Dell's XPS 13 ultrabook gets even better

The new XPS 13 is thinner at 11.9mm, down from 15mm.
The new XPS 13 is thinner at 11.9mm, down from 15mm.

It is only February, but I believe the new Dell XPS 13 may well become the best ultrabook of the year.

Featuring a new design - its first in years - the latest XPS 13 debuted last month at the CES trade show. There is now an additional colour - a striking rose gold with an "alpine white" carbon fibre palm rest.

This white palm rest has a slight texture that feels better than the smooth black version. It seems to pick up fewer grease marks.

The redesign of the XPS 13 is subtle. It has a compact footprint like its predecessor. The new version is thinner at 11.9mm, down from 15mm. Its weight has also gone down, though at 1.21kg, it is far from being the lightest in its category.

Dell says the bezel of the 13.3-inch screen has been reduced by 23 per cent. This sounds impressive, but it means the display's ultra-thin border is now 4mm instead of 5.2mm. You would not notice it unless someone pointed it out.

The screen is a 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) touchscreen that offers more pixels than last year's 3,200 x 1,800-pixel display. The entire screen, including the bottom bezel, is covered in glossy Corning Gorilla Glass, which makes it look like the front of a smartphone.

More importantly, the screen looks brighter with richer colours and deeper blacks. Watching a Netflix video streaming at 4K resolution is an excellent experience with the screen's brilliant colours.



  • PRICE: $2,899

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-8550U (1.8GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Intel UHD Graphics 620

    RAM: 16GB DDR3

    SCREEN SIZE: 13.3 inches, 3,840 x 2,160 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: 2 x USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3, 1 x USB 3.1 Type C, microSD card slot, audio jack

    BATTERY: 52 watt-hour


    FEATURES: 5/5

    DESIGN: 5/5




    OVERALL: 5/5

Like previous versions, the XPS 13 has the front Web camera below the display, which is not the optimal location. However, Dell has upgraded this camera to an infrared Windows Hello-compliant version that can unlock the laptop via facial recognition. There is also a fingerprint sensor, conveniently embedded in the power button.

With laptops getting thinner, they can feel very warm. Dell has addressed this by using thermal material from Gore (the company behind the Gore-Tex fabric in jackets and footwear) to shield the heat from users. The ultrabook also has dual fans to cool its innards.

The base of the XPS 13 feels cooler than other ultrabooks, though it does get really warm when it is being charged. Its fans are relatively quiet unless the laptop is running a benchmarking software, though they never become noisy enough to be annoying.

My only grouse is that the Dell XPS 13 has switched to the new Type-C interface for its ports, which means a dongle (bundled with the laptop) is required for users with older USB devices.

It also has two Thunderbolt 3 ports that offer fast data transfer speeds and display output.

Its battery life does not match the outstanding eight hours managed by the older model. But considering its 4K screen and a smaller battery, the new XPS 13 does admirably well to clock six hours 45 minutes in the video-loop test.

Dell continues to sell the previous XPS 13 (9360) with the USB Type-A ports and larger battery, but I would recommend the new XPS 13 (9370) for its upgraded display, fingerprint sensor and improved heat management.

• Verdict: The Dell XPS 13 impresses with its sleek design, vibrant near-bezel-less screen and heat management.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2018, with the headline 'Dell's XPS 13 ultrabook gets even better'. Subscribe