Intel’s XPS laptops have had a familiar look and feel for a few years now, but why change a winning design?
The XPS 13's milled aluminium chassis and woven, fibreglass palm rest ooze class and solidity that's married to a nifty design which is reminiscent of an Aston Martin DB5. The latest refresh has got Intel’s latest, 11th Generation chips under the hood. So, should you buy one?
Key Specs of the Dell XPS 13 Laptop
13.4-inch, matte, 1920 x 1200, non-touchscreen LCD; 1.2-4.7GHz 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor; 16GB LPDDR4-4267 RAM; 512GB NVMe hard drive; Intel Iris Xe GPU; Full HD webcam with Windows Hello; Wi-Fi 6; BlueTooth 5.1; 52Wh battery; 296 x 199 x 15mm 1.2kg. SKU: 9310.
Ergonomics and handling
First up is the screen which stands out for having an incredibly thin bezel around all sides. Its matte finish fends off reflections, glare and fingerprints and gets very bright or very dim depending on your requirements. Viewing angles are reasonable in terms of clarity although there are some contrast issues when not looking at it straight on. It supports 100 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut. Despite the thin bezel, there’s an HD webcam above the screen with integrated infrared that makes it compatible with Windows Hello, face-recognition unlocking. This partners with a dual-array microphone for high-quality web conferencing.
Below this is an excellent, full-sized keyboard with very comfortable, contoured, Scrabble-tile keys. Our only gripe is the half height arrow keys. There’s a subtle, two-stage white LED backlight for those typing in the dark too.
The large trackpad is as accurate as we’d expect.
The XPS 13 now supports Thunderbolt 4 which is impressive. But it can't make up for the fact that this laptop only has four external ports: two USB-C (one of which is used for the power adapter) plus a microSD card reader and 3.5mm audio jack. If you’ve already invested in a USB monitor and have a daisy chain of extra ports built into a docking system, that’s fine, but if you need HDMI or Ethernet, forget it. There is a USB-C to Type-A adapter in the box (the 15-inch version includes an adapter with HDMI) but, beyond this, you’ve only got Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1. This is rather disappointing.
We were very interested to see how the new Intel chips performed and we were not disappointed. The 4.7GHz, quad-core, Core i7-1165G7, flanked by 16GB of new, speedy LPDDR4-4267 RAM and a 512GB NVMe hard drive, scored a hugely impressive 4,941 in PCMark 10. UL Benchmarks tells us that this isn't just faster than most other notebooks, it’s in the top-half of all PCMark 10 scores ever – including desktops – extraordinary for an ultraportable.
The Intel Iris Xe GPU is also impressive. While it could only score 2,272 in the beefy FireStrike Extreme benchmark (an average of 10fps) it managed 14,820 in the lesser Night Raid test (95fps) and 13,913 in Sky Diver which equates to an average of 69fps. Nice.
As such, while it won’t play the latest AAA blockbusters, it will handle many casual and competitive gaming sessions which is impressive for integrated graphics.
Battery life and portability of the Dell XPS 13
At 1.2 KG the laptop is incredibly light and this, in tandem with the robust aluminium and fibreglass chassis, makes it a very reliable option for road warriors. The diminutive USB-C powerpack adds only 0.23KG to the weight.
The 52Wh battery ran PCMark 10’s Modern Office test for an impressive 13 hours before dying. While we’ve seen better from other office ultraportables, like Asus’ Expertbook and the Dynabook Portégé X30W-J, this is still a result that’s not to be sniffed at.
Dell spruiks its speakers thusly:
- Stereo speakers professionally tuned with Waves MaxxAudio Pro
- Stereo speaker 2.5W x 2 = 4W peak
- 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo jack with
- 360-degree Waves NX 3D virtual surround with headtracking via headphones
Whatever the claims, we can attest that these are some of the best speakers we’ve ever heard in an ultraportable. They get loud and punchy, deliver a modicum of bass and don’t distort with loud treble. All the while, vocals are distinct. Impressive.
There are many SKUs of the XPS 13 model 9310, ranging from lowly, Core i3 CPUs to 4.8GHz i7 Intel processors. The range includes 4K touch screens and up to 2TB storage and prices start at $2,499. Our test unit is listed at $2,999 which is reasonable - but it's currently on sale for $2,399 which makes it more attractive. It's nonetheless worth checking out Dynabook's competitor at $2,099 which also doubles as a tablet.
Ultimately, while there are some impressive business-oriented ultraportable notebooks on the market, few people will be disappointed with the all-round performance and design of the latest XPS 13. But steer clear if you need more than the two provided USB-C ports.