Dell XPS 13 2018 review: finally, a MacBook Pro killer

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Dell XPS 13 2018 review: finally, a MacBook Pro killer
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Dell is usually fairly quick off the mark to adopt the latest components, so it's no surprise that the latest XPS model is sporting Intel's latest eighth-generation processors. It's available in Core i5 and Core i7 varieties, and the model on review was fitted with a 1.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-8550U processor, coupled with 16GB of RAM.

We've been incredibly impressed by the performance of Intel's eighth-gen processors so far, but the XPS 13's performance is nothing short of astonishing. In our performance benchmarks, it racked up an overall score of 96, which compares extremely favourably to the previous model.

Even more unbelievable is the fact that it manages to outpace the most recent 13in MacBook Pro. The Apple machine’s top-end configuration – which uses a dual-core seventh-gen processor with a clock speed of 3.1GHz – was noticeably slower than the XPS 13 in the Geekbench CPU test, with single and multi-core scores of 4,365 and 9,223 versus the XPS’s 4,744 and 15,047.

Storage comes in the form of a PCIe solid state drive with a variety of capacities. For a Windows machine, it's very speedy; it clocked up 2.2GB/sec read speeds, and 444MB/sec write speeds. While not a patch on the MacBook Pro’s blazing disk speeds, it's certainly in the upper echelons for Windows notebooks.

Battery life

We would expect such storming performance to equate to a less impressive battery life, but we were pleasantly surprised to discover that despite having a smaller battery than its predecessor, the new XPS 13 actually lasts considerably longer.

In our battery tests, the XPS 13 lasted 10hrs 7mins from a full charge, which is more than two hours better than the outgoing model's time. It's still some way behind the 11 and a half hours racked up by the 2015 version, admittedly, but it's broken the ten-hour mark, and that's something that many notebooks can't.

Ports and features

If we have one complaint about the latest XPS, it's that Dell has finally succumbed to temptation and sacrificed its legacy ports on the altar of slimness. While the 2017 model features two full-sized USB 3.0 ports and an SD card reader in addition to its Thunderbolt 3 port, the newer version has sacrificed these in favour of two Thunderbolt 3 ports and one USB 3.1 Type-C port. The SD card reader has also been replaced with a microSD slot.

This is a necessary compromise to achieve a chassis as thin as the XPS 13's, but it's still irritating and inconvenient to not have at least one proper USB port, and it means you'll likely have to cart an adapter around with you just in case.

As you'd expect, the XPS 13 supports biometric authentication via Windows Hello, in the form of a fingerprint reader built into the power button and a facial recognition camera. This camera, unfortunately, is still located on the bottom edge of the screen – which means that finding an angle that doesn't result in a horrendously unflattering double chin may be a struggle for video calls. The only small comfort is that it's shifted from the bottom corner to the centre of the bottom edge.

Bottom line

Prices for the 2018 XPS 13 range from $2,099 to $3,699, although Dell often offers discounts. The entry-model features an Intel Core i5-8250U processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB PCIe SSD, Full HD 13.3in non-touch display and Windows 10 Home. But as usual there's a range of configurations, with options including a Core i7-8550U or i7-8650U chip, 16GB of RAM, 512GB or 1TB SDD, 4K touchscreen display and Windows 10 Pro.

By comparison, the MacBook Pro model that’s equivalent to the entry-level XPS 13 costs $2,199, while Apple’s equivalent high-end model costs a whopping $4,399 – and it includes a previous-generation Intel processor.

If you’re looking for a bargain, Dell is (at the time of writing) offering its previous-generation models at significant discounts, starting at under $1,500. But we’d suggest stretching your budget to the new XPS 13 if you can. The design retains the classic XPS look whilst being more portable than ever, performance is astonishing and the battery life is markedly better than its predecessor. The loss of some of the older USB ports is a shame, but this device is without a doubt the best XPS 13 that Dell has ever made.

More importantly, though, it's also the first XPS 13 that not just matches, but beats, the competing MacBook Pro. Apple's flagship 13in laptop is slower, thicker, heavier and considerably more expensive than Dell's rival machine.

Of course, Apple may fight back with its next MacBook Pro, but right now, the Dell XPS 13 is the new king of laptops.

This review is based on an article that originally appeared at IT Pro.

It’s finally happened: Dell has created a true MacBook killer. Unfortunately, it had to jettison the USB 3.0 ports to make the new model even thinner, but in all other respects, it’s a significant upgrade. And faster, cheaper and lighter than the top-spec 13in MacBook Pro, the Dell XPS 13 is the best laptop we’ve ever seen.
From $2099 AUD
1920 x 1080-pixel non-touch or 3840 x 2160-pixel touchscreen display; Intel Core i5-8250U, i7-8550U or i7-8650U processor; Intel UHD Graphics 620; 8GB of 1866MH LPDDR3 RAM or 16GB of 2133MHz LPDDR3 RAM; 256GB, 512GB or 1TB PCIe SSD; 2 x Thunderbolt 3, 1 x USB-C 3.1, microSD card reader, headset jack; 11.6 x 302 x 199mm, 1.21kg; Windows 10 Home or Pro.
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