Dell XPS 13 Review

on Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Dell XPS 13 Touch ($1,349.99, as tested) is a lightweightultrabook made for the road warriors who need a full-size keyboard and a 10-point touch screen in a compact form factor. Premium materials like carbon fiber and Gorilla Glass add luxury details to a great travel companion. It will fit right in when you open it on a first-class flight.

Design and Features
The bottom panel of the XPS 13 Touch$1,199.99 at Dell is fashioned out of carbon fiber, while the top lid is made out of aluminum. The palm rest is magnesium alloy, and the screen is Corning Gorilla Glass NBT. These are expensive materials, which somewhat explains the system's higher price, but they also help keep the weight down to 2.95 pounds.

The XPS 13 Touch measures 0.71 by 12.5 by 8 inches (HWD), similar in dimensions to theApple MacBook Air 11-inch (2013)$899.00 at B&H Photo-Video, and certainly smaller than the Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (2014)$989.00 at Amazon. It's a smidge smaller and lighter than our premium ultrabook Editors' Choice, the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus$1,149.00 at ABT.
The backlit keyboard has comfortable convex keys and feels solid during extended typing sessions. The multi-gesture touchpad responds well to taps and swipes, but the touch screen is the big improvement, given that the older Dell XPS 13-MLK didn't have one. The display measures 13.3 inches (diagonal), and has a 1,920-by-1,080 resolution. This is much lower than the 3,200-by-1,800 resolution of the Samsung Book 9 Plus, but the XPS 13 Touch's screen is clear and bright, and the 1080p resolution is the sweet spot for most consumers.
There are two USB 3.0 ports and a mini-DisplayPort, but that's about it. There's no SD card slot (like on the MacBook Air 13-inch and ATIV Book 9 Plus), and you'll need to plug in a USB-to-Ethernet adapter (available separately) if you don't have a Wi-Fi hotspot handy. The XPS 13 Touch has dual-band 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless connectivity.
The 128GB solid-state drive (SSD) has 76GB left for your programs and data. There are a few pre-loaded apps, including McAfee Central, Amazon, Kindle, Intel Experience Center, Dell Shop, My Dell, PocketCloud, Photo Gallery, and Office Trial. PocketCloud lets you connect the ultrabook to 2GB of lifetime cloud storage, and the PocketCloud app lets you control your XPS 13 Touch remotely from an Android, iOS, or Windows RT device. The XPS 13 Touch comes with a one-year warranty.
Our review unit has an Intel Core i5-4200U processor with integrated Intel HD Graphic 4400, and 8GB of system memory. This combination means that the system booted in about 10 seconds and woke from sleep before we even situated the system on our lap. It also translated into a very good score on the PCMark 7 test (4,847 points), which measure's the system's day-to-day performance. This is within the same range as rivals like the Samsung Book 9 Plus (4,907) and Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro$849.99 at Lenovo (4,685). The XPS 13 Touch was a bit quicker on the Handbrake (1 minute 23 seconds) and Photoshop CS6 (4:50) tests.

Battery performance was an impressive 9 hours, 31 minutes on our battery rundown test, which means the system will last you longer than a typical work day. This is more than an hour longer than the Samsung Book 9 Plus (8:15) and Acer Aspire S7-392-6411$1,100.99 at mobtech Ltd (8:27). That's also several hours longer than the 13-inch Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro (5:42). Since the XPS 13 Touch fits perfectly on an airline tray table, it's one of the systems we'd recommend for a transcontinental flight. That said, the Apple MacBook Air 13-inch has many more hours of battery life, at 12:31.
The Dell XPS 13 Touch is a great laptop for users who find themselves constantly having to get work done on the go. Its compact chassis means you'll be able to prop it on your airplane seat tray without worrying that the screen will get crushed if the person seated in front of you decides to recline their seat, and its 9.5-hour battery life should be able to take you from takeoff to landing. However, the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus holds on to its Editors' Choice award for premium ultrabooks; it has better connectivity options (e.g. an Ethernet port, an HDMI port, and an SD card slot), not to mention a higher-resolution screen.


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