Best Vacation Notebooks: Dell INSPIRON 14z vs HP ENVY Sleekbook 4t

by Reads (25,270)

Are you looking for a notebook that serves both travel and entertainment purposes equally well? The Dell Inspiron 14z and the HP ENVY Sleekbook 4t are both thin-and-light 14-inch consumer models starting at just $699 and weighing around four pounds. See which one makes the better vacation-friendly laptop.

Let’s take a look at the specifications of the models in our roundup:

 

Dell Inspiron 14z

HP ENVY Sleekbook 4t-1000

Starting Price

$699.99

$699.99

Price as Configured

$699.99

$784.99

Operating System

Windows 7 Home Premium

Windows 7 Home Premium

Screen

14″ Glossy 1366×768

14″ Glossy 1366×768

Processor

Intel Core i3-2367M dual-core

Intel Core i3-2367M dual-core

RAM

6GB

4GB

Storage

500GB 5400RPM +32GB mSATA SSD

500GB 5400RPM + 32GB mSATA SSD

Graphics Card

Integrated Intel

Integrated Intel

Battery

6-cell 44Whr

4-cell

Optical Drive

8X tray-load DVD burner

NONE (external only)

Weight

4.12 pounds

3.98 pounds

Thickness

0.81 inches

0.78 inches

Bluetooth?

Yes

Yes

Ports

2x USB 3.0, Ethernet, HDMI, Kensington lock slot, 3-in-1 card reader

2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, Ethernet, HDMI, Kensington lock slot, media card reader

Keyboard

Full size

Full size, backlit

Warranty

1-year limited

1-year limited

Off the bat we’re noticing a few things; the most important one is that $85 price difference. The Dell in our comparison has standard equipment only; I added nothing to it. It offers more for the money compared to the HP no matter how you look at it. To the HP, I added Bluetooth for $15, the 32GB mSATA SSD for $50 (it helps performance in Windows), and just to even out some of the other disadvantages compared to the Dell, added the backlit keyboard for $20. Dell does not offer one. That said, there’s some things the HP just can’t get and one of them is an internal optical drive while HP only offers external ones for this notebook. But as we’ll see later in this article, the HP has other advantages.

Design

HP has dominated the mainstream consumer PC market for years in terms of design and they’re not about to discontinue that with the ENVY Sleekbook 4t-1000 (that is a long name, isn’t it?). Its slick black brushed aluminum exterior and rubberized merlot-covered base inspires confidence that this is a quality product. The Inspiron 14z on the other hand has great quality too and feels quite solid but just doesn’t inspire the same cutting-edge impression. And despite the fact it is almost identical in height to the HP, it looks and feels bulkier. I can’t help but feel the Dell’s design is somewhat generic.

Winner: HP Sleekbook 4t-1000

Screen

I’m unimpressed with the quality and resolution of the screens on both of these notebooks. Generally all 1366×768 resolution models (and that’s the lowest screen resolution money can buy on a computer, by the way) are going to be of low quality and no exceptions are found here. Both displays have a cold hue and washed out colors. On top of that the screen resolution is too low to use more than one window at a time. At this price range there’s not a ton more we can expect.

Winner: TIE

Keyboard/Touchpad

These notebooks both have “Chiclet” style keyboards with extra spacing between the keys. The HP has a more positive and encouraging feel, but what ultimately makes me pick it over the Dell (despite the fact the Dell has an available backlit keyboard) is the layout. Dell for whatever reason decided to relegate the home, end, pgup, and pgdn keys as secondary functions into the arrow keys. It’s ironic — Dell managed to fit in an internal optical drive but could not accommodate a slightly larger keyboard.

Winner: HP ENVY Sleekbook 4t-1000

Input/Output Ports

The Dell and the HP are pretty evenly matched in terms of ports, but the Dell wins thanks to the built-in optical drive. The only advantage the HP has in this area is that it has a grand total of three USB ports versus the Dell’s two. Both the Inspiron 14z and the ENVY Sleekbook 4t offer Ethernet and a Kensington lock slot (very handy on a notebook that’s traveled with) but the Dell has an internal optical drive. Attention infrequent travelers — airport wireless is slow, expensive, and unreliable so don’t think you’ll always be streaming Netflix. That internal DVD drive could come in handy.

Winner: Dell Inspiron 14z

Battery Life

Dell wins big again here; the Inspiron 14z clocked in at seven hours (web surfing, medium screen brightness). The ENVY Sleekbook 4t-1000 (there’s that long name again) manages between four and five hours in the same scenario. One of the reasons is that the Inspiron 14z has a more powerful battery pack.

Winner: Dell Inspiron 14z

The Winner?

Part of me likes the HP ENVY Sleekbook 4t-1000 for its killer looks and great keyboard, but from a long-term relationship standpoint, the Dell Inspiron 14z is the better machine. Let’s consider: it’s cheaper, has the same level of quality, gets two hours more battery life, weighs the same, and has an internal optical drive. The HP would be a tough sell as a true vacation companion even if it were the same price. If Dell were just to improve the keyboard a bit, this wouldn’t even be a comparison.

HP Product Page

Dell Product Page

Check out our consumer Summer Tech 2012 guide for ways to make the most out of the latest gadgets and gizmos while you’re on vacation, and take a look at the complete Executive Summer Tech 2012 report for more great ideas for staying productive over the summer.

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