Laptops are getting ridiculously thin lately. The new ASUS UX31 Ultrabook we photographed recently has a tapered metal edge at one end that when sitting flat on a desk, isn't as high as a ballpoint pen. The pointy end looks like it could double as a deli meat slicer.
That's not to mention Apple's MacBook Air, which famously slid out of a manilla envelope as if it was paper-thin.
With these razor thin laptops starting to appear in the $1,000 to $1500 price bracket, why would you choose a bigger, bulkier model?
The Dell XPS 14z
The Dell XPS 14z, before the unboxing.
It's a question we found ourselves asking Dell this week when they visited our offices to show off the new Dell XPS 14z.
You can see the XPS 14z in the photos below. While we're hesitant to say the design will be to everyone's tastes, it's head and shoulders above what we're used to seeing at the cheap end of the market.
Like its larger cousin - the XPS 15z - the new 14in machine ticks a lot of boxes:
- a clean, minimalist design
- aluminum body
- $1,119 starting price for the Core i5 model
- backlit keyboard
- option of SSD
- a screen lid you can lift without fiddling with a latch
- design that brings the edge of the screen very close to the edge of the laptop chassis (Dell claims the 14z is physically the size of a 13in laptop).
Design touches include aluminum shell and a latchless lid.
The keyboard is backlit.
There is also a slot loading DVD drive, and USB 3.0.
It ticks a lot of the right boxes, but leaves the question of why pick a machine like this - which weighs just under 2Kg - when you'll soon be able to buy much thinner Core i5 machines that weigh less than 1.5Kg for less than $1,500.
The two obvious reasons are DVD drive and the screen size.
The DVD drive is something that's disappearing from a lot of thin and light computers. It's handy to have, but increasingly unnecessary, depending on the way you buy and install software and watch movies.
The screen size is significant though. We're yet to see a truly lightweight machine - under 1.5/1.6Kg or thereabouts - in the current market with a 15in, or even 14in screen. And it's a factor that separates Windows computers from MacBooks in terms of price. You can pickup a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro for under $1,500, but if you want 15in, the price jumps to more than $2,000.
For the moment, if you don't want to be poking around on a really small screen, the razor-thin look is out of reach. It's not such a bad thing - the Dell XPS 14z is one of the more exciting mid-range laptops we've seen for some time.
A razor thin laptop with a 15in screen would be something else. Though exactly what the point would be is another matter. It'll be light, but the thing will still take up more room in your bag.
Keyboard battle: 5 thin and light Windows laptops
Enter the Ultrabook: making the Windows laptop v MacBook decision
Also read our First Look at ASUS' 13in UX31 Ultrabook
More photos: See the ASUS' UX31 Ultrabook up close in our photo gallery
Also read: MacBook Air vs Pro: Which Mac laptop should I get now?
Also read: Windows laptops: they're getting sleeker