Review – Dell XPS 13 9300: Lots of attention to details


This year, Dell made a few changes to the new XPS lineup of premium thin and light laptops. It’s still using a pretty traditionally-XPS design alongside the materials used.

Despite that, Dell pays a lot of attention to providing the best user experience that a laptop can have. Its core specs are a little weird – but they’re configurable. So after using the XPS 13 9300 for more than a month, here is everything that we discovered.

Sleek and clean design

The best way to start is to talk about its design and build quality. The new Dell XPS 13 9300 is still looking like previous XPS laptops. It’s clean, sleek, and has parts showing bare metal. To be exact, it’s aluminium with diamond-cut sidewalls machining.

Globally, there are two color variants of the Dell XPS 13 9300. There is a big difference in terms of build material as the black color variant uses carbon fiber for the palm rest area, whereby the white color variant uses arctic white woven glass fibers instead.

For us Malaysians, only the white color variant is available – which I think looks better than the black color variant because of the color uniformity. The palm rest’s white color matches the entire laptop’s color scheme, particularly the lid.

Dell also claims that the white color variant has UV- and stain-resistant coatings, which means it should be easier to clean overall – which is important since this is a white-colored laptop after all.

And after using the laptop for so long, I realized that there is no grease mark on the wrist rest at all. The texture also feels fantastic to touch.

A better keyboard

While we’re on the subject of the wrist rest, let’s talk about the keyboard. The Dell XPS 13 9300 is now using an edge-to-edge keyboard and they’re no longer using the MagLev keyboard – which was what we’ve experienced on the Dell XPS 15 9575 that we reviewed last year. The new Dell XPS 13 9300 is using a traditional rubber dome keyboard. And I think I prefer this more than the MagLev keys because it has a longer distance and it is also softer. It makes it a bit more fun to type on – especially for touch typists.

The keyboard layout is similar to any other tenkeyless laptop keyboards – and the laptop’s power button is placed at the top right corner of the keyboard. Not something that I particularly like since I like it to be placed outside of the keyboard array.

And then the individual key size. Quoting Dell’s words – this new keyboard has “less lattice” as its keys are 9% larger than before. Nothing wrong with the previous generation’s key size, but it’s a nice tweak here.

My other complaint here is the print screen button. There are two keys in the function row that are singular in purpose – that being the insert and delete key. Personally, I prefer the print screen key to replace the insert key instead.

A larger trackpad

Dell also made an emphasis on the trackpad size this time around as it grew 19% larger than before. Overall tracking is still similar to the previous generation of XPS laptops as it works without an issue. Palm rejection is an issue sometimes, but at the trackpad is not wide to the point where it intrudes my palm.

But of course, the Dell XPS 13 9300 is available in a touch-screen or non-touchscreen version. The one that we have here is touch-capable. And speaking of the screen…

Magnificent screen with a meticulously-built hinge

Screens that Dell uses for their XPS machines are always beautiful – and the XPS 13 9300 is no different. The 13.4-inch screen is magnificent, it’s bright, and the colors are just beautiful.

The bezels have been shrunken even further this time around, which is why this entire laptop’s footprint is even smaller than before. Dell’s engineer also still manages to pack in a webcam with Windows Hello facial recognition! That’s really impressive!

Dell is also using a 16:10 aspect ratio now – and the display extends further downward, closer to the hinge. So, when we open the laptop hinge, the bottom bezel also shrinks in size.

Dell also implemented a feature where it will automatically start up or wake from sleep when the lid is opened. If you don’t like this feature, then you can disable it in the BIOS.

But then the resolution is a little weird. If you want a touchscreen, then you’ll be stuck with 3840×2400 which is essentially 4K. For non-touch screens, it’s only 1080p at max.

And speaking of the touchscreen, the hinge is an engineering marvel. It can be opened with one hand – not a big deal, but worth mentioning here. Even though the hinge is smooth enough to be opened with one hand, it doesn’t wobble much when I poke the screen with my fingers.

Dell struck a great balance between its looseness and stiffness. It’s magnificent.

But the performance…

This is a tough one, honestly. The Dell XPS 13 9300 that we have for review here is the highest end. It comes with this list of specs:

And the one thing that I want to focus on is the chipset itself – that Intel chip. There are two branches of Intel’s 10th generation of chips, and it’s very confusing. Hardware Unboxed has a good two-part video explaining the differences between the two branches of 10th Gen Intel chips.

Dell XPS 13 9300

We have the Comet Lake chips that are based on the 14nm process which became Intel’s 10­­th Gen U-series of mobile chips, and there are Ice Lake chips that are based on the new 10nm process with a focus on bumping up its integrated graphics performance.

Now, the XPS 13 9300 is definitely not made for gaming and Dell never advertised it to be a gaming laptop – but we did try to run some lightweight titles in 1080p resolution – like Valorant – and it runs pretty okay most of the time. There are stutterings here and there but it’s overall, quite a playable experience at its lowest graphical settings.

And if you want to have a look at the benchmarks, here they are.

Battery life

The new Dell XPS 13 9300 comes with a relatively large 52Wh battery. It can last for about 6 hours in a single charge – and considering that it is using a screen with 4K resolution, it’s quite good.

However, a laptop that we reviewed recently is the ASUS ExpertBook B9450 which uses the Intel Core i7-10510U which is based on the 14nm Comet Lake. I presume that the laptop has a pretty conservative CPU governor, which is why its benchmark scores are lower than the Huawei MateBook X Pro which uses the same Intel chip. And it’s a smart move since laptops don’t require that much power to browse the web or do word processing anyway.

As for the charging speed, the Dell XPS 13 9300 comes with a tiny 45W charger and it can charge to 100% in about 2 hours while idling.

A decent selection of ports

In terms of ports, Dell is pretty much going all out to embrace the USB-C standard. It only has two Thunderbolt 3 ports – one on each side, a headphone jack, and a microSD card reader. The last one is great to have, just rare to see on a laptop of this caliber.

I’m also glad that Dell stuck with the idea of having a single Thunderbolt 3 port on each side of the laptop, so I can charge the laptop by plugging it on either side.

And as for upgrades, Dell has pretty much soldered everything except for the single M.2 SSD, which is covered by a copper heatsink.

On a side note, the screws that Dell uses to secure the backplate is also covered in this silver color, just to match the overall aesthetics. Dell is really paying close attention to detail here.

Should you buy the Dell XPS 13 9300?

It’s a rather interesting question. For me, I’ll say yes – Dell paid a lot of attention and doubled down on how to make the user experience better. We do have the highest-spec variant of the XPS 13 9300 for review, but I think you should buy the other variants instead.

On Dell Malaysia’s there are a total of 5 different variants within the Dell XPS 13 9300 family. I’d say it’s pretty straightforward when it comes to making a choice since it comes down to how much RAM you want, and if you want a touchscreen or not.

However, I do wish to see a variant with a 1920×1200 resolution touchscreen particularly because of better battery life and a lower price tag.

While I also wish that Dell will go AMD for the upcoming XPS laptops, I’m not sure if they can do it because of Thunderbolt 3. Remember, Thunderbolt 3 is developed by Intel so we can only dream about it – for now.

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