Dell’s latest flagship, the XPS 13, just got a whole lot better, thanks to new internals that enable blazing-fast performance while retaining its ultrabook-style design. Every iteration has also refined its display design, and the 13.4” panel makes for a pleasurable viewing experience.
Off the bat, the unboxing experience is phenomenal: the laptop sits neatly at the top of the box, while all its accessories are neatly compartmentalised below it, using every space to keep the box small. Inside, one finds a 45W USB-C charger with a USB-C to USB-A adapter.
The laptop uses the new XPS design language, which is characterised by a compact, lightweight aluminium outer shell and comes in white and black. We had the black version to review, and it’s stunning. When opening the laptop, one is greeted with a large 91.5% screen-to-body ratio display, edge-to-edge keyboard, and large trackpad. It keeps all these features while being almost as light as the M1 MacBook Air.
Along the side, there are two USB-C ports on either side (one will likely be taken up by the charger most of the time), a MicroSD card slot, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. This is the cost of having an ultra-slim laptop, and thankfully there are adapters in the box. The USB-C ports are Thunderbolt 4 enabled, so it is hub-friendly to connect a large number of devices at once. We managed to connect 10 USB flash drives, a 4K display, mouse, and keyboard over the single port without any issues.
The InfinityEdge display is a 1920 x 1200 panel, all while keeping the webcam where it’s supposed to be – above the display. Alongside the webcam is an IR face scanner for login via facial identification. While a higher resolution display would have been nice on the spec sheet, it’s a perfectly suitable, crisp display for work and entertainment. It gets brighter than the new MacBook Air and it covers 97.9% of the sRGB colour gamut, where the MacBook wins at 114%.
The keyboard is the shining point of this laptop: as it features comfortable key travel with some nifty features, like a fingerprint sensor hidden underneath the power key. This is ideal for masked situations where facial recognition wouldn’t work.
The built-in speakers are clear and crisp at lower volumes but have a little bit of distortion at higher volumes when playing music. Higher volumes are, however, suitable for spoken word like podcasts and video conferences. It comes with MaxxAudioPro’s sound enhancements, which can make music sound a little more balanced, but the software was somewhat buggy and prevented audio from channelling through wired earphones while it was trying to enhance the voices from a video conference.
The latest 11th generation Intel Tiger Lake CPU with Intel Iris Xe graphics is a powerhouse, and is the only laptop processor that comes close to the latest Apple M1 chip. When transferring files, the SSD maxed out at around 796MB per second write speed, which is suitable for video editing and graphic design. The Intel Iris Xe graphics processor is not designed for gaming, but it will play casual games and even some AAA titles, like Cyberpunk 2077, at 20 frames per second on lowest graphics.
The battery life varies wildly, depending on what a user was doing. It lasted 11 hours while watching Netflix over Microsoft Edge, but lasted around 5 hours with several Office programmes and many Firefox tabs open.
Overall, with the powerful specs that the XPS 13 has to offer, this laptop is for those who want MacBook performance without the Apple logo.
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