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Review of Dell XPS 13 Notebook Series 

Laptops

The Good The Dell XPS 13 keeps everything that was great about the previous model — including its near edge-to-edge-display and fantastic keyboard — and adds the latest Intel Kaby Lake processors and Thunderbolt 3.

The Bad The design means the webcam is awkwardly placed at the bottom of the display. Though the QHD-resolution touchscreen is beautiful, it adds a lot to the price and hurts battery life. Gold version will cost you $50 more.

The Bottom Line Whether you scale back for better battery life or load it up for the best performance possible, the Dell XPS 13 remains one excellent ultraportable laptop.

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8.3 Overall

  • Design
    9
  • Features
    8
  • Performance
    8
  • Battery
    7

When Dell updated the XPS 13 in 2015, it stood out for its barely there screen bezel — the frame around the display. Its 13-inch screen nearly filled the entire laptop lid, giving you more room to work, but in a smaller body just about the size of an 11.6-inch model.

And although other laptop makers like Lenovo have since adopted this near edge-to-edge screen design, the XPS 13 remains a favorite for the rest of the package. The current version includes the latest Intel seventh-generation processors (Kaby Lake) and a Thunderbolt 3 port. With the help of a dock or adapter, you can run a single cable from the XPS 13 to handle power, Ethernet, audio and video.

Compare

Dell XPS 13 Notebook Series

Dell G3 15 3590 Gaming Laptop

Dell XPS 13 (2019)

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (13-inch, 2019)

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 7390

Design 9 7 9 9 10
Features 8 8 8 7 8
Performance 8 8 9 8 9
Battery 7 7 8 7 8
Overall 8.3 7.8 8.7 8.0 8.8
Price $792 Dell $1,700 Amazon $1,299 Walmart $880 Dell

The Dell XPS 13 stays gold.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Available in silver or, for an additional $5o, gold, the XPS 13’s pricing starts at $800 in the US, AU$1,900 in Australia and £1,000 in the UK. At those prices you get a nice 1,920×1,080-pixel resolution display with a matte finish (if you hate glare, this one’s for you). The downsides are that it’s not a touchscreen and you can’t max out the laptop on memory or storage.

If you’re looking for the full premium portable experience, you’ll want to pay extra for the gorgeous quad HD 3,200×1,800-pixel-resolution touchscreen. Though there are people who don’t see the value of a touchscreen on a laptop, I’m not one of them, especially on a system this small. The laptop is perfect for working in tight spaces, but too often I’ve found myself on a bus, train or plane unable to comfortably use a touchpad. With a touchscreen that’s no problem since I can quickly scroll, tap and swipe my way around.

Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13 (touch, late 2016) Dell XPS 13 (late 2016)
Price as reviewed $1,900 (AU$3,000, £1,500) $1,150 (AU$2,000, £1,100)
Display size/resolution 13.3-inch 3,200×1,800 touchscreen 13.3-inch 1,920×1,080
PC CPU 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U
PC memory 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz
Graphics 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620
Storage 512GB SSD 256GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac Bluetooth 4.1 802.11ac Bluetooth 4.1
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit) Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

As for the higher resolution, it’s not a necessity, but Dell doesn’t offer a full HD touchscreen for this model. It is a nice, bright display that makes everything you do look sharper with better detail. The biggest downside here, outside of the increased price and reflections, is that this display really hurts battery life. With the touchscreen, the XPS 13 was able to last for just about 8 hours in our tests. Get the full HD display instead, though, and you’re able to get more than 10.5 hours of run time.

If you were hoping for big performance gains by waiting for Intel’s seventh-generation Core i-series processors, well, you’re going to be disappointed. The overall performance differences between the last XPS 13 we reviewed running sixth-gen processors (Skylake) and these new Kaby Lake versions are minimal.

There wasn’t a huge processing performance difference between the two Kaby Lake configurations I tested, either, for that matter. The Core i7 with twice the memory did remain responsive under heavy load, but if your main goal is to get simple work tasks done while streaming some music in the background, you’ll be fine with the Core i5 and 8GB of memory assuming you take a pass on the touchscreen. Also, while neither of these are great for gaming, the integrated graphics can hit playable frame rates on modern games at reduced resolutions and graphics settings.

Backlit for your typing pleasure.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The XPS 13 can be used for work and play, of course, but it’s definitely more for the former than the latter. Between the screen and the excellent backlit keyboard and its port assortment, this is a fine small office/home office laptop as well as a good choice for students who aren’t on a small budget. The keyboard really is a pleasure to type on and even the touchpad is good, although you should probably turn off some of its multitouch gestures like pinch-to-zoom to save your sanity.

The addition of Thunderbolt 3 lets you quickly turn this little laptop into a full workstation capable of driving multiple monitors, Ethernet, external storage, speakers and power with a single cable connection. You also get a USB 3.0 port, an SD card slot and a mic/headphone jack.

There is a built-in webcam, too, but due to the screen’s lid-spanning design, it’s stuck down in the lower left corner below the screen. The result is awkward up-the-nose video chats. Though, if you’re typing, your left hand appears so large that those on the other end of the conversation probably won’t notice the extreme angle.

In the end, whether you scale back for better battery life or load it up for the best performance possible, the Dell XPS 13 remains a fantastic ultraportable laptop.

Multitasking Multimedia Test 3.0 (in seconds)

Dell XPS 13 (non-touch, late 2016) 441 Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch) 443 Dell XPS 13 (touch, late 2016) 452 HP Spectre 563 Lenovo Yoga ThinkPad X1 Yoga (OLED) 590 Acer Swift 7 761

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 3 Multi-Core

Dell XPS 13 (touch, late 2016) 7,878 Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch) 7,650 Lenovo Yoga ThinkPad X1 Yoga (OLED) 7,378 Dell XPS 13 (non-touch, late 2016) 7,118 HP Spectre 7,003 Acer Swift 7 5,321

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Online Streaming Battery Drain test (in minutes)

Dell XPS 13 (non-touch, late 2016) 636 Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch) 607 Lenovo Yoga ThinkPad X1 Yoga (OLED) 482 Dell XPS 13 (touch, late 2016) 472 HP Spectre 430 Acer Swift 7 414

Note:

Longer bars indicates better performance

System Configurations

Dell XPS 13 (touch, late 2016) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD
Dell XPS 13 (non-touch, late 2016) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.2GHz Intel Core i5-7Y54; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 615; 256GB SSD
HP Spectre Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5HGz Intel Core i7-6500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD
Acer Swift 7 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.2GHz Intel Core i5-7Y54; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 615; 256GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga ThinkPad X1 Yoga (OLED) Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6600U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD

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