Dell XPS 13 review

The new Dell XPS 13 has outstanding design, build and performance, but its "infinity screen" isn't perfect

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT


Processor: Dual-core 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-5500U, RAM: 8GB, Size: 304x200x15mm, Weight: 1.3kg, Screen size: 13.3in, Screen resolution: 3,200x1,800, Graphics adaptor: Intel HD Graphics 5500, Total storage: 256GB SSD

Dell's XPS laptops are renowned for their premium build quality and powerful processors, but the company has kicked things up a notch for the 2015 update to its XPS 13 ultra-portable - it's possibly the prettiest laptop we've seen in years and certainly gives this year's MacBook Air a run for its money. It also looks fantastic next to the Chromebook Pixel, our other favourite laptop design.

Design and Build

Build quality is outstanding. It's just 15mm thick and only weighs 1.3kg, but is built like a tank. This compares very favourably against the similarly-svelte MacBook Air that comes in at 17mm at its thickest point and slightly heavier at 1.4kg. It's also smaller and lighter than the Chromebook Pixel at 15.3mm thick and 1.5kg heavy. Whether such fine margins really makes any tangible difference day-to-day might be grasping at straws but it is a testament to the XPS 13's fantastic engineering.

The palm rest is made from a carbon fibre-like material with a grippy coating on top, which looks and feels fantastic, but we wish Dell had coated the whole device in a similar material. The lid retains the same grey metal as previous XPS models, meaning it doesn't feel like quite a giant leap forward from the previous model.

The XPS 13's most striking feature is what Dell calls the "infinity screen", a 13.3 touchscreen display with tiny 5mm bezels on the left, right and top. This kind of near-borderless experience is something we've seen on tablets before but never in laptops. Not only does the lack of bezels pull the screen into focus, it also reduces the laptop's footprint by about an inch diagonally, making it noticeably smaller than a 13in MacBook Pro.  A consequence of the tiny bezel is that your fingers and thumbs will touch the display if you grip the lid as you open and close it, which can result in accidentally registering touchscreen inputs.

To keep the bezel small, the webcam has been moved to the bottom left rather than the top. Despite the strange placement, the camera is configured so your face will still be at the centre of the screen. We found the microphone to be a bit muffled, though, which rather limits its usefulness.

Infinity Screen

The high-resolution 3,200x1,800 screen eclipses even that of the Chromebook Pixel and is very good for the most part, but there are niggles that feel a bit out of place on a laptop this expensive. sRGB colour gamut coverage is reasonably high at 92.7%, and contrast levels of 1168:1 are very respectable. However, this great quality is spoiled by some backlight bleed at the bottom left corner of the panel, which is noticeable on both light and dark images.

A quirk of the screen is its adaptive brightness function, which can't be turned off through Windows power management settings. The display backlight adjusts itself automatically depending on what's shown onscreen; the change is so slow it's barely noticeable unless you're really looking for it, but it can make a difference of more than 100cd/m2. The effect will be particularly irritating to photographers. If you zoom in close on an area of an image, it will appear darker or lighter than how it appeared when you were fully zoomed out, which means accurate editing will be difficult. Considering that this laptop would otherwise be the perfect in-the-field tool for photographers, this is disappointing. For everyone else this probably won't be such a huge problem, though, and it didn't affect us when we were using the laptop for non-colour-sensitive tasks.

Windows application scaling also remains an issue. While most commonly used applications now work reasonably well with high-dpi displays, there are many legacy applications that won't scale properly and therefore appear as microscopic windows on screen with illegible text and tiny buttons. Even with Windows scaling turned up to maximum, some applications are still very tricky to use. If you use applications that are likely to be affected we'd be tempted to recommend the cheaper Full HD specification over this high resolution model, but we can't vouch for the quality of the panel or the performance of the less powerful Core i5 CPU.

Read more