Saturday, December 31, 2011

Inspiron 14Z Review

Affordable Computer Geek of Salem MA 
Just recently purchased an Inspiron 14Z through the Dell Employee Purchase Program. It was a gift for the wife. She is a "casual" user, mostly internet browsing, email etc. 

With my EPP discount & a free shipping coupon I paid just under $900.00. Should note that I also purchased the three year complete care warranty. Something I do on every laptop I purchase, whether for work or personal use. I am usually not a fan of extended warranty's, but on laptops, they have almost always paid off. All you need is one broken screen or system board and you made your money back.

Came configured with Win 7 Home Premium w/ MS Office Starter (Word & Excel), 2nd generation Intel®Core™ processor i3-2330M (2.2GHz) with Intel HD Graphic 3000, 6GB RAM, 640GB HDD. I won't go on with all the in depth nerdy specs. Certainly a more than capable machine for a casual user. 

The aluminum case has a nice solid feel and the lid/screen hinges also have a nice solid feel to them. The standard US keyboard that it came with, more about that later, with it's chiclet style keys was noisy and "hard". Hard meaning that there was no give to the keys/keyboard. It was like siting at a table and tapping your fingers on it.  The individual keys were also very flat making it difficult for this touch typist. The back lit keyboard has a more "rubbery" feel to it and the keys, while still chiclet looking have a bit of a indentation in them. A feature that is important to a touch typist like me. 

It also come with it's fair share of "crap-ware". Not nearly as bad as Dell consumer machines used to be and certainly not as bad as some HP consumer machines I have seen recently, but it still comes with some annoying stuff. The worst of which, in my opinion, is the McAfee. Uggh. Probably the worst AV product on the market today. Bogs down the best of machines. You can either pick though Add/Remove programs and remove the "crap-ware" items one at a time or check out this great utility:

The high gloss 14" screen is better than I was expecting. Even in a brightly lit room. Not much reflection and the image quality is great. It also has a built in webcam & mic that takes a fairly high quality picture/video image & audio. 

My only issue so far is the fan sometimes runs at a very high RPM, even when the in/out vents are not being blocked and the CPU is not under extreme stress.  Not sure what that is all about, or if it is normal for this model? 

The wife is perfectly happy with the machine. She moved to this from a very old Inspiron 6000 so this is quite the performance upgrade for her. 

When I configured the machine I specifically picked out a back lit keyboard. When I reviewed the configuration before pressing the  button to finish the purchase it showed that I had picked the back lit keyboard. After making the purchase I reviewed the config again and it said standard US keyboard. That concerned me a bit, but just figured it was an error on the web site. 

When the laptop arrived it did not have the back lit keyboard. I contacted Dell tech spt via there chat interface and the tech said that my unit was not configured with a back lit keyboard so they could not help me. After some back and forth arguing with him he told me to hold on. Came back and said Dell wanted to make it right for me. They sent out a tech with a back lit keyboard. 

I am quite happy with the way Dell made this right, but what makes me angry is I know for certain that I configured it with the back lit and after purchase the config changed to standard. Doing some research and reading @ Dell forums & reviews of this model I don't appear to the only one that had this problem. Sadly, many others did not get treated the same way I did and got stuck with the standard keyboard.

I would recommend this laptop to the casual user as well as high school & college students. 

Thanks for reading,


Anthony C. Goodwin

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