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Dell XPS 13 (2013) review

Verdict

Upgraded hardware and a stunning display make the XPS 13 the best-value Full HD Ultrabook on the market

Review Date: 5 Apr 2013

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £899 (£1,079 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

The LiteOn LMT-256M3M SSD has to take its fair share of the credit. It’s a fair bit quicker than the previous model’s Samsung PM830 SSD: in the AS SSD benchmark, the LiteOn narrowly bested the Samsung’s sequential read speeds, clocking up 489MB/sec to the Samsung’s 474MB/sec, but write speeds raced ahead with the LiteOn managing 403MB/sec versus the Samsung’s 259MB/sec.

That performance has its downsides, however. Load up a game or demanding application, and, over the course of a few minutes, the XPS 13's cooling fans spin up with an audible whoosh. Rest the Dell on a soft surface, such as a duvet or a thick carpet, and the chassis warms up rapidly – we had to position the XPS 13 carefully on our lap to avoid the fans constantly ramping up to full speed during longer sessions of Civilization V.

Dell XPS 13 (2013)

The Full HD panel and speedy components take their toll on stamina, too. In our light-use test, the XPS 13’s sealed battery lasted for 6hrs 35mins before running dry. Thankfully, Dell has lavished attention on the XPS 13’s power supply: the newly designed charger weighs only 305g. Even if you have to carry it everywhere, it doesn’t add much to the XPS 13’s travelling weight.

In other respects, the XPS 13 remains much the same as ever. The backlit keyboard is superb, and the rubberised wristrest is comfy. The Dell’s Cypress touchpad hasn’t changed a jot, either. While it copes well with Windows 8’s edge-swipe gestures, it hasn’t lost its quirks: it can take a few attempts for taps to register, and we encountered an issue where the cursor would, on occasion, stop responding entirely. It’s also positioned very close to the keyboard, so there’s a tendency for palms and stray thumbs to bump the cursor by accident. A driver update seemed to largely resolve the issues with unresponsiveness, and dialling the palm-rejection feature right up minimises accidental taps, but it still isn’t the best touchpad we’ve used.

Dell XPS 13 (2013)

Connectivity remains modest, even by Ultrabook standards. Apart from the pair of USB 3 ports, there’s only a mini-DisplayPort output and a 3.5mm headset jack. Disappointingly, there’s no SD card reader, no Ethernet socket and the only other presence on the XPS 13’s edges is a battery meter, which, with a dab of a button, illuminates five LEDs that show how much charge is remaining. For networking purposes, it’s necessary to rely on the Dell’s dual-band 802.11n and Bluetooth 4 radios.

By adding a stunning Full HD display, Dell has addressed our biggest complaint with the original model. There’s still room for improvement, not least with the touchpad, but, as the only Full HD Ultrabook available for less than £1,000, the Dell XPS 13 emerges as a bigger bargain than ever in 2013. It wholly deserves to take its place at the top of PC Pro’s A-List

Author: Sasha Muller

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User comments

No!...Really

"Rest the Dell on a soft surface, such as a duvet or a thick carpet, and the chassis warms up rapidly"

Only morons do such things, if I were to cover your mouth and block one nostrel and then asked you to go run up a mountain. I wonder how well you would survive such a task.

Sounds like a great machine though. Any chance they will do an i3 version with standard HD. Some of us would be just as happy with a more modest performance envelope in such a stunning chassis.

By davidk1962 on 5 Apr 2013

@Davidk1962

I rather doubt if they'll do an i3 version as this is a premium product.

They certainly won't do one with a standard HD as one simply wouldn't fit in the chassis - the SSD is an mSATA, the size of a WWAN mini-PCI card.

I've got the previous model of this laptop, and I think it's great so the fact that the newer model tops the A-list is no surprise.

By valeofyork on 5 Apr 2013

Power supply

Would it be possible to add a picture of the 'newly designed charger'? I have the previous model of this laptop and want to get an additional charger for it.
Thanks

By valeofyork on 5 Apr 2013

glossy or matte?

Sorry, but nowhere in the review or the specs do you state if it's a glossy or matte screen. That is an important detail for quite a lot of people. Could you please update the review with this information?

By Trippynet on 5 Apr 2013

The 3rd picture in the gallery makes it look very glossy. Too bad really.

By AlphaGeeK on 5 Apr 2013

Screen

What part of "A layer of Gorilla Glass" did you not understand Trippynet?

By bet1001 on 5 Apr 2013

How many USB ports and of what type?

By arcray on 5 Apr 2013

@arcray

"Apart from the pair of USB 3 ports, there’s only a mini-DisplayPort output and a 3.5mm headset jack" p2 of the review...

By isofa on 5 Apr 2013

Almost there

This laptop just needs the option of integrated 3G (even 4G) and a matt screen. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon has these and a better keyboard too. Not sure which i'd go for, the ThinkPad is after all £300ish more expensive!

By luke20 on 5 Apr 2013

Mobile Web?

Most quality Mobile Phones can act as a hotspot so no need for integrated 3/4 G these days.

By bet1001 on 5 Apr 2013

@bet1001

I see, and we're just supposed to immediately know that this means glossy? Whilst they're at it, why not remove the weight from the specs as well as the word "ultrabook" must tell us that it's light. Any other bits you'd also like removing so that you can guess and conclude your way through a review instead of simply seeing the simple facts presented?

By Trippynet on 5 Apr 2013

@Trippynet

Have you ever come across a glass-fronted LCD screen that isn't glossy? So far as I am aware no such thing exists!

By valeofyork on 5 Apr 2013

So close

So nearly bought this machine! Come on manufactures, just one box left to tick. TOUCH SCREEN...please!!!! This is a Windows 8 machine! (I have numerous non touch upgraded to Win 8 machines already which are fine but if I'm buying new hardware I want touch.)

By stephen_d_morris on 5 Apr 2013

No touchscreen

Surely it's worth pointing out the omission? Just bought a laptop with touch screen and it's much more usable than the touchpad.

By Mark_Thompson on 5 Apr 2013

No Touchscreen

Me thinks it would be much more expensive if it had touchscreen as well. I believe Dell do a laptop with touchscreen but not sure.

By curiousclive on 5 Apr 2013

Weight?

Sasha, looking at the spec sheet, I see a par for the course weight of 1.36KG but also a "travelling weight" of 1.7KG.

What is this latter weight?

By TheBigM72 on 6 Apr 2013

Apple Macbook Pro 13 Retina

You need to reflect the fact that the Apple Macbook Pro Retina 13 which has better build quality and better display than this Dell is now available for £1170 in its base spec. At this price it is just £90 more than the Dell and better vfm for the superior display and similarly quick performnace.

By Jonny_Bingham on 6 Apr 2013

Standard SSD?

I'm really thinking of buying one. I'm sure I can live with 8Gb of soldered RAM for the next few years but I'm not so sure about 256GB SSD. Does it have a standard interface? Is it potentially upgradable?

By RichardRRJ on 8 Apr 2013

@TheBigM72 & @Jonny_Bingham

@TheBigM72
The travelling weight figure is the combined weight of the laptop and the charger.

@Jonny_Bingham
The Macbook Pro 13 Retina is a fantastic laptop and worth every penny of the current £1249 inc VAT price, but it's probably fairer to compare the prices of the two Core i5, 128GB SSD models - the Dell is £420 cheaper.

Sure, the Apple trumps the Dell for pixel density, but there's not a huge difference in colour accuracy or contrast. Performance is pretty similar, too, and the Apple makes up for being slightly heavier by having much better battery life. If you had to choose between the two, it's a tough call.

Still, for those looking for a top-notch slim-and-light Windows laptop, the XPS 13 is the best value choice out there.

By SashaMuller on 8 Apr 2013

Battery

Shame that Dell are going down the Apple-inspired sealed battery route. It would be interesting to factor-in the costs of getting the battery replaced when evaluating the real cost of ownership. That is assuming that the owner will want to use the laptop for longer than 3 years.

By stefani on 9 Apr 2013

Dell XPS13 (2013)

memory soldered onto the motherboard - WHY?

By PaulGriffiths on 12 Apr 2013

Yellow tinge on screen

I purchased the XPS13 i7 with the HD screen and found that could not get the screen to show true white colour.. It seemed to suffer a slight warm rather then true white. Could be the glossy screen or just the lack of brightness on screen.. To Dells credit, they shipped another XPS13 but that suffered from the same issue.. Returned both and purchased the MBPro 13 with retina and screen is just stunning.. Dell was £400 cheaper and had everything going for it except for the screen. Another thing that would have helped would be touch screen. It's windows 8 so deserves it.

By rexgold on 13 Apr 2013

Buyer Beware!

I bought this laptop just over a month ago. I did a BIOS check after I started it up and it returned an error saying there was a fault with the graphics memory. Called Dell up and they told me they would replace the laptop. Replacement arrived a few days later. This worked well for about 2 weeks and then a small bright white patch appeared on the display. I called Dell and rather than have a replacement, I opted for an engineer to come to the house to replace the screen. The engineer arrived, spent 30 mins taking the laptop apart to discover the replacement screen was DOA. So I said I wanted a replacement laptop as I wasn't able to spare the time in the day for an engineer to come to the house again. So a replacement was ordered and according to the dell order tracking site it was produced and shipped on the 5th April. Their delivery company's (Walsh Western) tracking site showed an ETA of the 8th April. Well that's a week ago now and Dell still don't seem to know where the laptop is. I have spoken with them on the phone at least half a dozen times and they don't know whether its been shipped or not. I'm now waiting for a call back from one of their support managers with an update. My experience with Dell has been an absolute disaster.

By FloatLeft on 15 Apr 2013

Just got mine a few days ago, updated to Windows 8.1 Pro with no issues whatsoever and bar a few missed touches on the trackpad it's flawless. Extremely impressed with it so far, the HD screen is awesome. Best purchase I've made in a long time

By EddyOS_2K9 on 29 Oct 2013

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