Advertisement
Advertisement

Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition review

Katharine Byrne
9 May 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
899
inc VAT

Its keyboard isn't ideal for coding, but technical staff may value this Ultrabook

Advertisement

Specifications

13.3 in 1,920x1,080 display, 1.4kg, 2GHz Intel Core i7-3537U, 8.00GB RAM, 256GB disk, Ubuntu 12.04

When we last reviewed the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook, we were impressed with its exceptional build quality, long battery life and its speedy processing power, so we were keen to see the new “Developer’s Edition” of Dell’s flagship ultraportable laptop. The XPS 13 Developer’s Edition runs Linux, specifically the Ubuntu 12.04 LTS distribution, instead of Windows 8. This won’t appeal to everyone, of course, but Linux fans will find a lot to like here.

Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition

The XPS 13’s maximum 1,920x1,080 resolution looks stunning on its 13.3in display and its glossy finish helps give primary colours real punch and vibrancy. This naturally makes the screen more reflective, which can cause a few problems if you’re working with overhead lighting, but considering it can produce such deep blacks and true whites, we had few complaints. We were also impressed with its wide viewing angles, and we could view the screen with little to no shift in contrast from almost any angle.

SLIM-LINE POWER
Its lightweight, 1.4Kg carbon-fibre chassis looks great, too. Dell’s kept the same smooth curves and metallic lid of the previous model and it measures just 18mm at its thickest point. It’s an ideal size for slipping into your bag, but we were a little disappointed that its battery life didn’t stretch to the impressive seven and a half hours we saw on the last XPS 13 we tested. Instead, we managed five hours and 45 minutes in our light-use tests with the screen set to half-brightness, but this is still a pretty good result.

Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition

The top priority for any developer, however, isn’t how great the screen is or how nice it looks, it’s the keyboard, and this proved much more problematic during our tests. The keyboard now has an extra key and although we liked the previous version, the current model’s Chiclet-style keys feel too close together. This makes it particularly ill-suited to typing commands quickly and error-free. We’d prefer more key travel, too.

NO TUX?

We were equally disappointed to see that the keyboard on the Developer’s Edition’s seems to be no different from that of the Windows 8 version of the XPS 13, as it has a Windows key. We don’t mind the key itself, but we think it should be emblazoned with a Tux icon rather than a Windows icon. Disappointingly, some of the Linux shortcuts we’d expect to use straight away by default were also mapped rather unhelpfully to different keys. An example is using Super- Tab (Windows-Tab) to access the Dash, which is Ubuntu’s version of Windows’ Start menu, instead of just hitting Super. Thankfully, Ubuntu lets you customise certain commands, but it made using the system much more fussy than we’d have liked from the start.

Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition

The all-in-one touchpad was very smooth and responsive, but on the whole we found clicking individual files and folders quite frustrating. In this case, we’d have preferred to have two separate buttons. Likewise, we noticed small pieces of its soft-touch material rubbing away underneath our fingers if we used it for long periods of time, which raised concerns over its build quality and longevity.

Its raw processing power was more promising. Unusually for Dell, the Developer’s Edition of the XPS 13 only has one specification, but it comes with Intel’s latest 2GHz Core i7-3537U processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. It scored a speedy 56 overall in our multimedia benchmarks, which puts it an average of seven points ahead of the previous wave of Ultrabooks when it comes to performance. We were a little disappointed to see that its multitasking ability was still roughly the same as older Core i7-3517U-based Ultrabooks we’ve tested, but it scored slightly higher in our image editing benchmark.