Should I buy the Dell XPS 13 9310 (late 2020)?
The latest refresh of the Dell XPS 13 packs a scintillating display and a wonderfully tactile keyboard into a fancy metal frame, and like the previous generation, it runs hot but doesn’t suffer for it in quite the same way.
Price when reviewed
Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide
Dell XPS 13 9310 (late 2020)
The latest Dell XPS 13 9310 is a spec refresh of the previous 2020 flagship model, the Dell XPS 13 9300.
This time around buyers are offered machines with the newer 11th-gen Tiger Lake Intel processors, instead of the 10th-gen Ice Lake chips. Memory is also faster (4267MHz LPDDR4x versus 3733MHz LPDDR4), meaning that everything should run a whole lot more smoothly here – Intel claims a performance and battery efficiency boost of up to 20%.
As before, displays are available in Full HD (1920×1200), and 4K Ultra HD (3840×2400) options, giving you a larger-than-usual 16:10 aspect ratio. The same great edge-to-edge keyboard that we loved from the Dell XPS 13 9300 is present and correct here, too.
The real question is, will the 9310 get all hot and bothered like the 9300 did? The short answer is no – performance here does not appear to be hindered by thermal issues in the same way that the 9300 was, but that’s not to say that the new XPS 13 isn’t a hot (and noisy) machine.
We’ll address everything in detail in due course, but the main takeaway here is that the 9310 does improve on the 9300’s main drawback.
Design & Build – More of the same
Dell has really been pushing the envelope in terms of cramming as much processing power as possible into increasingly small and slender laptop chassis over the years, and the Dell XPS 13 9310 is just the latest example of this trend.
The same fetching checkerboard/kevlar-type pattern that we’ve seen on Dell XPS laptops for the last few years has gone nowhere, and the same slightly smooth, rubbery feel this material has gives the whole package an air of prestige.
It actually boasts the same dimensions as the 9300, which is largely good news. This is a very slim and lightweight laptop – it weighs just 1.2kg, and can be easily tucked away into a satchel or backpack.
The aluminium chassis is very slim, as is the almost non-existent bezel, which just makes the vibrant, colour-rich screen pop even more. The Dell XPS 13 9310 simply looks stunning.
This is also bad news – it might boast a skimpy profile, but the XPS 13 9310 is skimpy in terms of ports. You get just two Type-C USB ports, a microSD card reader, and a headphone jack, and that’s your lot.
Admittedly, those USB-C ports come packing Thunderbolt 3 technology, so you can connect the XPS 13 9310 to external displays and the mains adapter through either port. While this does mean that one port will likely be hooked up to the mains most of the time, you can buy a dock that’ll let you expand your connectivity options if you wish.
That might stick in the craw when you consider how much you’re being asked to shell out in the first place, but at the same time, if you want the extra connectivity that a big gaming laptop offers, you’ll more than likely be spending a greater amount of money for something with an equivalent-quality display – more than what you’d need to spend on a suitable dock, at any rate.
Keyboard & Trackpad – Smooth operator
The keyboard is excellent, just as good as it is on the XPS 13 9300. Everything is nicely spaced, and big enough for people of all handspans to get comfortable with. Travel is 1mm, enough to create a pleasing sensation of depth.
You’ll be able to rattle of sentences at a fair old clip in no time here. Again, the power key incorporates a fingerprint scanner, a design choice that’s at once aesthetically pleasing, practical, and space-efficient.
The trackpad is the ideal size and is responsive enough to allow for effortless navigation with one finger without having to faff around in the settings.
Screen & Speakers – Crispy boi
Dell offers Full HD and 4K Ultra HD variants of the XPS 13 3910. Both versions promise an impressive 500 nits of maximum brightness, full coverage of the sRGB colour space, and 90% of the DCI P3 space. In other words, high levels of detail, high levels of brightness, perfect for editing photos.
The XPS 13 9310 model Dell sent is the Ultra HD bad boy. It’s one of the nicest laptop displays on the market – 3840 x 2400 pixels crammed into a 13.4in display gives you a whopping pixels-per-inch count of 338ppi. For context, the MacBook Pro 13in (2020), an excellent laptop with an excellent display, offers 232ppi.
Sure, 4K resolution across 13in is a bit excessive, but when excessive looks this good, who cares? And some will simply require it for certain work.
As for those claims of max brightness and colour gamut coverage, using a SpyderX Pro colorimeter, I recorded 519 nits of brightness at full whack. At 50% brightness, I saw 201 nits, and at 65 nits at the lowest setting.
Colour space coverage is also good, with all of the sRGB gamut covered, along with 84% of the Adobe RGB space, pre-calibration. DCI P3 isn’t as good as advertised, at 87%, but that’s still excellent by most laptop standards.
In more practical terms, photos, videos, Netflix streams, games, all look stunning. If anything, the colours are perhaps too bright and vibrant, with greens, in particular, feeling a little oversaturated out of the box.
The 13.4in touch display is protected by a layer of toughened Corning Gorilla Glass 6, too. While you can’t really use the XPS 13 9310 as a tablet – the hinge doesn’t rotate through 360 degrees – it’s good to know that the display is protected against your finger jabs for those times where you’d rather poke at the screen than use the trackpad.
The two 2.5W tuned speakers are good, with hi-res YouTube and Spotify streams sounding nicely balanced. There is, inevitably, clipping at high volumes, but when music is played at sensible levels, it sounds wonderfully clear and crisp.
It’s a shame that they’re downward-firing speakers. That’s not so much of a big deal if the laptop is sat on your desk, as the sound will bounce off of that hard surface, but if you’re watching or playing something on the sofa or in bed, a lot of that noise is lost.
It’s just as well that the XPS 13 9310 doesn’t weigh much – you can prop it up on one hand easily enough.
Specs & Performance – Hot to trot
Earlier I touched on the fact that the XPS 13 9310’s predecessor could get a bit hot under the collar, and would pack up when placed under the strain of multiple Chrome tabs, Slack and Spotify all going off at once.
I can happily say that the latest XPS 13 laptop does not suffer from this quite so badly in terms of performance, at any rate. That said, it will run hot after several hours, and you’ll both feel that when you’re typing, and hear it, when the laptop’s two fans kick in.
This is just when doing the basics, i.e. word processing, checking emails, YouTube playlists and running Slack, as well as when you’re doing something a little more demanding. Sadly, the XPS 13 3910 is a noisy machine.
The processor on the model I tested is an 11th-gen Intel Core i7-1165G7 which features four cores, and a base clock speed of 2.8GHz, boosting up to 4.7GHz.
This is the middle processor option for the range – you can also pick up an entry-level XPS 13 3910 with a Core i5-1135G7, or models with a more powerful Core i7-1185G7.
RAM-wise, your options are either 8GB or 16GB of 4267MHz LPDDR4x memory, and your storage choices are either 512GB or 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSDs.
While there is no option to take any XPS 13 9310 models with dedicated graphics, all processors do come with integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics. This boasts a big improvement compared with Intel’s older UHD integrated graphics, and you’ll likely see this when playing lighter games like League of Legends and Rocket League. You want to play Metro Exodus with ray tracing? Think again.
I was able to play games of Civilization 6 all the way into the Modern Age and beyond without experiencing any major chug, but that was only with all of the graphical bells and whistles dialled down and things like shadows turned off.
How much power can you expect to squeeze out of the laptop’s 52Wh battery? I was able to easily get seven to eight hours of work off the battery (in the balanced ‘better performance’ mode), with around 20-30% left.
Running a continuous video playback test with the display’s brightness set to 120 nits, I recorded just over 10 hours. That’s very good, considering the processing power of the XPS 13 9310 but many laptops can go a lot futher.
Wireless connectivity here is the same as before – Bluetooth 5, and Wi-Fi 6 (11ax). The Wi-Fi radio is a Killer AX1650 module, and using WiFi Analyzer, I saw speeds ranging between 721Mbps and 1201Mbps when connected to a Netgear Orbi RBK750 mesh network.
Price & Availability
Dell XPS 13 9310’s are currently available to buy from Dell’s UK store.
The entry-level model with a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a Full HD display costs £1,399.
At the other end of the spectrum, a Dell XPS 13 9310 with a Core i7-1165G7, 16GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and a 4K Ultra HD display will set you back £1,949.
NB: at the time of writing, it wasn’t possible to buy a Dell XPS 13 9310 with a Core i7-1185G7 processor and a 1TB SSD from Dell.
In the US, you can pick up Dell XPS 13 9310 models with 256GB and 2TB SSDs, as well as 512GB and 1TB drives.
This XPS 13 9310 with a Full HD display, Core i7-1165G7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage can be had for $1,399.99.
This version with a 4K Ultra HD display, Core i7-1185G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD is yours for $1,899.99. Taking the same model with a 1TB drive sees the price crawl up to $2,049.99, while going all the way and getting the 2TB beast sees you paying $2,349.99.
However, the US models have a much cheaper option at $999 thanks namely to a lower power Core i3 processor.
Not sure this is quite what you’re after? Read our best laptop guide to see how the XPS 13 9310 stacks up against the competition.
The Dell XPS 13 9310 is a stylish and powerful device, offering buyers the best performance they can expect from a 13in ultrabook.
Not only does the XPS 13 9310 offer superior performance, but it also mitigates its predecessor’s main flaw, and is a smoother operator for it.
That said, the XPS 13 9310 is expensive, and depending on your situation and needs, you may be tempted to plump for something slightly less powerful and a lot less pricey, or go for a fully-fledged gaming laptop around the same price point.
Dell XPS 13 9310 (late 2020): Specs
Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide
Author: Thomas Newton, Contributor
Thomas is a freelance writer with over a decade’s experience of writing about telecoms and testing phones, laptops, desktops, set-top boxes, monitors, and everything in between.
Recent stories by Thomas Newton: