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Dell XPS 13 review

The Dell XPS 13 has been tweaked and improved, and it remains the best lightweight Windows laptop around.

Dell XPS 13 review
(Image: © Dell)

Our Verdict

Dell has made the XPS 13 a little faster, slimmer and lighter, and paired its tweaked design with great screen options and ergonomics. The port selection could be better, but in most departments the Dell XPS 13 is a class-leading lightweight option.

For

  • High-quality, robust, slim design
  • Fast, versatile internals
  • Great screen with tiny bezels

Against

  • Could have more ports
  • Not always the most affordable option

The Dell XPS 13 has been one of the world’s best laptops for ages – its blend of stunning design, great screen quality, and impressive performance are a winning combination.  We're happy to say that Dell has stuck with its winning formula, keeping what worked and improving what didn't.

This laptop always faces strong competition, though – companies like Apple and Lenovo churn out machines with similar performance levels and often with lower prices. The latest incarnation of the XPS 13 makes modest changes on the outside and introduces new internals – but, as ever, this high-end machine doesn’t come cheap. There are several different configurations though, so you should be able to craft a Dell XPS 13 to suit your needs without breaking the bank.

We’ve researched the Dell XPS 13, consulted the experts and delved into the specifications to find out if this laptop is still best-in-class – or if you should look elsewhere.

Dell XPS 13 review: Design

Tech Specs

CPU: Intel Core i5/i7 10th Gen Ice Lake
Memory: 8GB/16GB LPDDR4
Storage: 512GB/1TB SSD
Display: 13.4-inch 1,920 x 1,200/3,840 x 2,400
Ports: 2 x Thunderbolt/USB-C, 1 x audio, 1 x microSD
Dimensions: 11.65" x 7.83" x 0.58"
Weight: 2.65 lbs
Operating System: Windows 10 Home 64-bit 

  • Stunning design
  • Screen has tiny bezels

The Dell XPS 13 still looks like one of the world’s best laptops. It’s made from a single slab of anodized aluminium coated with titanium oxide, and the interior is available with a dark carbon-fiber coating or a white fiberglass finish.

No matter which one you choose, the Dell remains the only laptop on the market to hold a candle to Apple’s design (although the Surface Laptop 3 is handsome too). Build quality is superb, too: this machine is robust and can be smoothly opened with one finger.

Dell hasn’t changed much on this year’s XPS. Instead, it’s nipped and tucked the design in key areas. The XPS 13 is 2% smaller than its predecessor – a tiny reduction, but there wasn’t much to slim down to begin with. That leaves this laptop with a thickness of just 0.58-inchs and a weight of 2.65 lbs – so it’s a sliver slimmer and lighter than the latest MacBook Air.

Dell XPS 13

(Image credit: Dell )

The XPS has two Thunderbolt 3 ports that support USB-C alongside an audio jack and a microSD slot. That’s fewer ports than the older XPS 13, but it does get something over on the MacBook Pro 2019, which has no microSD slot or audio jack.

Dell includes a USB-C to USB-A adapter, which is helpful. However, bear in mind that one Thunderbolt port needs to power the laptop. Also remember that the webcam is only 720p, so quality is middling.

The keyboard is an edge-to-edge model, which means the buttons are bigger. Internally, it still uses a maglev design, which means less travel and a punchy, fast typing action – it’s still fantastic. The trackpad is 17% larger than the old machine, and it remains reliably excellent. 

Dell XPS 13 review: Performance

  • Upgraded Intel CPUs
  • Different memory and SSD options available

This is the second generation of XPS 13 to rely on Intel’s 10th generation CPUs. Happily, Dell has deployed better parts in this revised version alongside improved insulation and power management. The cheapest new XPS 13 uses the Core i5-1035G1, while most of the range relies on the Core i7-1065G7. Both chips have four cores that support eight threads, with clock speeds the difference: the Core i5 part peaks at 3.6GHz, while the Core i7 chip hits 3.9GHz.

The cheaper Core i5 model will have no problem running web browsers, Office tools and low-end work software simultaneously, and it’ll handle modest creative tasks too. The Core i7 chip can add mainstream photo-editing and some light video work to its list of abilities.

Dell XPS 13

(Image credit: Dell)

The Core i5 machine has 8GB of memory, which is enough for day-to-day work and browsing. That memory is doubled in Core i7 designs – an important upgrade for tougher work.

When it comes to graphics, the integrated cores used here are good enough for work and far better than older Intel chips – they’ll easily handle mainstream creative software. In terms of gaming, they’ll run older titles and basic modern games at moderate settings. 

Connectivity is covered by future-proofed WiFi 6, which puts the Dell at the vanguard of consumer laptops. Elsewhere, the Dell is available with SSDs that range from 256GB to 2TB – your usage requirements will determine the size of drive needed.

Dell XPS 13 review: Screen and Audio

  • Excellent screens that handle color and contrast well
  • Bright, detailed and breezy speakers

The biggest change here concerns the size of the display: it’s a 13.4-inch unit rather than a 13.3-inch device. Dell has been able to make that improvement because the screen now has tiny bezels on all four sides. The tiny size increase doesn’t make much difference. Suffice to say that the XPS screens remain excellent: the 16:10 display has a 500-nit brightness level and a 1,500:1 contrast ratio.

The former figure means indoor and outdoor working is easy, and the latter means huge punch and vibrancy throughout the color range. Those colors are superb, too – bright and accurate.

Dell XPS 13

(Image credit: Dell)

There are three configurations for this laptop: the XPS is sold with a 1,920 x 1,200 non-touch display, a touch version of that screen, and with a 3,840 x 2,400 touch panel. The former is great, but the latter is crisper – and, unsurprisingly, more expensive. Given the 4K display’s impact on price and battery life, though, we’d only recommend opting for that model if you absolutely need that resolution.

The speakers are punchy, vibrant and clear. They’re only missing bass, which is no surprise on such a light laptop – but this audio kit is easily good enough for media duties.

Dell XPS 13 review: Battery Life

  • Expect 15 hours on low-useage
  • About 10-11 hours for the 4K panel

Dell’s move to 10nm processors means that battery life on the XPS 13 remains impressive. During modest work tasks, expect upwards of fifteen hours from this machine – and assume it’ll last for ten if you’re really pushing the components, or if you’re running the screen at full brightness.

Those figures are reliably based on the 1,920 x 1,200 display. The 4K version is built from many more pixels, so it uses more power. Expect four hours less longevity if you need the higher-resolution XPS. 

Dell XPS 13 review: Value for Money

  • Entry level is more expensive than MacBook Air.
  • Core i7-based machines are priced reasonably

Eight different versions of the new XPS are available. The cheapest costs $1,250, and it uses the Core i5 CPU with 8GB of memory – it’s ideal for mainstream work and daily browsing. That’s better than Apple’s equivalent MacBook Air, which is $50 more for a virtually identical spec.

The most affordable Core i7-based XPS costs $1,749 and includes 8GB of memory and the 256GB SSD alongside the higher-resolution screen. Apple has no direct Air competitor here– that machine tops out at Core i5 – and its 13-inch MacBook Pro models are hindered by older CPUs and weaker specifications.

The range tops out at around $2,250, although upgrading the storage will add a little extra to the cost.  It’s a decent range of prices, especially if you’re willing to make do without the 4K screen or 2TB SSD – those will be unnecessary for most users.

Should I Buy the Dell XPS 13?

There’s no doubt about it: the Dell XPS 13 remains superb. On the outside, it’s a little slimmer and lighter than it was before – and it looks just as good. The screen quality remains excellent, the keyboard and trackpad are great, and the updated CPUs deliver enough power to handle most work tasks despite the slimline frame.

The XPS 13 isn’t perfect: its port selection could be more versatile, and you’ll be able to find a little more battery life elsewhere. It is a fantastic all-round option, though – a sturdy, powerful and stunning laptop that offers great performance in a small frame. If you need a light and well-balanced laptop, few are better.