Dell XPS 13 Laptop Review

Posted by

Dell XPS 13 Laptop Review. We’re going to check out the XPS 13 from Dell and find out how this little laptop performs through a number of benchmarks and see what it’s got to offer. Inside the box we’ve got the laptop itself, warranty information, power brick and power cable. Dell offer this laptop in a few different hardware configurations, so I’ll first cover the specs in the one I’ve got here.

There’s an 8th generation Intel 8550U quad core CPU which runs at 1.8GHz and can turbo up to 4Ghz. I’ve got 8GB of LPDDR3 memory running at 1,866MHz, but the top end model comes with 16gb. For storage there’s a 256GB Samsung NVMe M.2 SSD, and for the graphics there’s no discrete GPU here, so we’re using Intel’s UHD 620 graphics which are included with the CPU. This is powering the 13.3 inch 60Hz IPS QHD+ display, and we’ll see how this performs later in the benchmarks.

Dell XPS 13 Laptop Review
Dell XPS 13 Laptop Review

As for network connectivity there’s Killer 802.11ac WiFi with Bluetooth support, no ethernet ports unfortunately unless you use a USB adapter. The whole laptop is aluminium, or aluminium, whatever. On the outside the laptop has a matte metallic silver look to it with a silver mirrored finished Dell logo, while inside there’s this black carbon fiber composite material, which feels like smooth rubber.

The physical dimensions of the laptop are 30.4cm in width, 20cm in depth, and just 1.5cm in height, so it’s fairly thin. The weight of the laptop will of course differ based on the hardware installed, and Dell list the weight at 1.2KG for the model without touch screen, or 1.29KG with touch screen. I’ve got the touch screen model here, and while testing I found it to weigh very close to this at 1.3KG, and when including the power brick and power cable for charging the total increases to just under 1.6kg, so it’s pretty lightweight and portable.

As mentioned the screen is a 13.3 inch 60Hz QHD+ IPS panel, in this case running at a 3200 by 1800 resolution, but it’s also available in 1080p. It looks great on all angles, I don’t notice any colour shift up or down, or side to side. The screen is covered in gorilla glass, so it has a glossy finish, and will easily show reflections, but it does look very nice. It also features Dell’s InfinityEdge, which is why there’s not much bezel at all around the display.

In this particular model it’s also a touch screen, and I found it to work pretty well, although fingerprints show up quite easily due to that glossy finish if you’re touching it all the time. I’ve measured the colours produced by the screen using the Spyder 5 Pro, and my results returned 98% of sRGB, 71% of NTSC, and 77% of AdobeRGB, so it’s doing fairly well there compared to other laptops I’ve tested. I’ve performed my usual backlight bleed test on the display, which involves having the laptop show a completely black screen in a dark room to help emphasize any bleeding around the edges.

I then take a long exposure photo with my camera to help display any bleed, so basically this is a worst case scenario test. Although there appears to be some small difference along the top towards the right, I couldn’t personally notice any bleed at all, both in normal lighting and dark room scenarios, but this will of course vary from laptop to laptop. While moving the display there was almost no flex at all, as the whole lid is solid metal and the hinge runs along most of the base providing plenty of support.

The base of the laptop wasn’t heavy enough to allow for one finger opening however, which is to be expected based on how light this thing is. Underneath the display in the bottom left corner is a 720p camera. The camera looks alright, still fairly grainy even with some lighting. Due to the thin bezels on the screen it’s positioned so low you have to tilt the screen right back to get yourself in the frame. The microphone sounds fine, not great but I’ll let you judge for yourself.

The keyboard was nice to type with, the buttons weren’t overly clicky but I found them a little small in general, at least with my large hands, but that’s expected for a 13 inch laptop with this much spacing between the keys. All keys light up with white LED backlighting, the brightness can be adjusted between two levels or turned off completely, and there’s 1.3mm of travel. There was only a little keyboard flex while pushing down fairly hard, I didn’t notice this while typing normally and overall it feels very sturdy.

The touchpad has a light matte texture to it, it feels smooth and will click down when pressing anywhere, the clicks are also fairly loud. There’s a fingerprint scanner to the right of the touchpad, and speaking of fingerprints, the inside of the laptop does show them but the black texture hides them a little, while the silver lid does a great job at hiding them. As for the available I/O starting on the left side there’s the power input, USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3 using 2 PCIe lanes, USB 3.0 Type-A port, 3.5mm headphone and mic jack, a battery charge indicator button, and the left speaker.

On the right there’s the right speaker, full size SD card slot, USB 3.0 Type-A port, and Noble lock. There’s nothing on the front, or on the back. As for the speakers on the left and right sides, they sound pretty decent as far as laptop speakers are concerned, there was a little bass and they sounded fairly clear even at higher volumes. Underneath was very clean with the XPS logo in the middle. There’s a line of air intakes towards the back and two long rubber feet which extend most of the way along the base and help prevent the laptop from moving around on flat surfaces, and also rise it up slightly to help let cool air in.

Powering the laptop is a 60 Watt hour battery. With a full charge and just watching YouTube with the screen on half brightness, keyboard lighting off and background apps disabled, I was able to use it for 6 hours and 15 minutes, quite impressive considering the size of the laptop! This is definitely because there’s no discrete graphics, so the battery can last a lot longer compared to other larger laptops I’ve tested.

During normal use with an ambient room temperature of 23 degrees celsius, the CPU idled at 33 degrees celsius, and here are the external temperatures of the laptop where you’ll actually be putting your hands. While maxing out the CPU with Aida64 for half an hour with the same room temperature, the CPU initially peaked to 99c but then quickly dropped down as the CPU downclocked itself to stay cool, eventually it averaged a maximum of 87 degrees celsius while all four cores were sitting at just 1.6GHz.

Unfortunately heat problems like this are a drawback of thin and light laptops, but it’s not really going to be a problem unless you’re doing CPU intensive work on multiple cores, and sticking to single core workloads didn’t seem to be a problem, again it sat around 3.7 to 4GHz on a single core at 87c. We can see that the center of the keyboard area towards the back has warmed up a bit more, although this wasn’t really an issue in practice as your hands don’t rest there, however it was noticeably warm while typing.

In terms of noise it ran quieter than all other laptops that I’ve tested, as there’s less heat due to the lack of dedicated graphics. At idle it sat at the 36 decibel mark and I couldn’t even hear it, here’s what it sounded like. While maxing out the CPU with Aida64 it went to up 46 decibels, and here’s what that sounded like. For reference, most gaming laptops I’ve tested max out around 52-55 decibels, so the difference was quite noticeable.

Last but not least let’s check out some benchmarks, although there’s not as many as usual given the lack of discrete graphics, so gaming is mostly out. Dota2 is probably the least intensive game I have, and at the lowest settings we’re actually almost averaging 60 FPS, anything higher than that though and we start to struggle. Just for fun I also tried PUBG on very low settings at 1080p, and it averaged 11 FPS so it’s not playable. As for CPU power I’ve compared the 8550U with the 7700HQ in Cinebench, we can see in the single core results the 8550U is actually ahead, as the single core does indeed turbo up to 4GHz.

The multicore result shows the 7700HQ coming out ahead, and that’s likely due to the 8550U downclocking itself so much due to the heat issues I mentioned previously, still not too far behind though. I plan on doing more comparisons with the 7700HQ in different tests, so make sure you subscribe for that. In Crystal Disk Mark the 256GB NVMe SSD performed around 1830 MB/s in sequential reads and 1260 MB/s in sequential writes, so it’s pretty fast, 2 to 3 times faster than a standard SATA SSD.

In this exact configuration the laptop can be picked up from Dell for $2,499 AUD here in Australia at the time of recording, which converts to about $1,975 USD with tax included, however it is one of the higher end configurations available in the XPS 13 series, so you can save some money by reducing the specs, and of course we generally pay more for stuff in Australia, so if you’re in the US it’s a few hundred dollars cheaper.

So what did you guys think of the Dell XPS 13 laptop? Overall I’m pretty impressed, compared to other laptops I’ve checked out recently it’s got great battery life especially considering the size, and the whole thing feels solid, it’s been built really well, and yet is still small and lightweight, perfect for travelling with. Unfortunately there’s no discrete graphics, so if you want to play anything other than the most basic of games you’re out of luck, personally that’s no issue for me, I currently use a 13 inch Macbook pro from 2013 when I travel, so this seems like a nice competitor. You may have heard that Dell announced an updated 2018 model of the XPS 13 recently at CES, from what I can tell it’s mostly the same but slightly thinner with a smaller battery, so personally I’d probably still consider this one.

Let me know what you guys thought down in the comments, and leave a share if you found the information useful. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *