Dell XPS 13 review

A super slim laptop with a fast processor, but the fussy touchpad lets it down a little

Our Rating 
5/5
Price when reviewed 
1,079
inc VAT

Page 1 of 2Dell XPS 13 review

Specifications

13.3 in 1,920x1,080 display, 1.4kg, 2GHz Intel Core i7-3537U, 8.00GB RAM, 256GB disk, Windows 8

After the last bulky laptop we'd seen from Dell, we’d almost lost faith in company’s definition of Intel’s Ultrabook standard. Thankfully, the XPS 13 is here to redress the balance and it remains Dell’s lightest and slimmest Ultrabook to date.

Dell XPS 13

Its lightweight carbon-fibre chassis makes it one of the best-looking laptops we’ve seen. Its thinnest point is a mere 6mm thick and it weighs just 1.36kg, making it perfect for slipping into a bag and taking with you wherever you go. We couldn’t quite make it last the full duration of Dell’s claimed eight-and-a-half-hours of battery life, as our light use battery test finished in 5h 42m when the screen was set to half-brightness. This is still quite a good result, but it’s fairly average when you place it alongside other Ultrabooks.

Such style doesn't come cheaply, though, as the XPS 13 is one of the most expensive Ultrabooks that doesn’t have a touchscreen or transform into a tablet. There’s a cheaper, less powerful model available for £829, but if all you’re after is raw performance power, then there’s very little to distinguish the XPS 13 from the Best Buy-winning Dell Inspiron 15z when it comes to its basic components.

COMPONENTRY

Our review sample came with a 2GHz Intel Core i7-3537U processor and 8GB of RAM, and it scored 53 overall in our multimedia benchmarks. This is plenty fast enough for everyday applications as well as more demanding tasks that require multi-threading. Its ability to encode image and video files was marginally faster, but its multitasking capabilities were more or less the same.

It performed surprisingly well in our Dirt Showdown tests, despite not having a dedicated graphics card. Most Ultrabooks that have to rely on their integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 chip sets tend to struggle with playing Dirt Showdown, but the XPS 13 managed to produce 18.9fps on High Quality settings at a 720p resolution. It’s still not fantastic by traditional gaming standards, but we were pleased to see that we only had to lower the settings to Medium after disabling the anti-aliasing to get a more playable 30fps at the same resolution.

We were expecting to have to drop the settings down to Low or Ultra Low Quality to achieve this kind of frame rate, but we only had to settle for this level of detail when we increased the resolution to its native 1,920x1,080.

PAY AND DISPLAY

What really makes the XPS 13 stand out from the crowd is its stunning 13.3in display. This is one of the few non-convertible Ultrabooks that has a Full HD 1.920x1,080 resolution, but its gorgeous edge-to-edge glass and superb image quality puts the XPS 13 in a class of its own. Blacks and whites were deep and true, and reds, greens and blues were incredibly rich and vivid. Our high contrast images looked even better with plenty of detail and vibrant colours on show in each photo.

Dell XPS 13

There isn’t a great amount of screen tilt to help combat the reflections created by its glossy finish, but these were fairly minimal even in our brightly lit offices and its superb viewing angles made it very easy to see from a variety of angles.

We found the keyboard very comfortable to type on. The keys felt a little too close together at times, but they provided plenty of tactile feedback and were great to type on once we’d got used to them.

Dell XPS 13

The XPS 13's smooth all-in-one touchpad is a bit of a mixed bag. We found it fine for moving the cursor and left- and right-clicking files, but we struggled a little with multi-touch gestures. Two-finger scrolling worked perfectly, but trying to use Windows 8 shortcuts like bringing up the Charms bar was far less responsive. We’d occasionally be able to get them work, but more often than not the touchpad would completely fail to register our touch. It’s not the best touchpad we’ve ever used, but it’s a fairly minor complaint overall.

PORTS AHOY

Another downside to the XPS 13 is its lack of connectivity . This is to be expected on such a slim laptop, but its pair of USB3 ports, mini-DisplayPort and a combined headphone and microphone jack may be a bit too restrictive for some users. Its integrated speakers are excellent, though, with plenty of bass and lots of volume.

Dell XPS 13

The Dell XPS 13 is a beautifully made laptop with a gorgeous screen. The Samsung Series 7 Ultra is arguably a better buy with its touchscreen display and dedicated graphics chip, but few other laptops can match the XPS 13's stunning design and display quality.

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