Dell XPS 14 9440 review
Image: Chris Button.

Dell XPS 14 (9440) review: a stylish, near-perfect laptop

100% human
8.1

One of the nicest-looking laptops I’ve ever used, the Dell XPS 14 does everything well, even if it slightly favours style over functionality.

I have a soft spot for Dell’s premium laptop range; my first work laptop was an XPS 13, which was an absolute workhorse. It handled everything I threw at it, although it had some glaring design flaws.

The many-year-old laptop had a terrible keyboard that would routinely miss key presses, and the webcam inexplicably sat at the bottom of the screen. Not only was the angle unflattering but it also meant video callers enjoyed creepy close-ups of my fingers roaming the keyboard.

Nearly a decade later, the Dell XPS 14 reverses all of those frustrations, and even supports a discrete GPU, enabling a spot of gaming on the side. Not every design choice succeeds, though. In pursuit of sleek and clean aesthetics – which the laptop absolutely nails – it’s sometimes not effortlessly intuitive.

None of these annoyances are enough to hold the Dell XPS 14 back from its status as a bona fide laptop for all seasons. It motors through everyday productivity tasks, looks great, and plays Hades 2 flawlessly. What more could you want?

Dell XPS 14 (9440) review

First impressions

Computer manufacturers have just about perfected the clamshell laptop design at this stage. We’ve seen dual-screen laptops emerge as a potential disruptor but there’s nothing quite like a good-looking clamshell. And the Dell XPS 14 positively drips with style.

Armed with a silvery-white finish all over, it sure is a looker. Even its trackpad blends into the chassis, which I’ll get to later. If anything, it’s almost too clean a design. As someone who loves bold colour flourishes, the XPS 14 doesn’t make my heart sing but it’s undoubtedly cool to look at.

Dell XPS 14 open top view
Image: Chris Button.

Functionality is a different discussion, however. In the years between my old XPS 13 and the XPS 14, Dell still relies heavily on USB-C ports. The XPS 14 has three USB-C ports, with no A-types to speak of. Nor does it have a built-in HDMI port. As a compromise, Dell includes a USB-A and HDMI adapter in the box which, like all dongles, is easy to misplace. Not all old ways are lost, mind you, with a MicroSD slot and a 3.5mm jack included.

It’s also a bit tricky to open, which sounds like an odd complaint to make in 2024. The Dell XPS 14 doesn’t have a slight groove to grip and lift the lid open, making it an awkward two-handed operation.

Dell XPS 14 (9440) specifications

Display14.5-inch 3200 x 2000 OLED InfinityEdge touchscreen
Dimensions18mm x 216mm x 320mm 1.74 kg (OLED model)
ProcessorIntel Core Ultra 7 155H
GraphicsNvidia GeForce RTX 4050
Memory32GB LPDDR5x
Storage1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
Battery69.5Whr 100W Type-C Adapter
ConnectivityThree USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports MicroSD card slot 3.5mm headphone jack Wi-Fi 6E Bluetooth
Price (RRP)From $2,498.10
(Review configuration was approx. $3,700)
WarrantyOne year
Official websiteDell Australia

Design

Most of my criticisms of the Dell XPS 14 concern its design. A stellar laptop in just about every other way, there are a couple of quirks that take getting used to.

Anyone who’s used a laptop is familiar with a conventional trackpad marked by clearly defined edges. Doing away with years of well-known design language, the Dell XPS 14 instead has a borderless trackpad. It seamlessly blends into the rest of the laptop, which is aesthetically pleasing, but isn’t immediately intuitive.

The XPS 14’s invisible trackpad also takes usability cues from Apple’s MacBook range, which might be unfamiliar to PC natives. A one-fingered press activates a left click, while two fingers is a right click. After some practice, it feels like second nature but fights against my years of using older Windows PCs.

Dell XPS 14 trackpad
Image: Chris Button.

At first, I outright disliked Dell’s design decision. How can you tell how wide the trackpad is? Would relatively new laptop users struggle to navigate the system? Admittedly, the touchscreen likely appeals to newer users who grew up using touch-based controls, mitigating the trackpad design.

Fast-forward to a few days of using the Dell XPS 14, I came to enjoy using the trackpad. It feels nice, courtesy of its smooth glass finish, and responds well to inputs.

Someone’s a bit touchy

I had less patience for the touch buttons replacing the function row, though. Again, it looks nice and fits with the laptop’s overall clean appearance, but usability is another matter. Not only are the function keys and corresponding media controls mapped to this section, but also important keys like escape and delete.

I use these keys frequently, but it’s not just my muscle memory it jars with. Yes, I was annoyed at pausing mid-typing to locate one of the keys in question, interrupting my workflow. However, it was the lack of feedback that threw me the most. Pressing a keycap provides a tangible response to your input, while these capacitive controls don’t. It causes slight hesitation at not knowing if you actually pressed the button.

Dell XPS 14 Hades 2 gaming with cat
Billie gives the Dell XPS 14 her head rub of approval. Image: Chris Button.

Otherwise, the Dell XPS 14 has a pleasant keyboard to type on. Even though its keycaps sit flat with no separation between each key, they’re still tactile enough to generate the satisfying feedback the capacitive row lacks. I generally prefer slightly elevated and separated keys, but this keyboard is far better than my comparatively ancient XPS 13.

And without wanting to make it sound like an afterthought, the Dell XPS 14 has a beautiful OLED display. OLED technology is becoming more ubiquitous among laptops, for good reason. It produces vibrant colours and contrast, with a wide viewing angle an added benefit.

The only drawback is that you need to factor in lighting conditions. Dell’s OLED screen is glossy, attracting plenty of reflections and glare. Granted, this isn’t a criticism unique to Dell; matte OLED displays, like that used by the new Samsung OLED TV, are rare.

Performance

This is where the Dell XPS 14 truly comes into its own. Powered by an Intel Core Ultra processor, it’s an efficient machine. My review model also wielded an Nvidia RTX 4050 GPU, which added a decent bit of graphical oomph.

Keep in mind that battery life takes a hit any time a discrete GPU enters the equation. As far as this was concerned, the Dell XPS 14 still lasted a decent while, getting through most of the day before needing a top-up.

Most importantly, the laptop handled my daily workload without any issues. I usually have 50 million (gratuitously rounded up) browser tabs open at any given time while writing and editing photos. It’s not the most demanding computing workload, but lesser devices would struggle with this level of multitasking.

Benchmarks

Quantifying the Dell XPS 14’s performance via synthetic benchmark tools showed it sits highly among productivity-centric laptops. Equipped with an entry-level Nvidia RTX 4050 discrete graphics card, it’s a laptop you can also trust to handle moderate amounts of multimedia work.

DeviceCPU (Single-core)CPU (Multi-core)
Acer Predator Helios Neo 162,90317,385
Lenovo Legion Pro 7i (Gen 8)2,87017,089
MacBook Pro M2 Max2,70114,916
Dell XPS 142,34912,941
Macbook Air M33,07512,015
Asus ROG Zephyrus G142,58112,160
Asus ROG Ally2,54312,181
Lenovo Legion Go2,3469,619
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 21,5678,761
Geekbench 6
DeviceCPU (Single-core)CPU (Multi-core)
Acer Predator Helios Neo 161231,395
MacBook Pro M2 Max1221,031
Asus ROG Zephyrus G1486927
Asus Zenbook Duo (UX8406)105763
Dell XPS 14102660
Macbook Air M3141550
Cinebench 24
DeviceGPU (OpenCL)
Lenovo Legion Pro 7i (Gen 8, RTX 4070)158,787
Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 (RTX 4070)119,970
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (RTX 4060)96,452
MacBook Pro M2 Max72,833
Dell XPS 1465,396
Macbook Air M330,479
Geekbench 6

Compared to dedicated gaming laptops, the Dell XPS 14 doesn’t contain eye-wateringly high raw power. Nor does it carry the corresponding price tag, proving to be a versatile laptop for work and leisure.

Gaming

Considering the Dell XPS 14 isn’t designed to be a gaming laptop per se, I didn’t throw my usual gauntlet of test games at the machine. However, it ran well using the 3DMark Time Spy gaming benchmark, bolstered by its discrete GPU. This means it comfortably outpaces laptops reliant on integrated graphics, helpful for a bit of gaming and video editing.

DeviceScore
Lenovo Legion Pro 7i (Gen 8, RTX 4070)13,796
Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 (RTX 4070)12,881
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (RTX 4060)9,620
Asus TUF A169,196
Dell XPS 14 (RTX 4050)5,445
Asus Zenbook Duo (2024)3,235
Asus ROG Ally (30W)3,198
Lenovo Yoga 9i (2023)1,655
3DMark Time Spy

Speaking of gaming, I did play a heavy amount of Hades 2, an early access game on Steam that’s only available on PC. It’s a game with lots of moving parts, so any performance issues are highly noticeable. Fortunately, the Dell XPS 14 breezed through my time with the game. Its vibrant OLED display also brought out the best of the flashy art direction.

Who is the Dell XPS 14 for?

Although I can only speak to the RTX 4050 configuration, the Dell XPS 14 strikes a decent middle ground of a laptop suited to both work and media consumption. Its undoubtedly stylish design leaves me torn: it looks fantastic but at the cost of usability.

You do get used to the unconventional trackpad design over time, but the capacitive function row instead of physical keys is a misfire. A 14-inch laptop without built-in USB-A or HDMI ports is also annoying. Including a dongle as a stopgap doesn’t make up for the convenience of natively integrated I/O ports.

In all other facets, the Dell XPS 14 is a great laptop. If it weren’t for some design quirks, it’d almost be perfect.

Dell XPS 14 (9440)
One of the most stylish laptops I've used, the Dell XPS 14 is great for work and play, only slightly hampered by some design quirks.
Features
8.5
Value for money
8.5
Performance
8.5
Ease of use
7
Design
8
Positives
Classy and stylish design
RTX 4050 model yields versatile performance
Negatives
No built-in USB-A or HDMI ports, relies on dongle
Capacitive function row
8.1