Dell Studio XPS 13 review
Dell's latest is certainly chic and sophisticated, but that comes at a price
Review Date: 13 Feb 2009
Reviewed By: Sasha Muller
Price when reviewed: £1,303 (£1,498 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Before you've even set eyes on Dell's new Studio XPS 13, its minimalist black packaging sets the tone; tilt back the cardboard lid and you're given a tantalising glimpse of a laptop sheathed in black felt. It doesn't quite achieve the unboxing drama of Apple's best, but when you're spending this much even a token amount of foreplay is welcome.
Indeed, slip the XPS 13 from its bag and it's hard not to be impressed. Dell's previous XPS-branded 13.3-incher, the XPS M1330, is a delightful portable but the XPS 13 makes it look scruffy by comparison. The wedge construction is sleek and sees the XPS 13 taper from 38mm at its rear to 23mm along its front edge. With looks that tread the line between subtlety and glossy panache, we suspect Dell's designers have been locked away in a room for some considerable time.
It's not light, weighing in at 2.19kg, but that heft is matched with sublime build quality. Grip the Dell between both hands and it's in a different class to most laptops - flex-free and crafted with an attention to detail bordering on the obsessive. The lid, for instance, is shod in three different materials - two-thirds gloss black with the final third comprised of an aluminium flourish and a soft leather strip which makes for a convenient handhold.
Look to the XPS 13's underside and there's yet more evidence of the obsessive detail: rather than the usual mishmash of plastic panelling, Dell has crafted the belly of the XPS 13 from a single piece and enlivened it with subtle criss-cross designs. Not only does the single panel make it easier to get at all the components beneath, but it also matches perfectly with the rest of the design.
The razor-sharp design continues inside. Anodized aluminium sweeps around the edges of the chassis and surges upwards from the illuminated XPS-branded hinges, while the keyboard is flanked top and bottom by gloss black strips. Press the power button and the row of touch-sensitive buttons along the keyboard's top edge gleam to life; a trick repeated by the backlit keyboard and the trackpad buttons when the ambient lighting demands it.
What lies beneath
Look beyond the XPS 13's sterling build and fine design and there's plenty to like. The keyboard's square keycaps maintain the Dell's crisp lines, and they're comfortable to type upon too. There's plenty of travel and a soft but positive action to each key which makes for a lovely feel under the fingers. We weren't quite so keen on the trackpad's squishy buttons, but they're not bad enough to ruin the experience.
The 13.3in display disappoints with its everyday resolution of 1,280 x 800 pixels, but quality is good, with LED-backlighting providing even brightness apart from a slight strip across the display's left-hand side. Colour reproduction does err on the side of coldness, but the wide viewing angles and sheer punchiness are a suitable riposte. Plus, should you find that native resolution too limiting you can always hook up a display to the VGA, HDMI or DisplayPort outputs.
More haste, less speed
Another recent technology inside the XPS 13 is Nvidia's Hybrid-SLI. It comes with Nvidia's 9400M G integrated graphics chip, as well as a 9200M GS discrete chip. When on battery power the 9400M G jumps into power-efficient action, with the discrete graphics only chipping in when gaming requires it. With both chips combining their power the XPS 13 dispatched our low Crysis benchmark at 41 fps; cranking up the resolution and detail level pushed it too far, but there's enough grunt for a little light gaming on older titles.
- Google reveals why it thinks we'll buy smartwatches
- Windows 8.2/Windows 9: release date, features and free cloud version
- Apple's top reasons for rejecting apps
- Raspberry Pi unveils HTML5-optimised browser
- Apple and FBI "actively investigating" celeb photo hack
- Swatch Touch smartwatch in development
- Did iCloud flaw lead to celeb photo hack?
- Microsoft refuses to hand over customer emails
- Apple signs up credit-card companies for NFC payments
- Apple bans developers from selling your health data
- 20 years of PC Pro: our best covers
- Why we've closed the PC Pro forums
- How to turn off Google Location Tracking
- 20 years of PC Pro: our greatest review mistakes
- 20 years of PC Pro: our first A-List
- Wikipedia's "right to be forgotten" protest hits the wrong note
- 3D printing hits the high street for plastic selfies
- 20 years of PC Pro: What amazed us in our first issue
- How Google Glass ruined my lunch hour
- Smartphone battery packs: can a USB power pack beat the festival battery blues?
- Best of IFA 2014: what smartphones, tablets, smartwatches are expected to launch at IFA this year?
- How to uninstall a program on Windows: remove unwanted apps from your PC
- How to format a USB drive on a Mac or Windows
- What’s the best 4G network in the UK?
- How to set up a wireless hotspot for your business: give customers free or paid for internet access
- How to download YouTube videos: save YouTube videos to your iPhone, iPad, laptop or Android device
- How to access iCloud on a PC
- Nexus 5 vs Moto G 4G (2014 model)
- Chromecast vs Roku Streaming Stick vs Apple TV: what's the best TV streaming device?
- The 8 best small tablets of 2014: what's the best compact tablet?
- How to sell more ebooks on Amazon
- 10 ways to make your business more secure
- Top five VoIP mistakes
- How to add in-app purchasing to an iPhone, Android or Windows app
- Remote-control ransomware: TeamViewer and software hardball
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office