Dell XPS 13 9300 review – did they overdo it?



Dell XPS 13 (9300) Image
Here, we have one of the smallest 13-inch notebooks in terms of footprint. In fact, it’s screen diagonal is a hair larger than most 13-inchers, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Obviously, we are talking about the XPS 13 9300.

Now, this is not your ordinary Inspiron or Vostro we are taking a look at. Instead, it is a full-blown premium ultrabook. One of the biggest improvements over last year, is in the absurdly tiny bezels all around the display, instead only to the sides and the top. In order to do this, Dell has gone for a 16:10 display, which by the way comes in a Full HD+ and in a 4K+, with the “plus” sign denoting the taller display.

Ultimately, the XPS series is used for creative work, so you not only need a punchy and color-accurate display, but you also need a somewhat powerful machine. This is why, the XPS 13 9300 is paired with the Ice Lake processors from Intel and an extremely fast LPDDR4x memory, working at 3733 MHz. We’ll see how this would work out for it, though.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/dell-xps-13-9300/

Contents

Specs Sheet

Dell XPS 13 9300 (2020) – Specs

296 x 199 x 14.8 mm (11.65″ x 7.83″ x 0.58″)

What’s in the box?

The 13-inch XPS actually comes in the same style box as its bigger siblings. Inside, you’ll find a super small 45W USB Type-C power adapter (funny it’s smaller than most of the new phone chargers). Additionally, Dell offers its notebook with a USB Type-A to USB Type-A dongle inside the box.

Design and construction

This year’s XPS 13 is incredibly thin and super light. We are talking about 6.8mm in the front and 9.6mm in the back, and a weight of 1.31 kg. And while this is not the lightest we’ve seen, Dell has built this notebook with balance in mind. Wherever you lift the laptop from, its weight feels constant at every point. This, combined with the CNC aluminum and the carbon fiber base, results in a very good feeling laptop.

Thankfully, the lid can be opened with a single hand. And the hinges give consistent feedback across their entire motion. As you can see, all of the bezels here are incredibly slim, in what Dell calls the “InfinityEdge” display. And despite the super-thin bezels, there is a camera and an HD camera and an optional IR face recognition system above the display.

Next comes the keyboard. It has quite big keycaps, and from what it looks like, Dell has maximized the space they have. In terms of experience, we can say that this board is comfortable, because of its clicky feedback and uniform feel. However, we would have liked seeing a little bit longer key travel, but honestly, we think that once again – Dell has maximized the space.

Additionally, there is a pretty quick and accurate fingerprint reader inside of the power button, and the touchpad is amazing. Unfortunately, due to the small space, we think that Dell wasn’t able to make the touchpad as wide as we would have wanted. Another thing we observed was a noticeable keyboard deck flex.

Other than that, both the body and the lid are sturdy-enough. And if we turn the laptop upside down, we’re going to see the ventilation grills, as well as a couple of speaker cutouts. Hot air, however, escapes from the back of the laptop.

Ports

Ladies and gentlemen, brace the Apple flop. This laptop has only four ports – two Thunderbolt 3 connectors (one on each side), a MicroSD card slot (on the left), and an Audio jack (on the right). That’s it. Thankfully, there is a USB Type-C to USB Type-A dongle.

Disassembly, upgrade options and maintenance

To get inside, you need to unscrew 8 Torx-head screws. After that, pry your way around the bottom panel, with the help of a sharp plastic tool. We found it to be easier to start from the front, just below the battery LED.

In contrast to last year, where Dell was using two tiny heat pipes, now you can see a single thick boy, which brings the heat to two heat spreaders on the opposite sides of the device. Additionally, there are two very small fans, blowing the heat away from them.

Traditionally, the XPS 13 comes with its memory soldered to the motherboard. In their official specs sheet, Dell states that it provides models, equipped with 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB of LPDDR4x memory, working at 3733 MHz. That’s quite the range. And in terms of storage, there is a single M.2 PCIe x4 drive slot.

Display quality

Dell XPS 13 9300 is equipped with a Full HD IPS touchscreen panel, Sharp XGFJ0-LQ134N1 (SHP14CB). Its diagonal is 13.4-inch (34 cm), and the resolution – 1920 х 1200p. Additionally, the screen ratio is 16:10, the pixel density – 169 ppi, their pitch – 0.15 х 0.15 mm. The screen can be considered Retina when viewed from at least 50 cm (from this distance, the average human eye can’t see the individual pixels).

Viewing angles are comfortable. We offer images at different angles to evaluate the quality.

The maximum measured brightness is 570 nits (cd/m2) in the middle of the screen and 548 nits (cd/m2) average across the surface with a maximum deviation of 9%. The Correlated Color Temperature on a white screen and at maximum brightness is 6870K – slightly colder than the 6500K temperature for sRGB.In the illustration below you can see how the display performs from uniformity perspective. The illustration below shows how matters are for operational brightness levels (approximately 140 nits) – in this particular case at 24% Brightness (White level = 139 cd/m2, Black level = 0.08 cd/m2).Values of dE2000 over 4.0 should not occur, and this parameter is one of the first you should check if you intend to use the laptop for color-sensitive work (a maximum tolerance of 2.0 ). The contrast ratio is very good – 1670:1.

To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction to the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.

Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people in HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors, etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.

Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.

The yellow dotted line shows Dell XPS 13 9300’s color gamut coverage.

Its display covers 95% of the sRGB/ITU-R BT.709 (web/HDTV standard) in CIE1976, providing a punchy and vibrant image.

Our “Design and Gaming” profile delivers optimal color temperature (6500K) at 140 cd/m2 luminance and sRGB gamma mode.

We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange, etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the “Design and Gaming” profile.

Below you can compare the scores of Dell XPS 13 9300 with the default settings (left), and with the “Gaming and Web design” profile (right).

Dell XPS 13 (9300) Image
Dell XPS 13 (9300) Image

The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.

The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the “Gaming and Web Design” profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle, and the surrounding light conditions.

Response time (Gaming capabilities)

We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and vice versa.

Health impact – PWM / Blue Light

PWM (Screen flickering)

Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses, the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.

Dell XPS 13 9300’s backlight flickers up until 140 nits but it does so with a relatively high frequency (while 2.5 KHz is generally considered safe, it is a good idea to avoid it). Above the 25% mark, there is no PWM detected, hence the display becomes comfortable for long work periods.

Blue light emissions

Installing our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin, and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.

Conclusion

Dell XPS 13 9300’s display has an IPS panel with a Full HD+ resolution, very high maximum brightness, good contrast ratio, and comfortable viewing angles. Moreover, it covers 95% of sRGB and our Gaming and Web design profile brings the Average dE value to 1.0, which is great for color-sensitive work. Now, if you are mostly using your display at above 140 nits of brightness, you won’t be affected by PWM. However, we found that below that value, the XPS 13 9300’s display is flickering at 2500 Hz, which is not really harmful, but more sensitive people might have an issue with it.

Buy our profiles

Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package are meant for Dell XPS 13 9300 configurations with 13.4″ Sharp XGFJ0-LQ134N1 (FHD+, 1920 × 1200) IPS panel.

*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at [email protected]

In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia’s products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.

Office Work - screen profile

Office Work

Office Work should be used mostly by users who spend most of the time looking at pieces of text, tables or just surfing. This profile aims to deliver better distinctness and clarity by keeping a flat gamma curve (2.20), native color temperature and perceptually accurate colors.

Design and Gaming - screen profile

Design and Gaming

This profile is aimed at designers who work with colors professionally, and for games and movies as well. Design and Gaming takes display panels to their limits, making them as accurate as possible in the sRGB IEC61966-2-1 standard for Web and HDTV, at white point D65.

Health-Guard - screen profile

Health-Guard

THealth-Guard eliminates the harmful Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) and reduces the negative Blue Light which affects our eyes and body. Since it’s custom tailored for every panel, it manages to keep the colors perceptually accurate. Health-Guard simulates paper so the pressure on the eyes is greatly reduced.

All

Sound

Dell XPS 13 9300’s speakers produce a surprisingly loud sound with good quality. Its low, mid, and high tones are clear of deviations.

Drivers

All of the drivers and utilities for this notebook can be downloaded from here: https://www.dell.com/support/home/en-us/product-support/product/xps-13-9300-laptop/drivers

Battery

Now, we conduct the battery tests with Windows Better performance setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits, and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with. This laptop’s 52Wh battery is able to deliver almost 12 hours of both Web browsing and video playback (one at the time).

CPU options

This notebook comes with Ice Lake processors inside. This includes the Core i3-1005G1, Core i5-1035G1, and the Core i7-1065G7.

GPU options

In terms of graphics cards, there are only two options – both integrated. Depending on the processor, you will get the Intel UHD Graphics or the Intel Iris Plus Graphics G7.

Gaming tests

Temperatures and comfort

Max CPU load

In this test we use 100% on the CPU cores, monitoring their frequencies and chip temperature. The first column shows a computer’s reaction to a short load (2-10 seconds), the second column simulates a serious task (between 15 and 30 seconds), and the third column is a good indicator of how good the laptop is for long loads such as video rendering.

Sometimes, having a tight body can have its consequences on thermals. And in the case with the XPS 13 9300, we see just that. While it is one of the best Core i7-1065G7 performers we’ve seen, the temperatures it goes, in order to achieve this are quite high. Especially in the first two checkpoints.

Comfort during full load

While the laptop is not that loud, we found it to heat quite a bit under continuous heavy load.

All
All

Verdict


All
For sure, the XPS 13 9300 is one of the best 13-inchers you can get, regardless of the price. It is both great in terms of computational performance, and in playing some light games. Moreover, creative tasks, like photo editing and vector graphics work will not be a problem, whatsoever. However, you have to keep in mind that this laptop doesn’t provide a very adequate cooling for its processor. At least not for the Core i7-1065G7 model. If you are rendering a video, for example, it will heat up quite drastically, both inside and out, with the keyboard reaching some 48C.

And this is only part of the confusion. The notebook also lacks a proper USB Type-A port, sporting only two Thunderbolt 3 connectors, an audio jack, and a MicroSD card reader. This means, no HDMI and no Ethernet. Well, on the bright side, the Thunderbolt ports can output a DisplayPort signal, and Dell indeed provides a USB Type-C to USB Type-A dongle inside the box, so you are not left out like Apple’s users are.

Additionally, you can’t upgrade the memory after you purchase the device, because all of it is soldered to the motherboard, and ultimately – there are no SODIMM slots to be found. So, if you have to follow our advice, make sure you get at least the 16GB model (they go to 32GB), just so you are somewhat ready for the near future.

After such a bashing, let’s talk about something positive – Dell XPS 13 9300’s display has an IPS panel with a Full HD+ resolution, very high maximum brightness, good contrast ratio, and comfortable viewing angles. Moreover, it covers 95% of sRGB and our Gaming and Web design profile brings the Average dE value to 1.0, which is great for color-sensitive work. Now, if you are mostly using your display at above 140 nits of brightness, you won’t be affected by PWM. However, we found that below that value, the XPS 13 9300’s display is flickering at 2500 Hz, which is not really harmful, but more sensitive people might have an issue with it. You can eliminate it by using our Health-Guard profile, of course, or just not going above the 140 nits (25% in this case) threshold.

In addition to the great display, the keyboard here is amazing, even though its travel is a bit short. And you know what else is amazing? Daily driving this thing. With its aluminum chassis and carbon fiber body, the laptop feels premium and rigid, as well as balanced. The touchpad could have been bigger, but its quality is great. Also, its battery life goes to about 12 hours.

So, at the end of the day, this is a powerful little laptop, that would definitely do the job most of the time. However, the lack of ports is something that really frustrates us, especially when it comes from a machine that you have to pay a pretty penny for.

Pros

Cons

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/dell-xps-13-9300/

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