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Dell trimmed the fat from its new XPS 13, fitting its 13-inch Ultra-book into a chassis the size of an 11-inch system. But its small size isn't the only thing that's impressive about this 2.6-pound ultra-portable, also a Core i5-powered notebook has a bright, full-HD display and lasts nearly 12 hours on a charge. Is this the best ultra-portable for the money? I say yes.
If you're a business traveler who places a premium on the size of your carry-on, the XPS 13 is the laptop for you. That's because Dell managed to cram a 13-inch notebook into the footprint of an 11-inch system. It did so by trimming the bezel around the display. It's just 0.2 inches thick --less than half of what you'll find on most other notebooks.
As is often the case with slim ultra-portables, typing can suffer because there's simply not enough room for key travel. And while the XPS 13's key travel was on the low side. On the whole, I enjoyed typing on this backlit keyboard. If you don't have a touch screen to execute Windows 8 gestures, then you better make sure your touchpad is up to the task. Fortunately, the XPS 13's 4.1 x 2.3-inch touchpad was smooth and responsive. I had no trouble pulling up the Charms menu, switching between apps, or pinch-zooming on pictures and websites.
For the first time on the XPS 13, Dell included an SD card slot, which is welcome to people like me who transfer a lot of photos from their cameras. The ultraportable also has two USB 3.0 ports, and a mini DisplayPort and a headphone jack on the left. Also on the left are four small LEDs that show how much battery life remains, which is a nice touch.
Like the more expensive touch version, the XPS 13 has a 2.7-GHz Intel Core i5-5200U processor. However, it has just 4GB, whereas the touch version has 8GB. Still, the non-touch version performed just as well, zipping through everyday tasks with ease.
The non-touch XPS 13 has the same Intel HD Graphics 5500 GPU as the touch version, so it's not surprising that they turned in similar graphics scores. In short, this GPU will suffice for most everyday tasks but will fall short when you're trying to game past medium settings.
On the Laptop battery status, the system lasted for about 11 hours and 42 minutes depending on the system settings. That's more than 4 hours longer than the ultra-portable average.
Like everyone else, I saw all of the positive press the Dell XPS 13 received during CES 2015. Since the XPS 13 was made available for ordering right after it was announced, and since I needed a new laptop to replace my failed Microsoft Surface Pro 3 experiment, I decided to take a plunge and buy the latest and greatest thing.
I like the Surface Pro 3, but I need a laptop that has good performance + a good keyboard + long battery life. So far the XPS 13 appears to have answered all of my prayers. Here are some of my quick thoughts on the device thus far:
- Beautiful "bezel-less" screen. Wide viewing angles. Can be viewed in direct sunlight
- Thin screen bezel allows this 13" laptop to fit within an 11" laptop size chassis
- Build quality is solid. There's no flex in the keyboard or the bottom of the device
- Thin, light weight, and ultra-portable. Its soft touch carbon fiber material looks and feels premium
- Performance is good for a low power, Intel core processor
- You can opt to save money and battery life and get the 1920x1080 non-touch screen model, or you can upgrade to the 3200 x 1800 touch screen model
- HD Video looked good and worked as you expect it to
- While researching Ultrabooks, I found many to have trackpad issues. The XPS 13 doesn't have this problem. Its trackpad is accurate and nicely sized
- The trackpad allows you to perform some gestures (scrolling, pinch and zoom, etc.) that will help you miss the touch screen less, should you go with the non touch screen model
- It includes 802.11ac dual band Wi-Fi for maximum wireless performance. Bluetooth 4.0 is included as well
- It has a backlit keyboard
I was extremely excited to get my hands on my Dell XPS when it released. The spec sounded ideal for my everyday uses of mainly surfing the web, playing games and software development. Unfortunately my initial experience of this machine was not up to the standard I expected from Dell. The laptop is a small to mid range laptop with the specification of a high end laptop.
Firstly the wireless card was faulty and had to be replaced twice, it is a known issue for this machine and the wireless card they use has been changed thanks to customer input and the part they now use in the Dell XPS is of higher quality.
Secondly, the hard drive failed after around 2 years of usage. Dell were superb in replacing the drive and I was told it was a known fault. Dell replaced the hard drive even though it was out of warranty for no fee.
Apart from those problems the laptop is superb. The performance has not dwindled in nearly three years of use. It sometimes overheats but not to an unbearable level.
The laptop has an excellent screen, the quality is incredible and no pixels have diminished over the time I've owned the laptop. The laptop has a great backlight keyboard. The keyboard is of great quality and none of the keys have even been stuck for the time I've used the machine.
The Dell XPS has a 500Gb hard drive and although I store a large amount of music and have a second operating system installed on a separate partition I am no where near being able to fill even half of the space.
The battery life on this laptop is quite adequate for a laptop of this age. I can normally get around 2 hours of use while listening to music and either gaming or programming.
Overall the laptop is a great purchase and I'm sure if you purchased one today that the initial problems I faced would not be faced by you. It is a great little laptop which is also powerful enough for a number of different, high intensive tasks. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a laptop and Dell's customer service was superb throughout the time I have owned the Dell laptop.
This laptop is a really good piece of technology but has many flaws with it. The laptop looks great however the rubber stands have fallen off quite easily and some other parts of the laptop have fallen off.
The rubber strip on the back off the laptop looks very nice and the keyboard is illuminated giving a nice effect, however a few keys have come off (so I suggest you put some warrenty on the Laptop as Dell visited my house to replace my keys-although we had to push them as they said the keyboard was not valid on the warrenty).
Also when I purcahsed the laptop it ran on vista which caused many problems but I have since upgraded to windows 7 (the dell dock never worked so I deleted the program files).
I added a blu-ray player on mine which I never really use as I have a PS3 and I have filled my 500GB hard drive but this should not be a problem for most.
This laptop is very nice and looks great but there are some better options out there.
I've been a Dell customer for my last 3 purchases over the last 5 years or so, if only for the reason that I don't think retailers like PC World can cut it in providing what I need.
With a budget of about £900 I set out to find the perfect laptop and did a lot of research along the way. My criteria were a good graphics and processor, plenty of RAM and good storage, but easy on the price. I also wanted a decent 'widescreen' monitor for watching films, as I would be using it for editing video.
==Ordering from Dell==
The best advice I can impart for ordering from Dell is: DON'T DO IT ONLINE! Always call them, and try and get the price down. I bought this laptop about 18 months ago and can't remember specifics, but I saved over £100 by bartering with them. Key things to say are mentioning a similar laptop you've found somewhere else (or pretend you have) and just saying that you'd like to buy this one if the price is right. They'll knock an arbitrary amount off, maybe 5% or so, but say you're looking to pay [insert reasonable amount], sound a little bit disappointed and say you'll think about it, and hang up. They WILL call back, usually within an hour or so and offer you a new price. With me, they'd knocked £100 off, but my brother has tried it and got far more. At the end of the day they work on comission and will throw in all sorts of freebies and deals if you push them. I also used my repeat custom as an argument: 'I'd like to stay with you as a customer as you've been good in the past...' etc etc tends to work well with them.
==Receiving the laptop==
I was genuinely pleased with the laptop's quick delivery, I had it in my hands within about 10 days or so from ordering. It was delivered by a courier and packaged safely, easy to set up and with all the instructions etc needed.
During my time with Dell I have found their customer service to be extremely good. They tend to assign one representative to you, and they do call/email every now and then to check everything is fine. I did have a problem about 2 months down the line, where my power cable fell apart, but a quick call to Dell and they sent another one with no questions asked.
So far I've had a great time with this laptop, the only problem being that the touchpad has stopped responding and I need to use a USB mouse as I don't want to pay to replace it, although I don't think it would be out of order to ask Dell to repair it as it should have lasted longer than this.
This is a great laptop for gaming and video editing, although it isn't top of the line any more so newer games may cause it to struggle a little bit. Despite being knocked around a fair bit it's still trucking along 18 months later and has a good amount of storage for a laptop of its price. Battery life is fair, lasts over 2 hours on power saver, and around 2 hours or less on high performance, depending on what you're doing on it at the time, so not bad but you can upgrade the battery, which I decided not to do as I tend to always have it plugged in.
My god it gets warm! Even as I write this review I feel the tops of my thighs burning, it's bearable in jeans, but bare legs and tights and I do end up with burn marks on my legs from the gradual rise in temperature! That and also the touchpad is no longer working, which I feel should have lasted longer.
All in all a good sturdy laptop that performs well for a variety of uses, and Dell do offer discounts if you go about it in the right way. Will definitely be going for another Dell for my next one, and probably an upgraded version of this one if it carries on as it has done. A great purchase.
I have been a Dell customer for some time, so I was quite excited about the XPS 13 when it came time to replace by old computer (an Inspiron 8500). I liked many aspects of Dell's systems but they always seemed to have a major flaw in past designs, and I had heard that the XPS was actually quite a well put-together package. I did a lot of research to see what I could get for my money and it came out top, so I bit the bullet and this is what I ended up with...
> The Ordering Process
This is probably one of the best things I have enjoyed about Dell. The ordering process is quite simple and importantly allows a high degree of customisation, so you don't end up paying for components you don't want. The website runs smoothly and is quite straightforward, probably the most difficult thing is identifying which base system you want to use. Because I had been reading reviews I knew that the XPS 13 fitted into the small-but-powerful category, but it wouldn't be immediately obvious from Dell's system descriptions. I think the numerical categorising system falls down in that respect.
Two important hints for using Dell ordering. If you spec up your system online and then ring the call centre to actually purchase it, they can usually beat the online price by around £30. I have no idea why this is so, but it's a nice way of saving a little money. The other money saving tip concerns RAM - it's often cheaper to buy a system with less RAM than you want and then go to Crucial and buy the remainder for a better price. You have to be confident about installing it yourself (though it is not hard, almost plug-it-in easy) and also careful about buying the right components. Crucial select the memory type for you automatically so that's not hard, but you only have a limited number of memory slots, one of which will be occupied by the original Dell memory.
Delivery was estimated at 6 weeks, but it came much faster. This was not bad considering I ordered it only a few weeks after it was released - usually component shortages mean that things are more delayed early-on, and it was better than my previous Dell purchase 4 years ago.
> First Impressions - The Physical Appearance of the Machine
The machine arrived in a nice neat black box, with a black plastic handle (once I had unwrapped the brown cardboard). Perhaps for the first time since I have bought a computer it was not a tangle of cables and components inside - nestling in the black plastic tray inside was the computer in a black (you guessed the colour scheme!) velvety bag, the power cables neatly tucked to the side. There was also a number of CDs and manuals tucked away in a small pile.
The machine itself looks attractive. The styling has been done more in terms of texture and lighting that colour. Most of the machine is a high-gloss black plastic. It looks good, the gloss brings some depth and makes it easy to clean, the downside is that it does show up smudges, so I've found I have to be careful about keeping dirty hands away from it (probably no bad thing). There is also a pad of leather on the spine of the machine, which is a great natural texture and makes carrying it much more comfortable. Perhaps it is a shame they did not go further with this as it really is a nice unusual feature.
The keyboard is solid, much more so than previous Dell efforts which were weakened due to air holes in the backing plate, and nicely underlit in a light blue. For me, it felt comfortable to use and I have no complaints about it. The trackpad is also good - the sensitivity is decent and it is integrated into the surface of the machine so you don't get those annoying joints which collect dust. My only quibble with is is that there is increased functionality in it which is too easy to turn on - for instance, if you leave your finger lying in the wrong place then it's easy to start zooming instead of scrolling.
The screen is high quality (I chose the LED upgrade), bright with as good whites and blacks as I have seen elsewhere and a gloss that doesn't reflect too much of the outside world. I don't think good screens are so unusual now on high end notebooks but it certainly doesn't let you down. It's 1200x800 and in a widescreen format and viewing angles are good too, so it works for watching DVDs on for more than one person (though the screen is too small to use as a proper entertainments system if you are away from home and bored it can be handy). The screen is held on by a hinge that for the first time on a laptop I've owned actually felt solid. This was what killed my old computer, simple failure of the hinge, so this is a relief.
The other things to mention include the various in/out bits, which are all concentrated on the left, right and back edge of the computer. There are 2 USB ports, and handily one has been placed on the right and one of the left, which is perfect both for access when using the computer and for plugging in devices from either side. There are a number of other I/O ports like firewire which I never use, and the DVD reader which is on the right side of the machine. It doesn't have a tray but an opening covered by a very dense brush. I'm ambivalent about this - it's much neater and sturdier but I do worry about rubbish getting into the drive although it doesn't looks like it would easily.
The whole package ways somewhere between 2 and 2.5 kilos, so don't think this is a super-light machine, but it is carryable in a briefcase and compact.
The power supply unit is an unusual shape - flatter than normal, less of a brick, although about the same size in totality. This is actually a good idea; it is much easier to pack into a briefcase than previously. The power lead has a handy blue light on the end so it's easy to see if power is on, and it plugs into the right hand side of the computer near the hinge. I liked that positioning, much easier to locate than blind at the back, although I can't guarantee it wouldn't annoy everyone, it would depend on the setup of your desk and personal preference.
I got the 2.4Ghz processor and 4GB of RAM, but upgraded the graphics card to the 9500m as I like to play games as well as do all the normal work and browsing functions.
I chose 64bit Vista as the OS and it runs very quickly, which I was glad about as I had heard of its demands on performance. Vista itself takes a little bit of getting used to - it does try to protect you a little bit from the innards of the system and so it often tries to confirm many steps you take or direct you into a certain way of viewing the interface, particularly when installing programs or navigating the system. But if you 'surrender' to the slightly more intended pattern of use it's not a bad experience, enabling you to do most of the things you would normally do with a computer in a friendly way. There's quite a few visual effects as well, but for me these are secondary to the general experience. One other problem I have encountered is backwards compatability - it isn't always possible, particularly with games, and whilst there is an inbuilt emulator that can fix many problems, it doesn't always work.
The computer is capable of playing everything out there at the moment in terms of games, but it's not able to do full detail on the really bleeding-edge things (although even many desktops aren't). Speed is not a problem for this system in any way. I'm not a computer geek, so I can't tell you benchmark scores or anything like that. It's just faster than anything I have ever used.
The one problem with this system is that it does get hot, and it really only has a fan outlet in one place, which is towards the back left. Much of the fan vent is actually on the underside, so if you put the computer on a soft surface that blocks the vent it gets hot quickly. If you are using it with a demanding program such as a game, it sometimes shuts down as a result, which is annoying. But it's such a powerful computer that I suspect it is physically impossible to do much about this.
I decided to choose the solid state hard drive instead of the normal disk-based drives. This is a slightly controversial choice, but I would encourage you to think of the cost and benefits as follows:
- It is more costly and has a slower write speed, as well as a lower capacity
- But it has a much faster access and read speed (which will probably be more valuable to you, and it really is noticeable, particularly if working with mass data) and, most importantly, the battery life is far far better than an HDD. So for mobile working, it's the one to have.
It's also very quiet, which is really pleasant if almost a bit odd, because you tend not to notice the sound a hard drive makes until you are missing it.
The DVD drive works well, having similar access times and write speeds to other drives of similar quality. It's a shame there was no Blu-ray option at the time of purchase, as there was for the larger machine in the class, but I don't think it's worth it for the price right now unless someone is very obsessive over movies! An external drive is always an option anyway later down the line.
The sound is reasonable, you are never going to get good sound on a laptop as the physical speaker size is an important factor, but it is clear enough even if the bass response is not strong. Some people complain online about crackling issues thanks to interference between components, but I have not encoutered this; perhaps Dell is now including the workaround that most people use in production models.
In terms of value for performance I shopped around extensively, and in Europe at least there didn't seem to be anything from a half-known brand that compared. This is partly due to the ability to customise, but it's largely true of the pre-configured systems too. Sony's machines probably match in terms of build and performance, and may be even better in terms of quality, but the cost is at least a third more than the comparable Dell. HP, Toshiba etc. had a variety of decent machines but all were lacking in one way or another - often the graphics card, which is key if you want to be playing games at all.
So all in all, I think this is a great machine and it was clear from my shopping around that the Dell system offered much better value for money than the competitor systems. But it's not perfect, so I have decided to list the things you have to be ok with to buy this system. Other systems have worse flaws for sure. If you are, then I would not hesitate to recommend it as the best system of its type..
- It gets hot, especially on the underside.
- The high gloss finish can show up smudges.
- Lack of Blu-ray option.