Reviewing the Dell XPS 13

Reviewing the Dell XPS 13

Dell just made one of the best laptops even better. Loaded with Intel’s powerful eighth-generation core processor, the XPS 13 is even faster and more powerful than ever. Plus, Dell finally got rid of the nose camera. However, the combination of a 4K display and a power-hungry CPU puts battery life at less than 8 hours, which can be detrimental to mobile professionals. If you need more endurance, we recommend the 1080p model, which lasts more than 12 hours on battery power. And if you want a convertible laptop, consider the next XPS 13 2-in-1, which includes 10th generation Intel CPUs. In terms of design and performance, the XPS 13 is still one of the best in its class. Configuration Options

The Dell XPS 13 is packed with benefits, including a 1.8 GHz Intel Core i7-8565U CPU with 16 GB of RAM, a 1 TB PCIe SSD, an Intel UHD 620 Graphics GPU and a 4K touch screen.

The base model significantly reduces power with an Intel Core i3 CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, an Intel UHD 620 Graphics GPU and a 1920 x 1080 non-touch screen.

If you’re looking for a 2-in-1 convertible laptop, the new Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 offers a 10th generation Intel Core processor and a larger keyboard than its predecessor in an even slimmer design.

Design

Dell decided to change things with a new color scheme that is as attractive as the previous model, if not more so. The anodized aluminum has a light gray finish that stops just before the pearlescence. The Dell logo sits triumphantly in the center of the lid as the only embellishment.

A glance at the sides of the laptop reveals the white finish. The interior cover retains the fiberglass fabric of previous models that is both beautiful and strong. The pristine white continues onto the screen, delineating the sparse edges of the InfinityEdge bezel. Follow the bezels and you’ll discover that the webcam has migrated from the lower bezel to its correct location in the upper center.

At 30.2 x 19.8 x 0.8 ~ 1.3 cm, the 1.21 kg laptop is thin and lightweight. At 1.5 cm thick, the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro (with Touchbar), Razer Blade Stealth, and Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 look thick in comparison. The MacBook Pro (1.36 kg) and the Stealth (1.31 kg) are definitely heavier, while the Surface Laptop 2 is a little lighter at 1.2 kg.

Webcam

The webcam is Dell’s smallest. In response to the fact that the webcam in the previous XPS 13 was derisively called a “nose camera” because of its position on the lower bezel, Dell made its own webcam and moved it back to where it belongs on the upper bezel.

The new camera is only 0.2 cm long, but it still manages to take a good picture.

Ports

The XPS 13 doesn’t have many ports, but you can do a lot with them.

The pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports on the left and the UBC Type-C port on the right are capable of charging the laptop and can act as mini DisplayPorts if you want to connect the laptop to a larger monitor.

That leaves a microSD card on the right to expand memory, and the headphone jack and wedge-lock slot on the left to listen to music and secure your laptop.

Screen

Dell continues to lead the way in having the thinnest possible bezels, thanks to its InfinityEdge design. The top bezel is a little thicker than normal to accommodate the webcam, but not so thick that you’ll notice it.

The dramatic color touches come from the display’s ability to reproduce 119 percent of the sRGB range, which matches the MacBook Pro and exceeds the average of 117 percent of premium notebooks. However, the Stealth was a little more vivid at 120 percent, while the Surface Laptop 2 reached an incredible 176 percent.

At an average of 375 nits, the XPS 13’s display is very bright, eclipsing the average of 318 nits, as well as the 346 nits of Stealth and the 321 nits of Surface.

Audio

The XPS 13’s side speakers were a pleasant surprise. The laptop manages to fill a medium sized room with loud audio.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The most impressive thing is the experience of writing. Despite having only 1 millimeter of key travel (usually you look for at least 1.5 mm), you never feel like you’re hitting bottom when you’re writing. And thanks to the 63 grams of actuation force, the shallow keys have a nice little touch.

Dell XPS 13 - Keyboard

The 4.1 x 2.3 inch precision touchpad is fast and accurate, as is my pinch zoom, two-finger scroll and three-finger swipe.

Performance

Armed with one of Intel’s new Whiskey Lake chips, specifically the Core i7-8565U CPU with 16GB of RAM, the laptop allowed me to stream Black Mirror from Netflix and at the same time open 25 additional Google Chrome tabs with a Twitch, Tweetdeck or YouTube stream. The XPS 13 ran effortlessly, running without any indication of delay.

The laptop held up well during the synthetic tests, scoring 14,936 on Geekbench 4, which measures overall performance. That was enough to surpass the average of 12,407 premium laptops, as well as the 12,676 published by Surface Laptop 2 (Intel Core i5-8250U). However, the Razer Blade Stealth, which has its own Core i7-8565U, reached 15,878, while the MacBook Pro and its 8th generation Intel Core i7 CPU delivered 17,348.

When the Excel spreadsheet Macro test was run, the XPS 13 took 1 minute and 10 seconds to match 65,000 names and addresses, passing the category average of 1:31. Surface Laptop 2 and MacBook Pro were not far behind at 1:15 and 1:16, respectively. But Stealth blew the competition away, completing the task in 21 seconds.

The XPS 13’s 1TB PCIe solid-state drive took 9 seconds to copy 4.97GB of media files. That translates to a transfer rate of 565 megabytes per second, which was more than enough to exceed the average of 529.7 MBps. Neither the Stealth nor the Surface Laptop 2 with its 512 GB NVMe PCIe M.2 SSD could touch it at 254 and 203 MBps. But the MacBook and its 256GB SSD were out of the running at 2,519MBps.

At the Handbrake benchmark, the XPS 13 transcoded 4K video at 1080p in 19 minutes and 20 seconds. It was enough to beat Stealth’s 21:54 and 20:34 average. But the Surface Laptop 2 and MacBook Pro were faster at 17:30 and 14:47, respectively.

Don’t expect to play graphically demanding games like Battlefield V or Destiny 2 with the XPS 13 Intel UHD 620 Graphics GPU. The notebook reached 88 frames per second at the Dirt 3 benchmark, which ran at 1920 x 1080p. That score exceeded the average of 73 fps, as did the MacBook Pro (Intel Iris Plus 655) and the Surface Laptop 2 (Intel UHD 620 Graphics GPU), which reached 47 and 82 fps. But the Stealth with its discreet Nvidia GeForce MX 150 GPU posted 164 fps.

Battery life

If you want the highest strength, we would opt for a Full-HD display on the XPS 13 and omit the 4K panel. The combination of the high resolution and power consumption of Whiskey Lake has a cost.

The review unit lasted only 7 hours and 50 minutes in the laptop battery test (continuous web browsing via Wi-Fi at 150 nits). That’s well below the average of the premium 8:30 laptop. The Stealth did a little better with a time of 8:05, while the MacBook Pro and Surface Laptop 2 recorded times of 8:43 and 9:22, respectively.

We expect to see a much longer run time for the XPS 13’s 1080p display settings.

Final words

The Dell XPS 13 was already a great laptop and Dell has made some improvements to remain the overall favorite ultraportable. The addition of Intel Whiskey Lake consolidates the XPS 13’s status as a mobile powerhouse. And when you’re not working, that lively 4K screen is perfect for watching videos.

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