Dell XPS13 Review – The King of the Ultraportables… for now Dell XPS13 Review – The King of the Ultraportables… for now
The latest iteration of Dell's successful - and sexy - XPS13 laptop range is the best yet. Dell XPS13 Review – The King of the Ultraportables… for now

The XPS13 has spent a lot of time at the top of the world’s thin-and-light ultraportable laptop line-up throughout its five-year existence, thanks to its incredible build quality, its handsome looks and some undeniable performance. It’s been a king among its peers, one could say.

And with the latest hardware refresh that has added Intel’s 7th-generation Kaby Lake chips to the mix, sped up the already-fast SSD with NVMe technology and somehow extended the XPS13’s already-excellent battery life even further, its “king” status has become all but unassailable.

Even the mighty MacBook bows down out of respect (or, more like, port envy) when the XPS13 makes an appearance.

So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the latest version of Dell’s most regal business notebook.

Display

Part of the XPS13’s core appeal has been Dell’s decision to fit a 13-inch display into an 11-inch chassis, giving people a bigger screen than they’d normally expect to find in such a compact chassis. And that holds true in this latest model, except now Dell has bumped up the resolution and included a touch option for those who want it as well.

That’s right, should you go for the higher-end model, you’ll get a screen with a very respectable 3200 x 1800 resolution (over the standard 1080p screen), making everything shown look pin-sharp. Windows 10 handles the scaling beautifully, too, so you’ll never see another pixelated font in the Windows interface ever again. The only time that’ll happen is if the app/website/program you’re using isn’t optimised for such high resolutions; it definitely won’t be the system’s fault.

If you’re a both-hands kind of worker/creator/artist, you’ll be pleased to know that the touchscreen can respond to all ten of your busy fingers without taking any strain at all. Viewing angles are slightly narrower than non-touch screens, although brightness and colour saturation are both right up there with the best of them.

WiFi

No chart-topping laptop is going to ship without AC-class WiFi, so of course it comes standard with every XPS13. But it’s not just any AC-class WiFi – no, Dell included the excellent Killer 1535 Wireless-AC card in every model.

It’s the second generation of Killer Networking’s High 1535 Performance WiFi adapter, a well-reviewed WiFi adapter that addresses many of the issues of competing products, namely latency, video stuttering at longer ranges and signal quality when far from the router.

All of those issues have been nipped in the bud by Killer, and the result is a reliable and high-speed WiFi adapter that keeps the XPS13 connected in situations that others would struggle with.

General Performance

Dell gives buyers a choice of Intel’s mid-range Core i5 and a selection of its high-end Core i7 processors, allowing customers to match the price and performance of the system to their requirements. Naturally, the faster the chip the better the overall performance.

The good news is that should your budget only allow for a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB solid state hard drive, you’ll still see great system responsiveness. And if you’re after prime performance, Dell lets you go all the way up to a Core i7, 16GB of RAM and a massive 512GB NVMe-enabled solid-state hard drive.

No matter whether your need is for speed or affordability or a bit of both, the XPS13 has you covered.

Every XPS13, regardless of the processor, comes with an Intel HD 620 graphics chip. It might not play the latest games at 1080p/60fps/Ultra settings, but Intel’s 7th-gen graphics chip is beefy enough to play the odd game at lower settings. We’re talking 30fps on The Rise of the Tomb Raider at medium settings and 1080p; that’s on par with Xbox One and PlayStation 4 performance, which is to say not bad at all. Especially for an embedded graphics chip.

Build

Sometimes, when a company puts in all the right insides into a laptop, they skimp on the chassis a bit to save money. Not so with the Dell XPS13 – it’s clad in a gorgeous aluminium shell, with plastic and rubber highlights. The result is the impression of premium quality that extends beyond mere looks – the XPS13 feels really solid in the hand. Other laptops can feel a bit bendy and plasticky, but not the XPS13.

The keyboard is particularly nicely done, with key travel of 1.3mm that translates to very comfortable and fast typing. As the XPS13 is quite compact its keyboard doesn’t have a number pad, but this is an acceptable (and understandable) omission.

But it’s probably the ports that set the XPS13 apart from the likes of Apple’s newest MacBooks, as it actually has a few. There are two USB 3.0 ports and a USB Type C port arranged along the edges, accompanied by an SD card reader. Not only do the USB 3.0 ports allow peripherals and accessories to connect, but the laptop can be charged via the USB Type C port with an adapter.

That’s a lot of convenience and versatility on offer that other big-name laptop manufacturers are overlooking in favour of making their notebooks thinner and lighter than ever. While that’s all well and good for photoshoots and slick marketing videos, end users want laptops they can actually use with all of the mice, keyboards, and printers they typically connect to on any given work day, something that will help the XPS13 curry a lot of favour with buyers. And for good reason – Apple’s rush to “innovate” has left a lot of fans cold.

Battery Life

Even though the XPS13 is a veritable powerhouse, Dell claims to have squeezed over 9 hours of battery life out of it for the version with the 3200 x 1800 touchscreen, and over 13 hours for its non-touch 1080p counterpart, as measured by a web surfing test with the screen set to 100 nits of its total 305 max. While that’s not hugely bright, it is conceivably bright enough to work on.

While we’d guess that 9 hours and nine hours of battery life is achievable under ideal circumstances, it’s probably safer to budget on about 7 to 9 hours of usable battery life, which is still great, all things considered.

Overall

Dell’s XPS13 is a stunningly good Windows 10 laptop. It’s fast, it’s light and it looks amazing, so when you throw in battery life that’s up to 13 hours between charges and real, actual ports that people can connect stuff to, it has the competition beat.

If it’s a powerful, versatile, great-looking business laptop you’re looking for, there really is no topping Dell’s latest XPS13.

But the year is young, so for now we’ll add a “…yet” to that.

This is the laptop to beat this year. It's fast, it looks good and its battery life is impressive - everything anyone could need in an ultraportable.
  • Looks
  • Build Quality
  • Performance
  • Battery Life
  • Keyboard
  • Ports
  • Trackpad
  • Display
  • Cost

5 of 5

5 of 5

5 of 5

3 of 5

5 of 5

  • World’s first/only laptop with InfinityEdge display
  • 13-inch laptop display in an 11-inch form factor
  • Gorgeous QHD+ display with 3200 x 1800 pixels
  • Powered by 7th-generation Intel processors
  • Accommodates up to 16GB of RAM
  • SSD-based storage (up to 512GB) for lightning-fast responsiveness
  • Thunderbolt and USB Type-C ports
  • Uses Windows 10 64-bit
  • Deon

    April 1, 2017 #1 Author

    What is available and at what cost?

    Reply

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