Dell XPS 13 review: The smallest 13-inch laptop is a joy to use

Jan 31, 2018 AT 21:37 PM | BY ParrotSavings
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n a world of flash convertibles, detachable screens and gaming machines, Dell’s straight-shooting consumer laptops can appear underwhelming.

But the Dell XPS 13 has landed the standard Windows laptop a top spot in almost every critics list of best laptops for the past two years. Its compact design, excellent battery life and bright, punchy screen tick all the boxes for regular buyers looking for an alternative to their aging MacBook Air.

The latest redesign of the XPS 13 leaves little to be seen on the outside, but its internally upgraded processors have given this laptop a power boost to close out 2017.

But the competition is getting faster. The new XPS 13 starts at £1,099, making it a relatively expensive high-end laptop. So why does everyone still love the XPS 13, and is this upgrade enough to make it a viable choice of top ultrabook into 2018?

InfinityEdge Display and design

The Dell XPS 13’s current design has been its form for close to two years now, but it is still one of the smartest-looking laptops you can buy.

Inside is the screen design that has made this laptop stand out. Dell squeezes a 13.3-inch screen into the body of a standard 11-inch laptop, which it claims makes it the world’s smallest 13-inch laptop. This InfinityEdge screen design has become the norm on mobile phones but still looks stunning on a laptop. The model I was using came with a 3200×1800 QHD touchscreen, which does sparkle with detail.

The simple clamshell look may look a little out of sync with a market full of two-in-one laptops, and it is also not the easiest to open, requiring a little bit of force to pull apart.

Dell keeps a lean selection of ports on the XPS 13, but significantly more than you would find on the single USB-C of the new MacBook. You get two regular USB ports, one SD card slot, a headphone jack, one USB-C and an additional standard charge port. There’s even a wonderful little button on the left side of the laptop that lets you check the battery life even when the lid is closed.

One drawback of that edge-to-edge design is the webcam placement, which is nestled in the bottom left of the display. What this means is if you have to do much video conferencing or Skype calls you can see your unflattering meaty fingers sitting in front of the camera – a distraction and an annoyance.

This also means the laptop does not support the facial recognition Windows Hello feature, however you can add a fingerprint scanner to the keyboard for £25.

Small and light

With such a small build for a 13-inch laptop you can almost forget you are not carrying a powerful, top tier laptop in your bag. Tucked under one arm the XPS 13 feels unobtrusive, and at 1.29kg it feels light on the lap when used at home.

Its keyboard is excellent, of course it is a little small since it is squeezed onto such a small body, but in general, technical terms of “clickiness” it types like a dream.

The trackpad is a little more tricky. It is quite small and required some playing around with the settings to get right, initially feeling over sensitive. This was a nuisance, but after some trial and error I found the right combination of settings to improve the experience.

Performance and battery

The new 2017 XPS 13 was the first laptop announce it would launch with the latest eighth generation Intel processors, meaning you get even swifter performance when running multiple tasks than on previous models.

Running it is very quiet, although not the silent running you get on some more pricey models.

Battery life is an area where Dell has set itself as a market leader in consumer laptops. The XPS 13 claims a 22 hours battery life. While this might work in theory with video playback tests, in reality you are likely to get 12 to 13 hours out of the laptop, still an impressive run.

On day-to-day use the XPS 13 ran smooth and swift. The model I was using had the latest processors and 16GB of RAM, but the cheaper model with 8GB should be enough to zip through everyday tasks.

The future

Dell’s current XPS 13 design has been around a couple of years now and it feels like the final call for this build. That said, if you do choose to invest now in the XPS 13 you will be getting a stellar performance laptop, one which is a joy to use for everyday work.

In 2018 we will be looking out for upgrades to Apple’s line of laptops. But of the current crop, the XPS 13 is a stand out performer, running close with Microsoft’s Surface Laptop as one of our favourite Windows laptops I have tested this year.

Other key points

  • The XPS 13 comes in silver, but you can pay an extra £25 for a rose gold colour.
  • The fingerprint scanner is also an optional upgrade, but given there is no facial recognition Windows Hello it makes a sensible addition.
  • The laptop currently starts at £1,099 for the Intel i5, 8GB RAM model, without the touchscreen or QHD display. I was using an i7 16GB model with touch, which starts at £1,249.

Verdict

Should you buy the Dell XPS 13? Or rather, should you buy the Dell XPS 13 now? In all likelihood the price of this laptop will drop slightly, and you can get the older 2016 generation online for significantly under £1,000.

Despite the slight signs of age creeping into its design, the XPS 13 is one of the most enjoyable and practical Windows laptops I have used. It’s light, portable, powerful and lasts all day, really everything you need from an everyday laptop.

There are odd things that could put certain buyers off, namely the webcam and slightly temperamental trackpad, but in two weeks of use the XPS 13 has won me over.

Source: telegraph.co.uk Image: dell.com

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