Dell XPS thirteen evaluation (2015): Meet the world’s smallest thirteen-inch laptop computer
CES has come and gone; the vacations are gone; and now all we’re left with are a couple of months of dreary climate. No enjoyable, proper? Proper. Besides for those who’re a tech author. Now that the majority main corporations have revealed their new lineups, we now have the thrilling job of testing all these things; seeing how they maintain up in actual life. The primary product of the yr to cross my desk: none aside from the Dell XPS thirteen, a compact thirteen-inch laptop computer that ranked as a finalist for our annual Better of CES awards. Along with being the primary system we have examined with Intel’s new fifth-era Core processor, the redesigned XPS is notable for its almost bezeless show — a design feat that permits it to have the footprint of an eleven-inch machine. Notably with a beginning worth of $800 (fairly affordable for a flagship laptop computer), it appeared poised to turn out to be certainly one of our new favourite Ultrabooks. And you recognize what? It truly is.
XPS thirteen (2015)
- Almost bezel-much less show permits it to be extra compact than different thirteen-inchers
- Vibrant display, robust audio to match
- Engaging design, properly-constructed
- Snug keyboard
- Quick efficiency
- Numerous configuration choices
- Merely common battery life, no less than with out the elective cellular charger
- Touchpad might use some wonderful-tuning
- Does not come normal with a touchscreen — and is dear in the event you do go for that function
Aside from an replace to the touchpad, there’s little or no we might change about Dell’s redesigned XPS thirteen: It is compact and nicely-constructed, with a stunning display, quick efficiency and surprisingly good audio high quality. You will pay dearly to get it with a touchscreen, however even then, it is priced in keeping with different flagship Ultrabooks — and in some methods it is a more sensible choice, too.
I think many individuals will purchase the XPS thirteen purely due to that beautiful display, however personally, after utilizing the laptop computer for every week, I am extra impressed with how small it’s. To be truthful, in fact, I am somewhat late to the sport: Netbooks and eleven-inch laptops have been round for years, however till now, I’ve prevented them exactly as a result of I want the additional display actual property. That stated, with a show this huge, the XPS thirteen seems like the perfect of each worlds. Particularly for frequent vacationers like me. Take my current cross-nation flight to Seattle. The laptop computer took up much less area in my backpack than my MacBook Air would have. It was simpler to stability on a cramped airplane tray, even with the individual in entrance of me leaning all the best way again (thanks, dude). And for these moments once I needed to put my laptop computer out of sight, it was sufficiently small that I might stow it contained in the seat-again compartment with room to spare. On the similar time, I had sufficient area to juggle a number of browser tabs, in addition to WordPad in a separate window. After every week with the XPS thirteen, I am reminded that weight and thinness aren’t all the things, although it undoubtedly helps that this factor begins at simply 2.6 kilos. Not dangerous for a thirteen-inch laptop computer! (Even with the elective touchscreen, it is nonetheless 2.eight kilos.)
Aside from the smaller footprint and almost bezeless display, the XPS thirteen hews to the identical design language as Dell’s earlier Ultrabooks. Which is to say, it contains a clean metallic exterior, with particulars that embrace a metallic plate on the underside aspect to cowl up all of the required FCC nice print. On the within, a mushy carbon fiber end stretches throughout the keyboard deck all the best way from the hinge to the palm relaxation. It is a design that is each lovely and sensible, and I am glad Dell did not mess with a very good factor only for the sake of shaking issues up. For one factor, the carbon weave is good to take a look at. Disagree with me for those who like, however I feel it immediately makes this $800 machine look costlier than it truly is. It feels good too, particularly when you’ve got the laptop computer on a flat floor and are letting your wrists cling off the palm relaxation. Additionally, because of that weave sample, scratches are nearly a non-problem. Fingerprints too. (The keyboard is one other story: I’ve obtained an enormous grease stain on the area bar, the place my thumb retains hitting it.)
Talking of the keyboard, I actually prefer it, even when it does require a little bit of maintenance to maintain the fingerprints away. Regardless of the XPS thirteen’s compact footprint, this seems like a full-sized format. Although there are a number of shrunken buttons (backspace, for instance), a lot of the backlit keys really feel generously sized and properly-spaced. Even the arrow keys are straightforward to seek out by really feel, and people are often the primary issues to get squeezed when area is a matter. The buttons even have a shocking quantity of journey in comparison with another Ultrabooks, with a springiness that made it straightforward for me to sort at a quick clip. My solely quibble is that the keyboard typically did not register my button presses, forcing me to return and re-sort stuff. To be trustworthy, although, this is a matter on many Ultrabooks; in reality, it is in all probability much less of an issue right here, what with these comparatively comfortable buttons.
I will not go as far as to say I hate the touchpad, however it’s undoubtedly not as nicely-engineered because the keyboard. There’s just a bit an excessive amount of friction, to the purpose the place I observed some stuttering even whereas doing primary two-finger scrolling (that is not simply in IE, however in apps like File Explorer and WordPad too). Pinch-to-zoom additionally did not really feel as managed as on another Home windows PCs; it typically took me a number of makes an attempt to scale textual content precisely the best way I needed. One time, I truly zoomed in on a webpage accidentally when all I meant to do was scroll via. On the brilliant aspect, the trackpad does nicely at single-finger monitoring — an space the place different laptop computer touchpads regularly fall brief.
Although it is a smaller-than-common machine, the XPS thirteen fortunately nonetheless consists of all the standard ports. Properly, most of them anyway. Over on the left aspect, we’ve a Mini DisplayPort, a headphone jack, one among two USB three.zero connections and the all-necessary energy socket. The appropriate edge is much less crowded, with a Kensington lock slot, a full-sized SD card reader and that second USB opening. Actually, of all of the belongings you may fairly look forward to finding on an Ultrabook, the one factor lacking is an HDMI port. Even then, I think lots of you’ll do exactly high-quality with out it. I do know I’ve.Show and sound
Dell’s advertising workforce has taken the freedom of calling the XPS thirteen’s display an “infinity show.” Whereas that is technically incorrect — you’ll be able to nonetheless make out the 5mm-thick bezels on both aspect — that is maybe the closest factor I’ve seen to a real edge-to-edge show, with pixels stretching all the best way throughout. Additionally, the display right here has the tiniest bumper you ever did see, which additionally helps create the phantasm of uninterrupted glass. In any case, it is all very fairly, as you’d anticipate, and it is sensible too: You get the identical actual property as some other thirteen-inch laptop computer, simply with a smaller footprint.
Dell did not skimp on the show high quality both. The IPS panel (which begins at 1080p decision, however goes as much as three,200 x 1,800) provides large viewing angles, which got here in useful throughout my six-hour flight from New York to Seattle. Even with the window open and daylight pouring in, I might nonetheless make out the display with out difficulty. Additionally, provided that I used to be trapped in financial system, I did not precisely have a lot area to work with. Nonetheless, whether or not I had the machine in my lap or balanced on the tray desk with the lid dipped ahead, I loved vibrant colours and even contrasts. No washouts right here. My solely grievance? The XPS thirteen does not come commonplace with a touchscreen; for that function, you will have to pay $1,300, not $800. Boo.
It is easy to overlook the XPS thirteen’s stereo audio system the primary time you decide it up: They’re nestled on both aspect of the laptop computer, towards the entrance the place the chassis will get actually slender. Whereas the audio may appear to be an afterthought, it is truly surprisingly good — among the many greatest in its class, even. The quantity is robust sufficient that I sometimes did not have to push it a lot past the 30 out of one hundred mark. And whereas this is not probably the most bass-heavy setup you’ve got ever heard (why wouldn’t it be?), the audio system get up properly to all kinds of musical genres, from classical to jazz to hip-hop and pop. All informed, even once I wanted to return to my “actual” laptop computer for sure issues, I continued to make use of the XPS thirteen as my music machine.Efficiency, battery life and software program
Initially, I used to be primarily desirous about testing the XPS thirteen due to its compact design. Its beautiful show. The truth that it almost gained a Better of CES Award. Along with all that, although, that is my first alternative to check a PC operating certainly one of Intel’s new “Broadwell” chips. For the uninitiated, Intel’s fifth-era Core CPUs have the identical primary structure as final yr’s processors, besides they have been shrunken down from a 22nm course of to a 14nm one. Provided that the chip design is usually the identical, then, it is best to anticipate some pretty modest efficiency enhancements. As an example, Intel is touting only a four % increase in productiveness duties, as measured by the check SysMark. The corporate has additionally stated battery life might be as much as an hour and a half longer than on final yr’s “Haswell” machines, however even that is only a greatest-case state of affairs.
If something, Broadwell has probably the most promise on the graphics entrance. Even earlier than Broadwell PCs began hitting the market, Intel claimed that its new chips carried out 22 % higher than final yr’s fashions in 3D graphics benchmarks. Certainly, about two-thirds of the die space on these chips is devoted to graphics. Positive sufficient, with a twin-core 2.2GHz Core i5-5200U CPU and 8GB of RAM (a configuration value $1,300), I noticed large good points in each check I ran — simply take a look at the comparability desk above should you do not consider me. By the identical measure, common efficiency, as measured by PCMark, was solely barely improved over machines operating final yr’s processors. Its 10-second boot-up can also be par for the course.
Though my specific check unit included a 128GB strong-state drive from LiteOn, a Dell spokesperson advised me that some machines will as an alternative make use of a quick new Samsung drive that claims as much as 2.15 GB/s learn and 1.fifty five GB/s write speeds, all whereas sipping simply two milliwatts of standby energy. Whereas I used to be a bit of disillusioned to not discover that listed in my machine’s System Supervisor, I nonetheless loved some quick disk speeds, with as much as 515 MB/s reads and 455 MB/s writes. That final determine — the write price — is particularly spectacular: Although many laptops can get into 500 MB/s territory for learn speeds, most prime out within the mid-200 MB/s vary on writes. So, Samsung or no Samsung, you need to take pleasure in some higher-than-common efficiency right here, at the very least so far as disk speeds are involved.
Relying in your utilization patterns, Dell says you possibly can rise up to fifteen hours of battery life with a full HD show, and as much as eleven hours with a three,200 x 1,800 contact panel. In my very own exams, I obtained a mean of seven hours and 36 minutes in our normal video-looping check, although I guess I might have squeezed out much more runtime had I lowered the brightness to a good dimmer setting (the panel goes all the best way as much as four hundred nits, so even half or three-quarter brightness can drain the battery pretty shortly).
In any case, the brand new XPS thirteen represents an incredible enchancment over the unique model from 2012, which might barely crack 5 hours (and that was with a decrease-decision display, too). Simply as essential, the XPS thirteen’s battery life matches different skinny-and-mild machines we have examined lately, together with the Lenovo Yoga three Professional and Acer Aspire S7. The very fact is, for a laptop computer that is this skinny and this mild with that pixel-dense a display, getting eight hours on a cost is fairly respectable. And once more, I think it is truly able to lasting even longer than that.
Ought to the constructed-in battery not be sufficient, Dell additionally sells a spare, 12,000mAh cell for $one hundred twenty that plugs into the laptop computer’s energy port, a lot the identical approach you’d use a cellular charger to refuel a telephone or pill. All advised, Dell claims that the Energy Companion, because it’s referred to as, may help the XPS thirteen attain 22 hours of battery life. That is spectacular, to make certain, and it is also extra handy than swapping out your pocket book’s constructed-in battery or attaching a cumbersome sheet to the underside. As a bonus, the charger additionally has two USB ports for charging cellular units, which suggests you might probably journey with only one adapter for all of your devices.
As for bloatware, Dell might have as soon as had a fame for loading its Home windows PCs up with undesirable packages, however the producer has apparently turned over a brand new leaf. There’s little or no right here in the best way of superfluous apps; simply Flipboard, Microsoft’s personal Bing Translator and 20GB of Dropbox storage, free for one yr. There’s additionally a trial of McAfee LiveSafe Web Safety and Microsoft Workplace (activation key required). And… that is it.Configuration choices
The XPS begins at $800, with base specs that embrace an Intel Core i3-5010U Broadwell processor, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, Intel HD 5500 Graphics and a 1,920 x 1,080 display. As I hinted earlier, although, that low beginning worth is barely disingenuous if you keep in mind it does not come commonplace with a touchscreen. Not that you simply want one, per se, however many customers will need one, particularly contemplating how contact-optimized Home windows eight is (and Home windows 10, when it comes out). In case you do need that three,200 x 1,800 contact panel, be ready to pay at the least $1,300.
As well as, you will discover some mid-vary configurations that provide the Core i5 processor with a 1080p display with both 4GB or 8GB of RAM. All through the road too, there are configurations with bigger 256GB strong-state drives. On the larger finish, Dell is even providing a pair Core i7 configs, one among which has a 512GB SSD. That prime-of-the-line mannequin goes for $1,900. All in all, then, you’ve got acquired numerous customization choices — greater than on most Ultrabooks, in reality.The competitors
The Dell XPS thirteen goes to be a sensible purchase for a lot of, many individuals. Nevertheless it’s additionally in good firm: I can consider a number of different ultraportables you’d in all probability be joyful to personal. For starters, there’s Lenovo’s convertible Yoga three Professional ($1,299-plus), which measures simply half an inch thick and weighs solely 2.sixty two kilos — loopy mild for a machine with a 360-diploma hinge. The one potential draw back is that it runs one among Intel’s low-powered “Core M” chips, which are not fairly as strong as fifth-era Core processors. In case you want just a little extra oomph, Lenovo can also be readying a 1.7-pound laptop computer — the world’s lightest thirteen-inch PC, the truth is — which, regardless of its dainty body, will run full-fledged Core CPUs. The one factor is: It isn’t delivery till Might, which could possibly be an issue in case you want a brand new pocket book now.
There are a pair different choices too, however I have never had an opportunity to check all of them. One is the brand new Samsung ATIV E-book 9, a 12.2-inch, fanless machine that makes use of a Core M processor to realize a skinny design. Of observe: It comes commonplace with a 2,560 x 1,600 display that goes all the best way as much as a powerful seven hundred nits of brightness. Apart from the decrease-powered processor, the one actual concession appears to be that machine is not provided with a touchscreen.
In the meantime, a few of our favourite Ultrabooks have been refreshed with Broadwell processors, theoretically bringing them consistent with newer machines just like the XPS thirteen. These embrace Acer’s Aspire S7 ($1,300-plus) and Samsung’s ATIV E-book 9 Plus ($1,299-plus). Microsoft’s Floor Professional three truly hasn’t been up to date with Broadwell, however it’s nonetheless a nicely-constructed, skinny and lightweight pill that kind of matches the XPS thirteen on battery life. When you primarily need a laptop computer, a correct Ultrabook continues to be your greatest guess. However if you need the choice of utilizing your gadget in pill mode, each the Floor Professional three and the Lenovo Yoga three Professional are good decisions.
And what of the MacBook Air, which I maintain evaluating to Dell’s new machine? I am positive there are some people on the market who insist on OS X, and doubtless aren’t giving critical consideration to the XPS thirteen (or any Home windows machine, for that matter). Even in case you are Mac-leaning, although, you would be doing your self a disservice should you purchased an Air now. Do not get me flawed: It is a properly-constructed machine with lengthy battery life, nevertheless it’s additionally sorely in want of an replace. As of this writing, Apple hasn’t even refreshed it with fifth-era Core processors. And that is not even considering that a new, drastically smaller system is perhaps within the works. In case you assume you need an OS X-based mostly machine, my suggestion is to attend, if potential.Wrap-up
There is a cause the XPS thirteen was a Better of CES finalist: It isn’t solely one of many prime laptops we noticed on the present, but in addition one of many best PCs we’re more likely to see for months to return. Should you’re out there for a brand new Home windows laptop computer — one thing small and lightweight with quick efficiency and an ideal display — this could completely be in your brief listing. There are different advantageous decisions too, as I’ve specified by the earlier part, however the XPS thirteen is a winner its personal proper, with only a few flaws to talk of. The one issues I might warning you of are the touchpad (it wants somewhat work) and the battery life, which is merely common with out assistance from the optionally available cellular charger. It is also on the expensive aspect for those who configure it with a touchscreen. Even then, although, the $1,300 asking worth is value it.
- Key specs
- <a href=”http://www.engadget.com/merchandise/dell/xps-thirteen/” title=”Dell XPS thirteen critiques” goal=”_blank”> Critiques • 7 </a>
- Sort Ultraportable
- Display measurement thirteen inches
- Display decision 1366 x 768
- Bundled OS Home windows (7)
- Processor velocity 1.6 GHz
- System RAM four GB
- Weight 2.ninety nine lb
- Introduced 2012-01-10