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Hands-on with Slickdeals: Dell XPS 13 Laptop Review

Aluminum and carbon fiber help keep this powerful laptop light and portable.
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The laptop computer has always been geared towards on-the-go people who need something compact and easy to transport. In the past, this often meant sacrificing performance or storage, but thankfully, that's no longer the case.

Advancements in technology have given us everything from ultra-light materials to compact storage solutions, and you can now find the perfect power-to-portability ratio.

With the Dell XPS 13 touting its ranking as the smallest 13.3-inch laptop out there, we wanted to find out what, if any, sacrifices were made to create this ultra-compact computer.

Special thanks to Dell for loaning us an XPS 13 to review!

Dell XPS 13 Specs (As Tested)

  • Intel Core i7-8550U
  • Intel HD Graphics
  • 16GB LPDDR3 2133MHz RAM
  • 512GB SSD
  • 13.3-inch QHD+ (3200x1800) InfinityEdge touch display
  • 60WHr battery
  • Fingerprint Reader
  • Starting at 2.9 lbs.

Price as spec'ed: $1,674.99 at time of publishing.

Sleek Build Quality

The first thing you'll notice as you pick up the XPS 13 is the solid aluminum casing, which weighs in at an ultra-light 2.9 pounds and sits only 15mm tall. Dell has done a great job at removing the heft of the laptop while still retaining a premium feel in the materials. And even the base spec, which starts at $800, receives the same luxurious treatment.

The palm rest area near the touchpad is constructed of a carbon fiber composite that shows a visible weave pattern through the soft-touch coating, while the keyboard has a familiar feel with subtle white backlighting. Our test model also featured the optional fingerprint reader, allowing for the most secure sign-in possible on Windows.

Every XPS 13 is equipped with edge-to-edge Corning Gorilla Glass NBT that is tucked between very small bezels. The screen feels like a flagship smartphone and does a great job at tracking your touch input while framing the stunning 4K display. The standard XPS 13 features a non-touch 1920 x 1080 resolution screen, but our test model was fitted with a Quad HD screen that carries a resolution of 3200 x 1800 pixels. The display has stunning clarity and feels much bigger than what the physical measurement would let on.

We're confident that the XPS 13 is a perfect workstation for most design or photography professionals, allowing you to examine your visual projects in extreme detail.

Packed With Power

Despite its size, the XPS 13 is still equipped with the most important connections, like a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port, two USB 3.1 ports, and an SD card reader. Just like the powerful Dell XPS 15 that we recently reviewed, the XPS 13 can connect to Dell's Thunderbolt Dock and extend the Windows desktop on up to two 4K monitors. While the XPS 13 lacks the powerful video card of the larger XPS 15, the Intel HD graphics card does a great job at keeping up with the demands of the average user.

Our XPS 13 test model sits at the top of the current lineup in terms of price, but offers increased memory, storage, and processing power. This particular configuration came equipped with a blazing-fast 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8550U processor with speeds up to 4.0 GHz — it's one of the highest rated CPUs out there. Programs and tasks simply fly, and there was no hesitation or lag with any task we tested on the computer. When paired with 16GB of RAM, the XPS 13 can take whatever you throw at it. Storage comes in the form of a 512GB SSD, and can be upgraded to a 1TB SSD for an additional $400.

All of the performance in the world is useless though if you don't have a battery that can keep up. Thankfully, the XPS13 comes standard with a 60WHr battery that delivers anywhere from nine to 13 hours of life, depending on your usage. We lived with the laptop for an extended period, and saw an average battery time of around 11 hours with full brightness.

Is the Dell XPS 13 Right for You?

It's hard to get past the fact that at $1,675, our test model may have cost more than your first car. But the XPS 13 also boasts some impressive performance numbers for such a sleek, lightweight laptop.

Our recommendation to those considering this laptop is to take into account personal use cases, required processing power, and budget. Not every one needs the most powerful laptop, and with a starting price of $800, we're confident there's an XPS 13 configuration that can satisfy a wide range of users.

Regardless of which XPS 13 you choose, you'll always get the same quality, performance, and portability that's made the XPS series so popular as a lifestyle device.

Don't forget to set a Deal Alert for the XPS 13 — seen as low as $700 on Slickdeals — and visit Dell.com to customize your ultimate Macbook-fighter.

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About the Author
Nolan Browning Contributor

Nolan is an avid automotive, electronic, and gadget enthusiast. If it has an engine or a processor, he can't keep his hands off it. He was introduced to Windows 3.1 in the early '90s and has been hooked ever since. Deal alerts include "mechanical keyboard," "smart watch," and "bulk candy."


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