/Dell XPS 13 review

Dell XPS 13 review

Dell’s flagship laptop has returned for 2019, and this year is a return to form for the Dell XPS 13. This leading laptop has finally addressed its most glaring flaw, the webcam, while making a considerable improvement in battery life.

All of these upgrades have happened to a laptop that has otherwise remained unchanged, continuing the lineage of one of the best laptops the world over. However, within just a year’s time, the high-end laptop game has changed a bit with Asus and Huawei’s sharp rise, and therefore so has the XPS 13’s place at the podium slipped.

While the Dell XPS 13 may no longer be the laptop to beat, it remains a laptop to beat heading into 2019.

Dell XPS 13 2019

Spec Sheet

Here is the Dell XPS 13 (2019) configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U (quad-core, 8MB cache, up to 4.6GHz)
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
RAM: 16GB DDR3 (2,133MHz)
Screen: 13.3-inch, Ultra HD (3,840 x 2,160) UltraSharp InfinityEdge touch display
Storage: 1TB PCIe SSD
Ports: 2 x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), 1 x USB-C 3.1, micro SD card reader, headset jack
Connectivity: Killer 1435 802.11ac Wi-Fi,  Bluetooth 4.1
Camera: Widescreen HD (720p) webcam with 4 array digital microphones
Weight: 2.7 pounds (1.23kg)
Size: 11.9 x 7.8 x 0.3-0.46 inches (3.02 x 1.99 x 0.78-1.16cm; W x D x H)

Price and availability

Dell wants $899 for the starting configuration of the XPS 13 in the US – just like last time. This price nets you an 8th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of 2,133MHz DDR3 memory and a 128GB PCIe SSD beneath a 13.3-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) InfinityEdge display.

There are three other available configurations, with the highest-end option including an 8th generation quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of memory and a 2TB PCIe SSD – all driving a 4K (3840 x 2160) touchscreen. This model calls for a whopping $2,609.99

All configurations are available in Dell’s three colors: silver-on-black, rose gold-on-white and a brand-new frost-on-white scheme. The model you see configured here would cost a cool $2,549.99.

In the UK, the XPS 13 starts at £1,379 for an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD behind a 4K touchscreen; meanwhile, it starts at AU$2,299 in Australia for the same internals with a Full HD display.

Dell customers in the US appear to have many more configuration choices than those in the UK and Australia, but higher storage capacities are locked behind some steep price hikes. All in all, however, the XPS 13 remains relatively competitive with similarly-powered rival options – save for the mind-blowingly affordable flagship Huawei MateBook X Pro, especially at the high end.

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Design and display

At first glance, the Dell XPS 13 looks identical to last year’s model, and that’s largely the case here. However, Dell didn’t simply take an ‘if it ain’t broke’ approach this year, but finally solved the laptop’s most glaring design flaw: the webcam is finally above the display.

Dell is quite proud of its new 2.25mm webcam, two years in the making, which is not only small enough to fit above the display, but uses a 720p widescreen sensor paired with four far-field microphones for activating Cortana or Alexa from a distance.

The camera’s visual quality isn’t going to blow you away, but we appreciate the wider frame for capturing co-workers or friends beside us more easily. Taking 0.9-megapixel stills and 720p video, you’re going to look fine in video meetings – just don’t expect Twitch broadcaster quality here.

Otherwise, the design identity and build quality here are the same as before. The laptop is just as thin and light as last year at 0.46 inches (11.6mm) 2.7 pounds (1.23kg), respectively. The Dell XPS 13 also sticks to the same anodized aluminum screen lid and base paired with the woven carbon fiber – a glass fiber weave on the lightly-colored models – keyboard deck.

The keyboard feels just as punchy and performant as before, and the glass-coated touchpad is a delight to use as always. This is one of those areas where it truly isn’t broken and is in no need of fixing.

Dell XPS 13 2019

The same lineup of ports is here as well, with two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, one USB-C 3.1 port, a microSD card slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack. This is one step ahead of many competing laptops, with many using solely USB-C 3.1 and not the superior Thunderbolt 3 standard.

As for the display, it also remains unchanged, and it’s just as vibrant and rich as ever in both the Full HD and 4K touchscreen options; the bezels around the display are almost non-existent, of course.

Especially in the 4K model tested here, we find the 100% sRGB color reproduction through Dell’s CinemaColor tools to be excellent, complimented by some popping HDR techniques and 400 nits of brightness. The 4K panel is plenty sharp, but it’s still a little excessive for a 13.3-inch viewing area.

All told, there wasn’t much that had to be changed about the XPS 13 design, except for that one tiny elephant in the room.

First reviewed January 2019

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