Dell XPS 13 review: Tiny tweaks to a long-time favorite

Nancy J. Delong

Getting watched the Dell XPS thirteen evolve around the previous many several years, I seriously assumed we had arrived at the close of the line in conditions of doable enhancements. The 2019 edition had a tremendous-slim bezel, fantastic efficiency at a good selling price, 4K display screen solutions, and was far more of a important phase forward, resolving a prolonged-time engineering challenge by placing a tremendous-tiny webcam up on major of the display screen, instead of beneath it. 

Like

  • Ever so a bit greater display screen.
  • Ever so a bit more compact system.
  • Additional ports and connections than standard.

Never Like

  • Trading up to a mainstream CPU fees far more.
  • I’ve under no circumstances beloved the woven texture palm relaxation.

And when I could no for a longer period make jokes about the notorious up-the-nose webcam shot, I quite considerably didn’t have any important design grievances about the technique any longer. So, the place do you go from there? 

You start out by tweaking the display screen, shaving down that bezel a tiny bit far more and shaping the lid, so you can in shape a thirteen.four-inch display in there, instead of a thirteen.three-inch one. That sounds like a quite tiny tweak, and it is, but I like that it now has a extremely fashionable-emotion 16:10 factor ratio display screen. Not really as Television set-like as the 16:9 kinds nearly everywhere you go else. 

The system has missing a several fractions of a millimeter, far too, with a a bit more compact footprint. But the more compact system also usually means it feels dense when you choose it up, and a bit heavier than you expect, even even though it actually weighs the identical one pound, thirteen ounces as the most recent MacBook Air (without the need of electric power bricks, and heading by the exact check configurations I had of every single). The greater footprint of the MacBook will make the fat really feel far more evenly distributed, but it also can take up a bit far more area on your desk, so you can find a trade-off. 

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Now that is a slim bezel.


Dan Ackerman/CNET

The remarkable display screen-to-system ratio on the XPS thirteen is a real eye-catching marketing level below. For some persons, the white woven glass palm relaxation spot — a $50 upsell around black carbon fiber —  is also a major attraction. I under no circumstances assumed the white palmrest and aluminum reduce system felt aspect of an organic entire, the way some other laptops really feel like they’re carved from a one slab of metallic (even if they’re not). But my son — hey, we’re all performing from house workplaces now, try to remember? — looked at both the new XPS thirteen and new MacBook Air side by side and declared the XPS to be considerably fancier. 

In some strategies, the new XPS thirteen has the bad luck to arrive appropriate all-around the identical time as the new Apple MacBook Air, a in the same way priced thirteen-inch laptop that covers a lot of the identical floor. The new MacBook Air upgraded itself by relocating to a new keyboard model, closer in actuality to what is on the XPS thirteen. It also jumped to quad-core 10th-gen Main i5 CPUs, once again, also provided in the XPS thirteen. 

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Beats a butterfly keyboard any working day… 


Dan Ackerman/CNET

Digging into the prices and elements 

These two are equivalent in so several strategies, which include some confusing pricing solutions to dig by way of. Each were being initially pitched as starting at $999 in the US. The MacBook Air has in fact moved back again to $999, but that drops you down to a twin-core Intel Main i3 CPU, which won’t sound like a $one,000 aspect to me. The new XPS thirteen, as initially observed during its CES 2020 rollout, begun at $999 with — indeed — a Main i3 CPU. But as of this composing, I’m looking at $one,249 as the minimum-highly-priced choice (older styles are even now readily available for drastically a lot less) on Dell’s site. That gets you a new Main i5 with Intel Iris graphics, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, equivalent to the specs on a $one,099 2020 MacBook Air (which also has a bigger-resolution display screen). 

My check unit was perfectly-equipped, with a Main i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a one,920x,one,080 touchscreen display, for $one,749. To be reasonable, Apple did the identical, sending me a bigger-close Main i7/16GB/512GB make that fees $one,649. 

Minimal surprises 

When the XPS thirteen initially felt like the greatest thirteen-inch Home windows laptop to get if you desired a MacBook-Air-like experience, but for whichever cause required to operate Home windows instead of MacOS. But it is prolonged given that advanced previous that. The element specs may match up quite perfectly, but the XPS is also entire of pleasant delicate surprises. 

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Dan Ackerman/CNET

The two USB-C ports (which are also entire Thunderbolt three ports) are split up, one on every single side, providing you far more solutions for plugging in electric power or add-ons. The MacBook Air shoves both on one side, leaving you a lot less overall flexibility. The XPS thirteen also consists of a microSD card reader, a exceptional inclusion in a entire world the place Personal computer makers are racing to drop ports as speedily as doable. 

And finally, you are unable to beat that practically edge-to-edge display screen. Following to it, the MacBook’s display bezels look substantial. Even with the one,920×1,080 choice, the five hundred-nit display seems to be wonderful. Of course, you can find a 4K choice, for $two hundred far more than the FHD touchscreen, but on a display screen this size that feels like overkill, and would no doubt knock many hours off the remarkable 11-hour-and-26-moment battery daily life we got for the XPS thirteen in our video clip-streaming battery daily life check. 

Some quality Home windows laptops focus on slicing fat, like the LG Gram, or size, like the Acer Swift 7, but Dell has managed to make some delicate enhancements to a established winner and manage its title as one of the greatest all-all-around standard-goal thirteen-inch Home windows laptops you can purchase.

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