Let me start by saying I love ultrabooks. They represent serious portability that means you can be productive wherever you go. While we’re all travelling less right now, a laptop purchase is usually for a few years, so it is important to think long term. Even just moving around home, or if you are still going to the office, having a light laptop means you’ll take it with you more often.
Dell’s latest XPS 13 builds on what was already a great laptop last year, but this year Dell have refined it, improved it and it’s easily one of my favourite laptops. Over the past few years my daily driver has been a HP, but the keyboard on this new Dell is seriously great to type on. I point out typing first as its actually one of the least talked about things in laptop reviews, but the single biggest way you’ll interact with it. Sure there’s plenty of other considerations like the screen, the trackpad, speakers, battery life, but none of them matter if the typing experience is terrible.
When I first started using it, it was immediately different and obviously there’s a natural human response you have to change. Once you power through that, you can really enjoy and appreciate the that travel distance of the key is much smaller than a conventional keyboard. It’s also very different in terms of design. Most laptops have chicklet keys now that protrude from the chassis and are flush when depressed. The XPS13 keys sit flush and when pressed, disappear inside the body. It’s a really unique experience and one I quickly came to love.
With that out of the way, there’s lots of other great features to talk about.
Slick, professional, purposeful
The Dell XPS 13 is very lean, slim, professional and presented in beautiful silver finish. The angles of the chassis provide something fairly unique in terms of body design which I think looks great. Like phones, laptop design has been getting closer to each other, however this angle design combined with a silver exterior and black interior, makes this feel fresh and unique. There is a white version available as well, but I love this matte black carbon fibre finish on the the palm rest and keyboard surround.
The hinge design is very similar to the HP Elitebook X360 I use regularly. These are wide and gives you confidence they’ll continue to function for years, despite how many times you fold the screen back and leverage the convertible body.
The keyboard is easily my favourite I’ve used this year and it’ll be hard to go back to other devices. What’s great is Dell has been able to pack this great keyboard, trackpad and 13″ display into a chassis similar to what you’d typically find for an 11″ device. The display runs almost edge to edge and while Dell calls it an InfinityEdge display, it does still feature a bezel, but only a couple of mm.
Stand out features of this display.
This laptop is minimal in design, but don’t let that fool you, there’s plenty of features going on here. From the display, to the keyboard, the camera, and ports and importantly the battery life.
This screen is a 13.4″ display WLED, touchscreen. It runs basically edge-to-edge which looks great, with great colour, amazing brightness levels and while this review unit didn’t have the 4K resolution, it still looks fantastic. It may be covered in Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5, which should provide some confidence to you in its robustness, but that definitely doesn’t mean you should drop this.
Battery life is really important and while you don’t get a choice of battery (comes with a 4-Cell, 51 WHr, Integrated battery), this review unit came with the standard 1080p display in a 16:10 aspect ratio. Despite running all my regular workflows, I managed to get through a decent day without a problem. If you plan on being plugged in and want to spec this out, there is a 4K screen available.
The long battery life quoted by Dell is definitely achieved by having Windows 10 run in Battery saver mode which reduces screen brightness. You can of course manually override this, but it is still possible to kill the battery in under 4 hours if you smash it.
I’ve already talked a lot about how much I like this keyboard and at night, the backlit keyboard offers maximum usability. The full-sized keyboard features MagLev key with 1.3mm of travel. While you won’t have the cm+ travel of a mechanical keyboard, the firmness and feedback you get when you complete the keystroke reminded me a lot of one.
I’m a touch typist and not looking really speeds up workflows. While I don’t use them often I an used to having larger arrow keys, so they took some time to get used to the exact location of.
Dell have included a generous precision touchpad, with a seamless glass integrated button. Personally I’ve been using tap to click and tap with 2 fingers as the right click menu for years, so don’t actually click with the trackpad. It’s really responsive and one of the nicest I’ve used, with your index finger, easily gliding over the surface, making precision mouse movements easy.
Part of the simplistic design of the XPS 13 that I love is the refined set of ports, making for a pretty uninterrupted side to the body, compared most devices. There’s 2x Thunderbolt 3 ports (USB-C), one on each side, that offer with Power Delivery and display out. I love the symmetry of this and depending on your dock location on your desk, can suit either configuration.
There’s also a microSD-card reader and I’m one port I think could have been left out, and old school 3.5mm audio jack. Naturally most people are using either USB or Bluetooth headsets now.
How do it perform ?
Inside the body lies a very capable set of hardware that delivers very decent performance. The Dell XPS 13 7390 comes with a 10th Gen Intel Core i5 processor, the 1035G1 which runs up to 3.6GHz, or there is a model with a Core i7 if you think you need even more performance.
The processor is paired with the 8GB RAM (up to 16GB on the top model) and runs Intel UHD Graphics. For storage, there’s a Toshiba 256GB NvME SSD (or 512 on the flagship). While not the TB of some devices, I feel 256G is still perfectly acceptable, especially given many of us are leveraging cloud storage providers.
When I saw the 720p webcam on the spec sheet, I was fairly skeptical, as most on-board webcams are still terrible. This actually produces very acceptable picture quality in decent light, albeit a little softer than I’d like and the HDR didn’t help resolve detail lost in the background of a shot with sunlight pouring in. Despite that, it did a great job and right now webcams are more important than ever with all the remote work and study going on.
When it comes to benchmarks which some people depend on to make their purchasing decision, the XPS 13 does well for how its positioned, as a productivity device. Obviously gaming laptops with dedicated GPUs are going to score better, but the XPS 13 scores well in PC Mark 10, approaching 4,000.
Not everything’s perfect
As you can tell there’s lots to like about this laptop, however one of my biggest frustrations is the lack of a Windows Hello compatible camera. Dell may have moved the camera to the top of the display, but they didn’t include the necessary depth sensors required to accurately differentiate someone’s face.
One other laptops, I use this multiple times per day. While there is support for unlocking Windows using your fingerprint on the power button, I really prefer face unlock.
The front of the device is angled which is actually not very easy to open. Most laptops have some kind of cut out to enable you to get some purchase under the front edge of the display, but lifting this lid is harder than it short be. It’s not a big thing, but if you’re someone who closes your lid to sleep multiple times a day, this could get old.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
How much and when can you get one ?
The Dell XPS 7390 2-in-1 laptop is available now from Dell directly, or from select retailers. This light, portable and powerful laptop comes at a price of A$2,598.99 for the configuration reviewed. At that price it’s fairly well priced for the features, but disappointingly only comes with Windows 10 Home, not Pro, that’s a A$100 option.
While the review unit that I had was silver externally and black internally, there is also a version with a white interior if you prefer that.
For more information or to buy, head to Dell.com.au.
The Dell XPS 13 is easily one of my favourite laptops I’ve ever used. A great size, great display, amazing keyboard and great battery life. The laptop’s bold decision to leave USB-A ports in the past really does show us USB-C has not only arrived, but is at a point where you really can live a USB-C life. Everyone’s preparedness to do this will be different, but given phones, USB drives and pretty much every peripheral is either wireless or USB-C, this is becoming a real option.
For those that aren’t ready, the solution is easy. Most USB-C hubs contain a number of USB-A ports, great for legacy keyboard and mice you still have laying around.
All things considered, this is a great laptop, one that refines what was on offer last year and makes it even better. I’d definitely recommend it to those after a really well designed, ultrabook with a great keyboard, processor and one that is positioned for the future (USB-C only). Even if you never plan on converting it into tablet mode, it’s still a fantastic laptop.
- Fingerprint unlock
- Battery life
- No Windows Hello camera