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Dell XPS 13 review


Classy, understated and brimming with potential, Dell has conjured up an industry-leading Ultrabook with its XPS 13

Review Date: 9 Apr 2012

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £1,083 (£1,299 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
3 stars out of 6

5 stars out of 6

The email told us Dell was coming to show us something special. That we had to sign a non-disclosure agreement if we wanted in. A day later, that something turned out to be an early sample of the XPS 13, Dell’s long-awaited addition to its premium laptop range and, more importantly, its very first Ultrabook.

The XPS 13 bears no design homage to Apple’s range, nor even to any laptop in Dell’s history. The lid is finished in a light shade of brushed metal – the traditional, if unofficial, uniform of the Ultrabook – and the dark base beneath adds a touch of contrast. A weave of carbon fibre stretches all around the metal XPS tag at its centre, itself engraved with Windows and Intel logos.

Inside, the Dell is entirely understated. Matte-black plastic pools around the keyboard and wristrest, encompassed by a flash of metal, and the soft-touch plastics feel silky smooth. It’s physically compact too. Dell claims the XPS 13 squeezes a 13.3in display into a 12in chassis, and while it isn’t quite as small as Asus’ Zenbook UX21, it’s much more compact than its 13.3in competitors.

Dell XPS 13 - above

At 1.38kg, the XPS 13 can hardly be accused of being overweight; yet, somehow, it feels heavier than its counterparts. Indeed, more than one of the PC Pro team remarked at its heft. Whether it’s the way the weight is distributed across the chassis, or perhaps the soft-to-the-touch yet rigid feel of the carbon fibre base tricking the senses, this is a solid-feeling laptop.

Despite the relatively dainty dimensions, the XPS 13 sacrifices nothing in the way of comfort. The keyboard is wonderful, the slight dip in the centre of each key combining with a crisp action that makes for quick, confident typing. It’s backlit, too: a keyboard shortcut flicking between two brightness levels, or turning it off completely. It’s easily the best keyboard of any current Ultrabook.

The touchpad doesn’t quite scale the heights of the keyboard. It occasionally requires a firm tap to get a response, and we missed the ability to use two-fingered taps to emulate a right-click. As with most of its rivals, the multitouch functions also seem a bit tacked on – there’s still no getting away from the fact that Windows just isn’t as gesture-friendly as OS X. It’s by no means bad, though, and the glass surface feels great under the finger, delivering accurate cursor control, and the whole pad gives way with a solid, reassuring click.

Dell XPS 13 - rear

Whether it’s kicking back with a movie, or churning through a demanding video edit, the XPS 13 delivers sterling performance. Our review model boasted the top-end specification: a Core i7 processor alongside Samsung’s newest 256GB SSD, the PM830. It’s a potent pairing, with the Dell’s result of 0.62 in our benchmarks matching Asus’ Zenbook UX31. And with light-use battery life extending to 8hrs 11mins, the Dell is only a whisker behind its Asus-branded rival.

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User comments


Is there an ethernet adapter available from Dell, or is it a case of finding a 3rd-party one?

By valeofyork on 10 Apr 2012

ALMOST great...

But WHY can nobody cram a decent GPU into a notebook, let alone an ultrabook!?!? I want portability AND power; everything else is perfect, but Intel HD graphics? NOT good enough...

By skooptech on 12 Apr 2012

Not For Business

No finger-print reader, therefore not for business users. Lack of ethernet can be overcome with a docking station - lack of security can not.

By trevorellis on 12 Apr 2012

Battery life?

Other reviews have suggested that the XPS 13 battery life is shorter than would be expected from an ultrabook - sometimes much shorter and under 3 hours - which has put me off.

Is this a case of preview life being worse than release battery, different test criteria or luck of the draw?

By kevinsefton on 12 Apr 2012

Another 1366x768 panel

Why do manufacturers insist on using 1366x768 resolution screens?
My 5 year old laptop has a 1280x800 screen which feels far more spacious. I thought the difference between 768 and 800 vertical pixels wouldn't be a big deal but in practice I find it is, especially with email, web pages, PDF documents etc. designed with portrait format in mind.
I believe this new aspect ratio came from widescreen movie formats but I wager most of us spend more time doing the things I list above rather than watching movies on our laptops.
Please can we have more vertical pixels?

By Hamster on 12 Apr 2012


Seconded. 768 vertical resolution makes life so very difficult.

By howardabates1 on 14 Apr 2012

More resolution

What this computer should have is a 1920 x 1080 resolution screen. Why can't Dell offer this? Look at what Apple squeeze into the new Ipad! I wouldn't even consider buying a laptop with a resolution lower than 1080p.

By RogerCol on 15 Apr 2012

Whether it’s kicking back with a movie, or churning through a demanding video edit, the XPS 13 delivers sterling performance.

By pcpone on 22 May 2012

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