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Lightweight, fast, and powerful, the Dell XPS 13 doesn’t like to compromise. Boasting an impressively bright touchscreen, backed up by top of the line hardware, all in a slim chassis, the XPS 13 tries hard to be the laptop other laptops aspire to be. With non-sale prices beginning at $2189.99, however, is it worth the price, or is it ahead of its time?
Specs: Small but Powerful! The screen is 13.4″ and the processor is 11th gen i5 at 4.2GHz / i77 at 4.8GHz. It weighs in at 1.2 / 1.27 kg (non-touch / touch) and has battery life of 14 / 8 hours (1920 / 3456 model) with a Hard Drive512 GB/1TB SSD
Put simply, the XPS13 packs a punch plenty hard enough for any day to day tasks. Its fast, powerful processor, combined with ample memory (especially at higher specs) and quick SSD means navigating between and running programs is lighting fast, even if you, like me, have about 100 open chrome tabs in the background you’ve forgotten to close!
The lack of a video card (distinct from the inbuilt processing on the XPS13’s processor) will compromise its performance on newer games, but this barely qualifies as a compromise – the 13” screen and small form factor puts it squarely out of the market for those looking for a gaming laptop. For those of us who are instead looking for a powerful machine to work and browse on the go, its power is plentiful.
The XPS 13 on the Move The challenge of any laptop to distinguish itself from a desktop PC or tablet is to recreate the versatility and power of the massive, unwieldy tower of a home computer into a small enough package to take with us on the move. Historically, this involved one or both of compromises: either you lugged around a giant laptop as thick as your arm that ran well, or otherwise compromised on something lightweight that, despite saving on back pain, was frustratingly sluggish to use. Thankfully, and in large part due to innovations in mobile technology, these compromises are becoming smaller and smaller as companies like Dell continuously manage to fit more and more power into smaller and smaller packages.
The XPS 13 is close to the ultimate result of this innovation. Despite weighing barely more than a kilo and fitting easily into even the most packed of bags, I never encountered a slow-down or stutter putting the device through its paces. Its beautifully bright and detailed screen, especially detailed in the touch mode configuration of my review copy, is the icing on the cake, completing an experience that forgets the compromises of its predecessors, and so feels truly futuristic.
The Cost of Being First The futurism of what’s inside the small body of XPS13 is complimented nicely by its chassis: a clean white that remained fairly resistant to fingerprints. In some ways, however, the chassis is a little too clean – containing only 2 Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports, alongside headphone jack and micro-SD slot. These ports can do everything – data transfer, charging, audio – and are surely the future, to the extent to which its wired at all. Sadly, the present is often more compatible with regular old USB and HDMI ports, meaning you’ll need a dongle if you want to plug in most keyboards, mice, or screens – or even just plug in more than at once while the XPS13 is charging from one of the two Thunderbolt ports.
This is the true compromise of the XPS 13 – when you’re ahead of the times, it can be hard to fit into the present. As a result, it’s hard to fault Dell too much for only including these thinner ports that allow the XPS 13’s slim body, but one or two more would certainly have been nice. Unfortunately, this issue was exacerbated by the fact that on my review model, the headphone jack was faulty, leaving only 1 other working port while the laptop was charging to use for audio, display, file transfers, or anything else. Additionally, the brightness of the screen was stuck on full. While XPS 13’s fabulously bright 500-nit made it a pleasure to use even in full sunlight during the day, at night it felt like looking into the sun! Thankfully, quality control issues like this don’t appear often (at least, few are noted online) and so hopefully this reviewer was merely unlucky.
Is it Worth Living in the Future? In your backpack or briefcase, you’d be forgiven for worrying you’d left the lightweight XPS 13 9310 at home. Take it out, however, and you’ll be treated with a machine powerful and versatile enough that can keep up with anything you throw at it, as long as that isn’t too many wired peripherals! A mostly premium experience then, asking for a premium price. Luckily, as of right now (early June) the laptop is on sale for 20%, bringing the base model to a competitive $1758.99 for the base model, and $2718.99 for the touch screen higher-spec choice. So if you’re looking for a laptop that won’t compromise, then now’s the time to buy.
Kieran McEwan is Women Love Tech's regular tech reviewer. Self-described as a tech enthusiast, he loves covering all range of tech products from drones to smart phones. He can often be found cooking, reading the books of authors Terry Pratchett and Haruki Murakami, or listening to tech podcasts like Hello Internet. When he is not reviewing tech gadgets, he is studying Economics and Arts at Sydney University.