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Dell XPS 13 Plus: An invisible touchpad and a bold new look

The Dell XPS 13 Plus has a stunning, minimalist new look, but is the radical new design practical - or a usability nightmare in the offing?

Dell used its CES presentation to unveil a trio of Alienware laptops and some interesting not-for-purchase concept hardware, but it was the Dell XPS 13 Plus that stole the show. 
The follow up to one of the best laptops you can buy, the 2020 Dell XPS 13, the new Plus model is certainly eye-catching. Ultrabooks usually make for desirable products thanks to their thin and light frames, but Dell has taken that to the next level with a laptop that’s 15.28mm thick and 2.73lbs, and that conceals the physical function keys and trackpad with a bold new minimalist design.  
Naturally, the trackpad hasn’t disappeared completely — in fact, it’s got larger as the whole palmrest is now a glass touchpad. Dell claims that the force pad haptics will provide precise, responsive feedback.
The physical F keys really are gone, however, replaced by a capacitive touch row. This can be toggled between function keys and media keys, and once again it’s a strong look, although we can’t help remembering how unpopular Apple’s similar sounding MacBook TouchBar proved to be. It was finally removed from MacBook Pro laptops this year.  
Of course, the actual keyboard remains physical, and Dell claims that the zero-lattice design will offer larger keycaps and a deeper 0.3mm tread, designed with touch typists in mind.
The internals have been updated to feature the latest 12th-generation Alder Lake-P 28W Intel processors with options ranging from the 4.4GHz 12-core Core i5-1240P all the way up to the 4.8GHz 14-core Core i7-1280P. These can be paired with between 8GB and 32GB RAM, and to keep everything running smoothly, Dell says that the dual fans have been enlarged to provide up to 55% more airflow in a frame that’s the same size and just as quiet as before.  
While it only comes with one option of screen size — 13.4in as the name suggests — you can pick how many pixels the panel packs. The entry-level models come with a FHD+ screen (with or without a touch interface), but you can upgrade that to a model with either a 3.5K (3,456 x 2,160) OLED touchscreen or a 4K 3,840 x 2,400 panel, should you wish.
Obviously doing so will send the price skyrocketing, but at the time of writing it’s not clear by exactly how much. All we know is that the entry-level model (Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage and FHD+ screen) will set you back $1,199.99 in the US and it’ll be available to buy from Spring 2022. We’ll provide UK pricing as and when we have it.

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