are also very premium laptops, but

they also perform better too. Yeah, the Blade is a little heavier than the XPS due to the bigger charger, but it’s not much. And the MacBook is actually smaller and lighter than the XPS, while also having more ports. And you know you’re in trouble when Apple has more

ports than you.. Not to mention Apple tried whole capacitive touch row thing in the past and quickly reverted it. Basically I think that the XPS 14 focuses on form over function. It looks nice and isn’t bad to use – of course assuming that you can open the lid…

Hang on, yeah I’ve got to get around to the corners or sides, it’s just the only way I can do it.. So yeah it looks nice and it’s fine to use, but there are just better options at this price point in my opinion. Like ASUS’s Zephyrus G14 if

you want to stay with Windows but want more performance for other tasks like gaming. Or Apple’s MacBook Pro 14 if you want even more portability and crazy battery life. So check out one of these videos next if you’re shopping for a 14 inch laptop!

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