In our today’s review we will look at another ultrabook – Dell XPS 13 that was first officially presented at CES 2012 trade show. According to Dell, its 13-inch ultraportable boasts sophisticated and incredibly thin but durable profile, instant on capabilities and uncompromising performance. Let’s check out if the laptop indeed goes in line with the features claimed by the manufacturer.
Design and Build
With a strikingly compact and elegantly minimalist and simple profile, the Dell XPS 13 makes a fantastic first impression. Embossed with a glossy Dell logo, the lid is precision cut from a single block of satiny aluminum, while the lower half of the chassis, protected beneath a thin rubberized coating, is made of a carbon fiber composite.
The generously-sized palm rests beneath the keyboard are made of magnesium alloy and covered with soft touch paint. All things considered and regardless of whether you talk about the palm rests, the keyboard or the underside, the XPS 13 ultrabook resists a high amount of pressure without any sagging or creaking noises.
The Dell XPS 13 series has a skinny silhouette and measures just 0.24 inches at its thinnest point, only 0.71 inches at its thickest point and weighs nice 2.99 pounds. So, the reviewed techno wonder is without a doubt a light-footed companion that will barely be a burden to anyone on the go.
Display and Sound
The XPS 13 machine is available in stores with a 13.3-inch HD display sporting a 16:9 aspect ratio. Honestly speaking, the XPS 13’s screen is a disappointment. The manufacturer equips its 13-incher with a display featuring an unimpressive resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels which certainly doesn’t make for a compelling visual experience. For the sake of comparison, the 13-inch MacBook Air has a 1,440×900-pixel display, while the ASUS Zenbook UX31 boasts an amazing 1,600×900 panel. Viewing angles leave something to be desired as well: the screen looks fine when you are viewing it straight ahead or at a slight horizontal angle, but tilt the screen forward or back just a little and you will start to notice color issues.
Such a disadvantage comes balanced by Corning Gorilla Glass that covers the reviewed XPS 13’s panel for additional protection. It should be noted that this edge-to-edge display is extremely strong despite its thinness.
Fortunately, the Dell XPS 13’s audio system is pretty good for such a thin and light laptop. The reviewed machine provides a clear and voluminous stereo sound thanks to the speakers that are located on its left and right sides. Even at moderate levels the laptop can easily fill a room with adequate sound thus delivering a pleasant listening experience.
Keyboard and Trackpad
Following the current trend, the Dell XPS 13 ultraportable features the full-size chiclet-style keyboard with matte black keys that help prevent fingerprint smudges. With a soft, clack-free touch, the reviewed 13-incher’s keys are small but comfortable and excel with individual backlights, which are really useful in low-light conditions.
There are no dedicated media keys on the keyboard; the various double-duty F keys (in combination with the Fn key) sit between Ctrl and the Windows logo key.
The XPS 13’s Cypress glass touchpad measures spacious 3.9 x 2.4 inches and delivers precise and instantaneous feedback thus allowing the user to navigate intuitively (it supports various multi-touch 2-, 3- and even 4-finger gestures that can be individually deactivated according to the user’s needs).
This is actually a “clickpad”, so there are no dedicated left and right mouse buttons but the manufacturer marked the button area with a single gray line so it is much easier now to determine where to press for a traditional left and right click.
Ports and Connectivity Options
In terms of connectivity, the Dell XPS 13 ultrabook sports a 3.5mm headset jack, a USB 2.0 port, a USB 3.0 port and a Mini Display port. In addition, the laptop includes an Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230 WLAN adaptor that works on the 5 GHz band and supports the 802.11a/b/g/n standards; the Wireless Display technology is also covered along with Bluetooth 3.0.
Photos and videos can be captured via the 1.3 megapixel webcam located in the middle of the display bezel.
Performance and Specifications
The entry-level configuration of the XPS 13 series includes an Intel Core i5-2467M chip clocked at 1.6GHz, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of disc space. There is no dedicated graphics options available – the reviewed XPS’s processor runs with an integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics card. For most users such specs are more than adequate for speedy and responsive performing of general computing tasks (e.g. navigating through Windows, watching videos, listening to music etc.).
The Dell XPS 13 is also available for sale with upgraded configurations including Core i7-2637M processor based on Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture coupled with a 256GB SSD. The clock speed here ranges from 1.8 to 2.9 GHz (Turbo Boost) and provides excellent CPU performance.
XPS 13 completes a cold boot in as little as 15 seconds and resumes from sleep mode in just 1 second (4 seconds from deep sleep).
In terms of longevity, the manufacturer claims, that its XPS 13 ultraportable will last for almost 9 hours on a single charge. In reality, the machine’s six-cell, non-removable battery delivers almost 5 hours of work including watching videos and web surfing on Wi-Fi.
It is worth noting that after Windows 8 official launch on October 26, Dell promises to update its XPS 13 family with the latest generation (Ivy Bridge) processors coupled with more advanced Intel HD 4000 graphics card with DirectX 11 support. Definitely, this will be a nice improvement.
On the USA market the Dell’s fans can buy the basic-specs configuration of XPS 13 for the price of about $895 (on Amazon). Still, there are other buying choices available, so users can find their best alternatives with the price points starting at $880. Any upgrades will add another hundred dollars to the laptop’s cost.