Dell XPS 13 review: Excellent laptop but not for everyone


The Dell XPS 13 (9310) laptop is a premium offering with prices starting at Rs 149,990 and comes with Intel Evo certification that guarantees uncompromised performance. Is it worth the price? India Today Tech tries to answer that.

HIGHLIGHTS

The Dell XPS 13 is among a handful of laptops that can probably make it to the top of the list in many categories, including performance and sleek design. While under the hood specs are undoubtedly the biggest USP of the laptop, the compact form factor is another important aspect that should appeal to many users. I have been using the Dell XPS 13 (9310) as my primary laptop for a few weeks, and in this review, I will dive in-depth into points why I feel that it is one of the balanced offerings available on the market right now.

Dell XPS 13 (9310) is among the premium laptop offerings from the house of Dell that helped it replace HP as the top PC company in Q4 2020. The data from IDC showed how Dell was on top of its game during Q4 and registered growth in both commercial and consumer segments. However, things have changed now, as the new IDC data this month shows HP crawling back to the top of the table while Dell has slipped to second.

Coming back to the Dell XPS 13, it isn’t any different from other XPS range laptops launched by Dell. The company was on a launching spree in late 2020. While the Dell XPS 13 packs one of the best Intel chipsets and comes with the Evo platform certification, I felt that it’s a good mix of both worlds for users looking for a laptop that can be used for work and play. The Dell XPS 13 comes with the all-new 11th Gen Intel Core processor, and with prices starting at Rs 149,990 and going up to Rs 2,09,990, it is definitely not built for the masses. I have spent enough time with the laptop to tell you whether it is worth the premium price.

Dell XPS 13 review: Stunning looks and lightweight

If there’s one department where the XPS 13 can beat any laptop around its price, it has to be the design. In my opinion, it looks better than the MacBook range or any other premium ultrabook available on the market right now. The aluminium chassis offers sturdiness which you can’t expect from laptops sporting a magnesium or plastic body. The solid build will give you confidence while using it day-in and day out. However, I felt that Dell could have given the new XPS 13 a few more design refreshes to make it look slightly different from its predecessor.

For people who have been following the XPS range journey so far, there are not many changes to talk about in the new XPS 13 9310, and that’s because it retains a lot of design features I saw on the last generation laptop.

But, those who are planning to buy it should know that everything about the design aesthetics of the Dell XPS 13 has been done, keeping in mind usability and making it look elegant. Right from Corning Gorilla Glass 6 on the touchscreen helps avoid accidental scratches to the Dell logo on the lid, which is laser cut from a sheet of stainless steel. The thin bezels around the display give a clear indication that this one is a premium laptop and enhances the laptop’s looks.

Then, there’s the hinge on the XPS 13, which is a treat to use and is easy to open and close with a single hand during daily use. Dell has used a twin coil press-fit hinge that stays stable even when using the touchscreen.

The palm rest of the XPS 13 sports a carbon fibre-inspired pattern that is great for long hours. The attention to detail is fantastic, as the keys and touchpad are much bigger in size, which helps in improving the overall user experience. The tactile feel of the keyboard is the best I have seen on laptops in this price range. The backlit keyboard is also a nice touch. Dell says that it added a UV and stain-resistant coating on top of the palm rest to prevent discolouration, which is a well-thought addition.

The keyboard’s power key on the top right corner seems the best place considering the form factor and aesthetics. However, I felt that Dell could have given it a slightly different colour accent to look unique from other keys on the laptop. However, the good thing is that the power button integrates the fingerprint scanner, and it is blazing fast.

At 1.27 kilograms, the Dell XPS 13 is among the lightest premium ultrabooks you can find on the market right now. The 14.8mm thin side profile also helps it look lean and adds to the premium appeal of the device. The top-of-the-line spec model comes in a single Frost exterior and Arctic White interior colour, which looks stunning. However, the company should also have offered the Platinum Silver exterior and Black interior for the Core i7, 1TB storage, and 16GB RAM model. At this point, there’s just a single colour model for a very premium price.

The Dell XPS 13 ships with a limited number of ports which means there’s not much you can do simultaneously. There are 2 Thunderbolt 4 ports on each side (left and right panel), while there’s a 3.5mm audio jack and a microSD card slot. Out of the two Thunderbolts, one is used for charging, leaving you with just another one that can either be used for attaching a Bluetooth mouse connecter or an external display. The laptop ships with a Type-C to Type-A connector, which comes in handy, but during the review, I felt that Dell could have fitted another Thunderbolt ports, and things would have been slightly manageable. Additionally, the laptop supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

The Dell XPS 13 comes with a 13.4-inch ultra HD+ InfinityEdge display with 3840×2400 pixels resolution. The panel can offer a peak brightness of 500-nits, which is impressive, and the 91.5 per cent screen-to-body ratio provides an immersive experience. The 4K panel provides a 90 per cent DCI P3 colour gamut, and a neat addition is the anti-reflective coating that cuts down the glare from the screen.

Around this price, the XPS 13 offers an excellent panel that is bright, provides colour accuracy, and fits all requirements – be it for your important office presentation or for watching movies. The ultrabook certainly ships with one of the best screens from Dell.

Overall, the Dell XPS 13 scores relatively high in design and display departments and, as I already said, should impress users across age groups.

Dell XPS 13 review: Top-notch performance

Under the hood, the Dell XPS 13 packs the 11th Gen “Tiger Lake” Intel Core i7 1185G7 processor (up to 4.8GHz) coupled with 16GB LPDDR4 memory onboard. The XPS 13 comes in two storage versions – 512GB SSD and 1TB SSD, which I got for the review. For handling the graphics, there’s the Intel Iris Xe graphics card onboard as well.

The laptop runs on Windows 10 Home. It comes with a Microsoft Office 30-day trial offer enabled by default, which users can do while setting up the machine, while there’s also the McAfee LiveSafe security software subscription for 12 months. The laptop packs stereo speakers with 4W peak sound, which Dell claims are tuned with Waves MaxxAudio Pro.

During everyday use, the Dell XPS 13 is a powerhouse and easily handles multitasking. The laptop also smoothly handles resource-heavy apps like Photoshop, video editing tools, and even some light gaming titles. At 13.4-inches, the Dell XPS seems like a perfect work machine that is lightweight and doesn’t feel bulky or flimsy.

However, during the review, I felt that the XPS 13 is more of a suitable work laptop than one that can let you play any AAA titles. Even while editing videos, I felt that the laptop struggled a bit. There’s no doubt that the Dell XPS 13 packs one of the best thermal designs and one that never even made me hear fan noise during the entire duration of the review. Dell uses a wide area within the panel for dual fans and a single heat pipe designed with a single evaporator and dual condenser. This setup manages to hide the exhaust venting through the hinge area and makes it a completely silent operator.

The Dell XPS 13 comes with the Intel Evo certification, the new laptop standard defined by Intel. It can be considered the new hallmark for extremely high-performance laptops and requires manufacturers to meet minimum requirements. Some of the requirements include an incredible quick boot-up speed and can deliver 4 hours or more of battery life in 30 minutes of charge, among more.

The laptop comes with one of the best screens, making multimedia consumption a treat, as well as good enough speakers for single person use. However, I felt that the stereo speakers on the Dell were not very loud, and at times, in a noisy environment, I could barely hear what was playing.

The XPS 13 ships with a 720p HD webcam, though the unit I got had some driver issues and never turned off. I tried downloading some web camera drivers, but nothing worked. Unfortunately, I couldn’t check the clarity of the webcam due to an issue with our unit. The laptop can latch on to Wi-Fi signals from a distance at ease, which one expects from a powerful laptop.

In our opinion, the Dell XPS 13 could be your perfect work companion as well as for some binge-watching.

Dell XPS 13 review: Battery isn’t its greatest strength

The Dell XPS 13 comes with a 4-cell 52Whr integrated battery, and it is one of the biggest letdowns for the entire package. The laptop lasted for barely three hours on battery with a brightness level of 25 per cent, which is a big disappointment. While the company claims an incredible up to 8 hours of streaming on the laptop, our video loop test results showed the laptop lasted for around 4 hours at a stretch with minimal display settings and headphones plugged in.

There’s fast charging support, which means your laptop can fully charge from 20 to 100 per cent in around an hour, but then the limited battery prowess ruins the portability quotient of the laptop.

Dell XPS 13 review: Verdict

The Dell XPS 13 (9310) laptop is an excellent example of what a performance laptop should be. It offers an amazingly sleek design profile that can be a head-turner for users across different age groups. For professionals looking for a no-compromise laptop, the Dell XPS 13 ticks not only all the right boxes but also makes sure it doubles up as your default personal multimedia device for weekend movies or shows.

The Intel Evo certification promises one of the best experiences that you can get from Dell XPS 13 in the premium range. And, another thing that goes in favour of the laptop is its wide selection of SKUs, which means if you know what you want right from Core i3 or i7, you can probably get here.

There are a few jinxes in the armour, like battery life could have been better, and the selection of ports may have added more value. The pricing of the Dell XPS 13 is also on the higher side, and this makes other options around the same price look suitable from brands like Asus, Lenovo, and even Apple. But, again, every device has some things that go in their favour and some that don’t.

If you’re looking for alternatives to XPS 13, then the MacBook Air with an M1 chipset is our top pick, which you could even get for a less price, but you won’t get features like a touch screen display and a few others. Around this price, users can also opt for the 13-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 chip that offers decent battery life.

Dell XPS 13 review 8/10

Pros

Cons

Click here for IndiaToday.in’s complete coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.