An incremental refresh of an already great Windows laptop - now boosted by the addition of Intel's 10th-gen chips
- Superb display
- Excellent battery life
- Webcam is back up top
- No discrete graphics
- Lacking in ports
News update: Dell has announced that its flagship laptop, the Dell XPS 13, will come with Intel’s new 10th generation U-series processors. Available from the 5th of September the new specifications won’t initially feature the most powerful six-core Comet Lake chip, but Dell did say that it will be adding those to the XPS 13 in October. The new models will also come with the new Killer AX1650 (2×2 MIMO) Wi-Fi 6 chipset, too, promising faster, more reliable wireless connections, too.
We’re excited by the new configurations and will be adding performance results to this review as soon as we get our hands on a review sample. In the meantime, you can read our review of the 2019 model Dell XPS 13 below. Just be aware that you’ll probably want to hold off buying one until the new models appear on Dell’s website.
Original review continues below
Despite few changes over the years, Dell’s XPS 13 is still setting the standard for ultraportable laptops. With the American tech titan choosing to make slight adjustments with each new model, rather than completely reinventing the wheel, the much-loved XPS 13 hasn’t changed quite as dramatically as some of its rivals in a similar timeframe.
It should come as no surprise that this year’s XPS 13 is no different. The 2019 model remains the same great laptop you’re already familiar with by now, albeit with a handful of subtle tweaks to the well-trodden formula. Has Dell done enough this year to maintain its ranking at the top of the laptop hierarchy?
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Dell XPS 13 (2019) review: What you need to know
The 2019 Dell XPS 13 is the latest in a long line of 13in XPS laptops. As you’d expect from any other premium laptop, there are numerous configurations available. This year’s XPS 13 has been updated with the latest eighth-generation Intel CPUs and can be fitted with up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of PCIe SSD storage. Unsurprisingly, the laptop also includes a 13.3in non-touch IPS display and is running either Windows 10 or Ubuntu.
Perhaps most crucially of all, the XPS 13’s 720p webcam is now located above the screen. Rather than sitting underneath the display with previous models, and making you look like Jabba the Hutt during important conference calls, the small 720p webcam is now in a much better-suited position.
Dell XPS 13 (2019) review: Price and competition
The model I was sent to review, which includes a Full HD screen, Intel Core i7-8565U chipset, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, will set you back £1,399. If your wallet is a little lighter, a base-spec XPS 13 goes for £1,020, while top-spec models begin to get rather pricey.
For £1,669 you can pick up a 4K touchscreen variant, which is powered by the same processor with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. Dell has been kind enough to offer a cheaper 4K touchscreen model for £1,399, although you’ll have to settle for a not-so-powerful Intel Core i5-8265U chipset.
It’s a shame that there’s no discrete graphics upgrade with this year’s XPS 13. The sleek Razer Blade Stealth 13, which I reviewed at £1,500, is packed with an Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU that gave its gaming performance a significant boost. Of course, the laptop’s stamina would likely take a hefty knock, but it would be nice to be given the option.
The Dell XPS 13 has to fight off a number of key rivals, including Huawei’s phenomenal Matebook X Pro and the ultra-stylish Microsoft Surface Laptop 2. HP has fallen behind the pack somewhat in recent years, however, as the HP Spectre 13 (2018) lags behind in nearly every performance category.
Dell XPS 13 (2019) review: Design
Dell always makes lovely-looking laptops and this year’s XPS 13 refresh is yet another fine example. The aluminium body and ‘aerospace’ carbon fiber design make for a sturdy yet lightweight build that’s easy to carry around all day. The matte ‘woven glass fiber’ palm rests are also nice, but nothing beats the Alcantara fabric on the Microsoft Surface Laptop 2.
The new XPS 13 also has identical physical dimensions to its predecessor, measuring just 7.8mm at its thinnest point and weighs a backpack-friendly 1.17kg. This laptop exudes quality, as you should expect for a machine of this price.
With such a slim chassis it can be difficult to squeeze in a healthy range of ports, and in 2019 the Dell XPS 13 continues to suffer from connectivity deficiency. You do get three USB Type-C ports, of which the two on the left-hand side are Thunderbolt 3 enabled, but there are no HDMI or USB Type-A connectors. There is a microSD card slot and 3.5mm audio jack on the right edge, however, and Dell does include a USB Type-C adapter in the box.
The biggest difference between this XPS 13 and the previous models is the size and position of the webcam. Dell claims to have made “the world’s smallest HD webcam” – it measures just 2.25mm – and this innovation has allowed the manufacturer to position the camera above the screen. It is remarkably small and doesn’t interfere with the XPS 13’s famously thin bezels, either. For customers, the improved webcam spells the end of a woeful era of exaggerated double-chins caused by the unflattering under-screen webcam angle.
As before, this year’s XPS 13 comes in three different styles. My review model had the traditional platinum silver lid with black carbon fiber interior, while the other two can be configured with an arctic white keyboard surround with a choice of either a rose gold or frost-coloured chassis.
Dell XPS 13 (2019) review: Keyboard and touchpad
Unsurprisingly, the chiclet keyboard on the Dell XPS 13 is an absolute pleasure to type on. It’s a small laptop, which necessitates a more compact key layout, but I found it to be very user-friendly; with a palm planted either side of the touchpad all of the keys are within easy reach, and there’s no need to move your hands about too much.
There’s a sturdiness to this keyboard which you don’t often find in a laptop. It reminds me of the keys on a Lenovo ThinkPad, which make a ‘thumping’ sound rather than a ‘clicking’ noise that creates a sense of solidity and dependability, and travel distance is perfect too. The LED backlighting can either be turned off or set to two levels of brightness when pressing the F10 key.
Not everything’s perfect, though. For the most part the touchpad on the Dell XPS 13 is fine, but when using two-finger scrolling it sometimes appears to have a mind of its own. I found that the scroll command can over-respond massively, going all the way to the top or bottom of the page, although this is quite infrequent. Worse, two-finger scroll will occasionally activate an erratic cursor-spasming which whips it all over the screen and even clicks on things you’ve not asked it to.
While it doesn’t happen all the time – it comes in bursts – it is enormously frustrating because once it kicks off there’s not much you can do. This is presumably a software fault but I couldn’t say whether it affects any other models besides the one I’ve tested.
When moving the cursor about the screen the touchpad is responsive and accurate for the most part, and almost the entire surface area of the touchpad can be pressed – you don’t have to be that accurate with the left and right clicks.
To the right of the keyboard, just next to the Delete key, sits the circular power button. This doubles as a fingerprint sensor although it’s not the most reliable that I’ve used. After about a week of using the fingerprint unlock function the reader stopped recognising my finger presses and I had to go through the scanning process again. When it is working, however, it unlocks the laptop almost instantly.
Dell XPS 13 (2019) review: Display and speakers
Few laptops can boast such a colour-accurate, high-contrast display as found on the new Dell XPS 13. This review model has a 13.3in FHD (1,920 x 1,080) non-touch IPS panel with a refresh rate of 60Hz, and it’s frankly brilliant.
The XPS 13’s display has an sRGB gamut coverage of 95.2% and an average Delta E of 1.6, meaning that it’s well-suited for colour-sensitive photo and video editing tasks. The majority of the colour palette is reproduced perfectly, although some reds and greens are oversaturated slightly. The display also has a bright maximum luminance of 413cd/m2, with high visibility even in overbearing lighting conditions. The matte finish also helps to keep reflections to a minimum and its contrast ratio of 1,643:1 is well above average, too.
There isn’t much to say about the XPS 13’s dual speaker arrangement, however, which are side-mounted and blast audio downwards towards the laptop’s resting surface. They do the job well when watching cat videos and fail compilations on YouTube, but I would prefer if they were a little louder.
Dell XPS 13 (2019) review: Performance and battery life
Dell has fitted its latest XPS 13 with an 8th-Gen Intel Core i7-8565U processor with a base frequency of 1.8GHz and a maximum clock speed of 4.6GHz. This review model also has 8GB of RAM to assist with multitasking.
Although the Dell XPS 13 packs a more advanced Intel chipset than the 2018 model we tested, both achieved practically identical scores in the Expert Reviews 4K media benchmarks. In the test, which measures image editing, video editing and multitasking performance, the 2019 XPS 13 bagged an overall rating of 95 compared to the 2018’s score of 96. Do keep in mind that the 2018 model configuration was configured with double the RAM and was £250 more expensive when it launched.
Nevertheless, it’s an impressive result and it manages to remain remarkably cool and quiet even when pushing it to its limits. It doesn’t quite offer the best in class performance, though: the Razer Blade Stealth 13 cranked out a score of 115 under the same conditions, although it was also fitted with 16GB of RAM in addition to an Nvidia GeForce MX150 discrete graphics chip.
The gaming performance of the XPS 13 is acceptable, but once again it’s no match for the Razer Blade Stealth 13. Examining the GFXBench results, you can see that both laptops achieved comparable frame rates in the Manhattan on-screen benchmark, but in the un-capped off-screen test the Razer’s performance was well over double that of the Dell’s.
I also compared their ability to run the demanding Metro: Last Light gaming benchmark on high-settings at Full HD resolution. In this test, the XPS 13 averaged an unplayable 16.3fps whereas the Stealth 13 maintained a frame rate of 39fps. Clearly, the Razer Blade Stealth 13 is the laptop of choice if you’re after respectable gaming performance on a compact, portable machine but the Dell XPS 13 will still handle older titles without too much of a fuss.
When it comes to battery life, though, the Dell XPS 13 excels yet again and even manages to best the phenomenal stamina of last year’s model. In the Expert Reviews standardised battery rundown test the new Dell XPS 13 reached a total time of 10hrs 35mins before finally powering down. That’s 28 minutes longer than last year’s Dell XPS 13 and a massive six hours longer than the Blade Stealth 13. It’s hardly surprising that the Razer performed so poorly given its power-sapping internals, and that’s a real chink in its armour.
Last but not least we come to the laptop’s storage performance. The Dell XPS 13 is fitted with a 256GB NVMe SSD, which achieved sequential file read speeds of 1,937.5MB/s and sequential file write speeds of 396.8MB/s in the AS SSD benchmark. This is roughly on par with the competition, but this year’s XPS 13’s speeds are a bit slower than the 2018 model we tested.
Dell XPS 13 (2019) review: Verdict
It’s no surprise, but this year’s XPS 13 is a stunning machine that ranks among the best premium compact laptops on the market. The subtle design tweaks are most welcome, and it packs the performance capabilities that suitably justify the high asking price.
Indeed, It offers an improvement on last year’s model in practically every area, but the touchpad problems I encountered are still a little troubling. It would also be nice to see a wider range of ports on next year’s laptop, as well as an optional GPU upgrade. However, as it stands, this version is Dell’s best laptop yet, and I imagine it’ll be very hard to beat in the coming months.
|Dell XPS 13 (2019) specifications
|Intel Core i7-8565U, 8th-Gen,
|Additional memory slots
|1,920 x 1,080
|LCD IPS (60fps)
|Intel UHD 620 Graphics
|USB Type-C with DisplayPort (x3)
|256GB PCIe NVMe SSD
|Memory card slot
|USB Type-C, 2 x USB Type-C
with Thunderbolt 3
|3.5mm audio jack, Lock slot,
Micro SD reader
|3.5mm headphone jack
|Killer 1435 802.11ac 2×2
|302 x 199 x 11.6mm
|Windows 10 Home 64bit
|Operating system restore option
An incremental refresh of an already great Windows laptop - now boosted by the addition of Intel's 10th-gen chips
Dell’s new XPS 13 is an impressive laptop. If it weren’t for a few missing features we’d be looking at the new ultraportable top dog