Dell XPS 13 review: one of the world’s best systems is even better than before

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Dell’s flagship laptop dares to Think Different. While other manufacturers tend to ape Apple, often sacrificing functionality for form, Dell concentrates on what really matters: making a laptop that, while good looking, never puts style above substance. 

Unlike the MacBook you couldn’t cut cheese with it, but you’re not short of ports and it benchmarks better than it and the Surface Book 2.

Dell XPS 13: design

The first thing you’ll notice is the screen. Dell calls it an InfinityEdge display, and its tiny bezels and 4K resolution mean it’s a very beautiful thing indeed. But it’s pretty tough too. Dell’s made it from a single block of aluminium with a carbon fibre palm rest, and if you go for the optional touch display that’s encased in Gorilla Glass. 

It’s available in rose gold, silver and a new colour option, Rose Gold on Alpine White. If you go for that option, which costs more, the keyboard area is in matching white instead of the standard black. 

Every model has a pearlescent titanium oxide coating, which not only looks good but helps battle stains, too.

The XPS 13 is 30% thinner than before. It’s just 3.4mm (0.3 inches) at its slimmest point, and it’s lighter too at 1.21kg (2.67 pounds).

If the webcam on the previous model annoyed you we’ve got slightly good news: here it’s in a much better place, although you need to adjust it manually. It offers Windows Hello login where your face is your password, although the flashing infra-red lights can be a little annoying.

Dell XPS 13: features and usability

The 4K display is superb and very bright, with an anti-reflective coating and a 1,500:1 contrast ratio. That means really black blacks, and a screen that’s bright enough to use outdoors. Even at 10%, the display is bright enough to read and write without hurting your eyes. The touch version is fast and responsive.

There’s a four-mic array for better audio and voice recognition, twin USB 3.0 (one with Power Share) and a multipurpose Thunderbolt 3 type-C port and an SD card slot.

We loved the previous keyboard and trackpad, which offers Apple-esque clicks. Dell hasn’t tinkered with either, and while the keys don’t travel as far as on some ultrabooks the feedback is fine. We’d prefer not to have the page up and page down keys above the arrow keys, though. They’re too easy to hit by accident.

Dell XPS 13: performance

The XPS 13 uses the same processor as the 2017 model, but it’s much faster. That’s because of heat, or rather the lack of it. 

This time around Dell has used Gore insulation to dissipate more heat alongside some very proactive power management. 

In benchmarks it outperforms the current MacBook Pro and the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2, although the latter’s better GPU means it scores better in graphically intensive tasks.

The XPS 13 isn’t designed as a gaming laptop, but it’ll run your favourite heavy duty photo editor quite happily. The inclusion of a microSD slot is particularly handy if you’re taking photos from a phone or camera.

Battery life is fine but not brilliant with the 4K display: it’ll last through a US or European flight or across Australia, but it’s bettered by the MacBook Pro, Pixelbook and the dual battery Surface Book 2.

Dell XPS 13 review: Verdict

This could be the best laptop we’ll see all year, but it comes at a price – especially if you want the Alpine White version, which isn’t available for the cheapest configurations. 

It retains everything we liked about the previous XPS 13, fixes most of the things we didn’t like and offers significantly improved performance and an optional 4K display. 

It’s just a shame that there isn’t a slightly less powerful, slightly cheaper option.

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