March 5, 2012
- Nicely priced
- Sleek, MacBook Air-like design
- USB 3.0 & Bluetooth
- Solid performance
- No HDMI or SD card slot
- Only average display
- Mediocre battery life
The Dell XPS 13 is a 13-inch ultrabook that is extremely good-looking and sturdy. While it is entering both a crowded and emerging category of computers, it does a lot of set itself apart from the rest of the pack. It has an extremely thin footprint, a glass-covered screen and an SSD hard drive.
The XPS 13 is Dell's first ultrabook and it has some stern competition, especially from the Asus Zenbook UX21E-DH52 and HP Folio 13 that we've reviewed. The design of this laptop is one of the things that set this ultrabook apart from the rest. It has a sturdy aluminum and magnesium alloy body mixed with some carbon fiber to keep it lightweight. It measures 12.4 x 8.1 x 0.71-inches (wdh) and weighs 3-pounds, so it's incredibly small and lightweight. Dell says this is a 13-inch display in an 11-inch laptop's body, which we found to be mostly (but not completely) true.
This laptop looks almost identical to the Apple MacBook Air at first glance, which is candy to our eyes because we love the look and feel of Apple's laptops.
Dell designed the 13-inch display to have edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass, which will add a little bit of weight. The display has a native resolution of 1366 x 768-pixels, which is the same for most other 13-inch laptops, but the MacBook Air has a slightly higher resolution. We did find the display to have mediocre viewing angles, but overall it has only average image quality with room to grow.
The keyboard has a matte-black finish that provides a solid typing experience. The keyboard has the same feel as the MacBook Air, which is a great thing. It is also backlit, which is a must-have in our opinion. The rest of the keyboard deck, palm rest and all-glass touchpad are also matte-black. The touchpad seemed to work well and had good sensitivity.
The set of connections the Dell XPS 13 includes is one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, DisplayPort out and the usual audio ports. There is no HDMI-out, which leaves you a little less options even with the DisplayPort that Dell includes. There is no SD card slot, which most other ultrabooks do have, so we were a little disappointed there too. Wireless options include both 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth. To save room, there is no optical disc drive.
Dell offers a few different configurations to choose from, mostly in the way of CPU and SSD drive size. Our $1299 configuration included an Intel Core i5-2467M processor (1.6GHz), 4GB of RAM, a 256GB solid-state hard drive (SSD) and integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics. For $999 you get the same CPU but a 128GB SSD. For $1499, Dell gives you an Intel Core i7 CPU.
With our configuration we found performance to be about average when compared to other ultrabooks and 13-inch laptops. Most users will have no problem doing anything with this laptop, but the only weakness is the Intel integrated graphics. With this graphics system, you'll only be able to play casual online games but you'll have no problems streaming HD video from the Internet.
The included 6-cell battery provided about 5 hours of battery life, which is slightly less when compared to other ultrabooks and way shorter than the HP Folio 13.