Dell's venerable XPS laptop range gets a long-overdue redesign
Dell may not be exhibiting at this year’s CES tech conference in Las Vegas but that hasn’t stopped the company from unveiling a raft of new products, including three new laptops: the Dell XPS 13, the Dell XPS 14 and the Dell XPS 16 – or Intel from showcasing the new machines at the show.
Normally, XPS updates aren’t all that exciting bit of news but this year Dell is at last updating the whole XPS range to adopt the same design we saw on the Dell XPS 13 Plus that launched back in 2022. It’s the first time Dell has given its XPS range a wholesale update in what feels like years.
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That means in 2024 there will no longer be a split between the Plus and non-Plus XPS laptops; all of Dell’s new XPS machines will effectively be ‘XPS Plus’ machines, benefitting from the signature features of the 2022 XPS 13 Plus. They will all have a haptic touchbar running along the top of the keyboard, instead of the old physical function key row.
The keyboards all have Dell’s excellent zero lattice design, with a slightly deeper dish to each key than before. The touchpads will be seamlessly integrated into the laptops’ matte-finish Gorilla Glass 3 wristrests, with haptic feedback instead of a physical click – rather like Apple’s Force Touch trackpads.
There’s a learning curve to these touchpads but we liked the one on the XPS 13 Plus when we first reviewed it and, when we handled the new machines briefly at the Intel event, the touchpad was similar in feel. In fact, of all the laptops in Intel’s showcase, where it was showing off what seemed like every laptop under the sun, these new Dell machines were a highlight. They’re properly grown up laptops with modern, well thought out design.
As for internal componentry, that differs depending on the size of the laptop but all the new machines will come with one of Intel’s latest Core Ultra CPUs inside with their new “tile” based architecture and a choice of integrated Intel Arc graphics or discrete Nvidia GeForce RTX 40-series GPUs.
The new XPS machines all also come with Dell’s fast charging tech, allowing them to charge to 80% capacity in an hour, and are available in ‘graphite’ (grey) or platinum’ (silver) colours.
Dell XPS 16: What you need to know
The largest of the lot – the Dell XPS 16 – is also the most powerful of the new machines. It comes with either a 16-core Intel Core Ultra 7 (the 4.8GHz 155H or the 5GHz 165H) or the Intel Core Ultra 9 185H.
Graphics duties are taken care of by either Intel’s integrated Arc at the low end, or Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 4050, 4060 or 4070 discrete GPUs. And the laptop comes with up to 64GB of RAM and up to a 4TB SSD.
As far as display options go, the XPS 16 will come with the option of a 90Hz 4K+ OLED touchscreen (3,840 x 2,400) or a 120Hz Full HD+ display. The 16in machine isn’t the lightest thing, though. It weighs either 2.1kg or 2.2kg depending on the display type, although it is pretty sleek and slim, at 19mm thick, when closed.
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Dell XPS 14: The sweet spot laptop?
As you work your way down the size scale, the performance components become less exotic. The Dell XPS 14, for instance, tops out with the 16-core, 5GHz Intel Core i7 Ultra 165H, instead of offering the Core 9 Ultra for those who want a more powerful compact laptop.
This is backed up with either Intel Arc graphics at the low end or a discrete Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 GPU at the high end – it will be interesting to see how these two GPUs compare – plus up to 64GB of RAM and 4TB of SSD storage.
As with the XPS 16, you have the option of a high-resolution 14.5in 3.2K OLED touchscreen (with a refresh rate of 120Hz, 400-nit brightness and Dolby Vision support), or the more basic non-touch Full HD+ IPS panel, which also refreshes at up to 120Hz. Alas, like the 16in machine, the XPS 14 also isn’t particularly svelte, weighing a relatively hefty 1.7kg.
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Dell XPS 13: A ‘Plus’ no longer
Finally, the classic 13in machine, which is essentially the same as that groundbreaking 2022 XPS 13 Plus model but with updated internals. Again, there’s a step down in overall performance compared with the XPS 14 and 16, with a more basic CPU available in the lowest configuration – the 12-core, 4.5GHz Intel Core Ultra 5 125H – and only Intel’s Arc chip for graphics.
Even if you go for the most powerful XPS 13 with the Intel Core Ultra 6 165H, however, you won’t be able to choose an Nvidia GPU.
As for the display, that measures 13.4in across the diagonal and will be available in three different specifications, depending on your requirements and budget. At the low end is the Full HD+ (1,920 x 1,200) non-touch IPS display, which refreshes at up to 120Hz. Next in the range is a sharper QHD+ (2,560 x 1,600) IPS screen, which refreshes at up to 120Hz.
The premium option is the 2.8K OLED touchscreen, although this, rather surprisingly, only refreshes at up to 60Hz. Weights and dimensions do differ depending on which screen you go for but generally, you’re looking at a laptop that’s around 15mm thick when closed and that weighs 1.2kg – so pretty competitive for a laptop of its class.
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Based on our experience with the 2022 model, it’s looking like 2024’s Dell XPS range is going to be a pretty good one. The build quality and usability should be up to snuff and it will be interesting to see how Intel’s latest CPUs stack up from a performance standpoint, particularly the cheaper Intel Core Ultra 5 125H.
The Asus Zenbook 14 OLED (UX3405MA) we’ve tested already suggests Intel is beginning to catch up with Apple from a performance/efficiency standpoint. Let’s hope that, when these arrive for review later in the year, they live up to that early promise.