Design

Dell pioneered the thin-bezel laptop, but that does not mean they did not have room to improve on their original design over the years. The first several generations featured a webcam at the bottom of the panel, which was flattering to no one. With the proliferation of video chat, such a decision would be a major negative to many people. But thankfully Dell solved that particular issue a couple of generations ago, and the new model continues to pack a 720p webcam in the correct location above the display, with only a slightly taller top display bezel to accommodate the camera. And speaking of the display bezel, Dell has tweaked their design language slightly over the XPS 13 2-in-1, with both the black and white models both featuring a black display bezel on the clamshell XPS 13, which helps it disappear into the background a bit easier than the white bezel on the 2-in-1.


The XPS 13 in Platinum Silver with black carbon fiber

Another nice change over the 2-in-1 version is that Dell is not using their MagLev keyboard design, instead outfitting the XPS 13 with a more traditional scissor-switch keyboard with 1.0 mm of travel. The MagLev has a very short throw, whereas I find the traditional keyboard to be much more reassuring to use.

Dell is offering the XPS 13 in the same color choices as the 2-in-1 as well. The Platinum Silver model features a black carbon fiber keyboard deck with a soft-touch coating, while the Arctic White model features a woven fiber keyboard deck which Dell has treated with a stain and UV resistant coating, to prevent the deck from yellowing with age. The Arctic White is only $49 more, and certainly makes a statement, although it still suffers from the same issue as all white-on-white laptops with white backlighting, which is that the keyboard backlighting can wash out the keys in a bright room. That is a fairly minor negative though, for an otherwise fantastic finish.

The XPS 13 also features an excellent trackpad, offering a very smooth finish, and good precision. Laptop trackpads have come a long way, and part of that is the standardization on the Microsoft Precision touchpad drivers, which Dell employs here.

Dell has eschewed the use of USB Type-A ports, instead offering just a single USB Type-C port on each side of the laptop. This in turn is paired with a 3.5 mm headset jack on the right, and a micro SD card reader on the left. Although the XPS 13 lacks ports in numbers, it somewhat makes up for that with both USB ports supporting Thunderbolt 3, including power delivery. It is unfortunate that the Type-C port has found itself to be so confusing in its capabilities, but with the XPS 13 supporting the full range of protocols, as well as four lanes of PCIe on both ports, that at least is not a liability here. Dell does include a Type-C to Type-A adapter in the box as well, for those that require the larger port. By including power delivery on both sides of the laptop, that also means the XPS 13 can charge on either side, which can be very handy when moving the laptop from place to place.

Dell’s design ethos with their XPS lineup has converged across the entire range of XPS laptops, and with great success. The CNC milled aluminum bodies, thin bezels, compact designs, and lightweight chassis make for some of the most compelling devices in the industry. Moving to a 16:10 aspect ration on their XPS line has been yet another design win for Dell, and helps provide the excellent 91.5% screen to body ratio found on this XPS 13 notebook by further shrinking the bottom bezel. Dell has sculpted a clean, sleek, and functional device, and while the rest of the industry has also adopted the thin-bezel design, Dell has really mastered it.

Introduction System Performance
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  • edved - Saturday, July 18, 2020 - link

    I rec'd this Dell i7 with 16GB yesterday on the 16th and saw this review! Excellent write-up. Thanks for putting in the time & effort. Certainly reassures my purchase. It replaced a 5 yr old XPS 13. Reply
  • Pixelpusher6 - Sunday, July 19, 2020 - link

    I've currently started looking for a new laptop. I'm leaning towards the Ryzen mobiles. One thing I've noticed though is the disappointing RAM options. For my use I need a minimum of 16GB. Using Win10 at work I'm averaging around 12-15GBs of usage, at home it is usually less around 7-10GB unless gaming. I don't understand why OEMs feel the need to solder RAM - do SODIMM slots really take up more space? The laptop I'm replacing is an older laptop that has a 24GB cache ssd soldered on which is failing, (in addition to a 512GB 860evo) and as a result Windows install hangs up, so I can only run Ubuntu. I love this laptop but I need to run Windows. What if you have soldered RAM and it fails outside of warranty? Reply
  • ajp_anton - Sunday, July 19, 2020 - link

    I've had this laptop for 5 months and actually have lots of problems with it that Dell just refuses to fix. Their answer to all of the following is that it's "by design".

    - Custom charging. If you set the charging to stop at, say, 80% or 90% (to prolong the life of the battery), reach the desired level (so that it stops charging), and then stress the CPU, the charging will continuously start and stop at a 1-5 second interval. Because of this, the charging light at the front of the laptop will keep turning on and off, which is very annoying in a dark room.

    - Every time the battery starts charging, the screen's backlight will flicker for one second, like there's some instability with switching from battery power to AC. This combined with the issue above makes the custom charging level pretty useless.

    - When Panel Self Refresh is turn on (in Intel's settings), the screen will randomly insert black frames once or every 10mins to 10 hours. It's very random. Solution is to just turn off PSR.

    - The fans will run when nothing in the laptop is above 60 degrees C. Once they turn on, they will keep spinning for a while even if everything cools down to under 50 degrees C. My experience with the laptop is that the fans just keep running almost all the time when just browsing the web. My cooling setting is set to "quiet".

    - Mayor problems with sleep mode. The laptop occasionally wakes up and just loads up the CPU and overheats everything to 100 degrees C when inside my backpack. I've had to hack Windows to re-enable S3 sleep (instead of modern sleep). Since Dell can't handle "Modern standby" correctly, they could at least have a BIOS option to disable to altogether (in fact they have an option to disable S3), so the user wouldn't have to hack-enable it with Windows.

    - Home and End button placement is horrible. I've asked to enable Fn+left and Fn+right in a BIOS update, as they used to be in older XPS laptops, and the technician thought it was a good idea, but there's nothing he could do because people higher-up didn't want this.
    Reply
  • ajp_anton - Sunday, July 19, 2020 - link

    Though in spite of all of these problems, I still like this laptop, and I don't know of a better one. The 16:10 screen alone makes this an obvious choice, and I just have to learn to live with (and work around) all the other issues. Reply
  • nfriedly - Sunday, July 19, 2020 - link

    I love the idea controlling charging in software to extend the longevity of the battery!

    I'm not sure how you could feasibly report this, but I'd like to know how much difference it makes after a few years of use. Does Dell make any claims?
    Reply
  • ajp_anton - Sunday, July 19, 2020 - link

    There are problems with this particular laptop's custom charging. Read my comment above yours, the first two points.

    I've used this feature in an older XPS laptop (max charge at 80% except for long flights and such), the Skylake version, which is ~4 years old. It's been in pretty much constant use on-the-go, and battery wear is at 1%.
    Reply
  • vermaden - Monday, July 20, 2020 - link

    Just get Chuwi Aerobook 13 instead.

    Bigger and better keyboard (along with more keys) and also TWO USB A 3.x ports and USB C port.

    ... and it costs about $450 new.

    This Dell XPS 13 looks lame to say the least with these only two USB-C ports ...
    Reply
  • ajp_anton - Monday, July 20, 2020 - link

    Um, what?

    A Skylake-Y CPU with max turbo at 2.2GHz? That's your alternative to a 4-core Ice Lake? And possibly the slowest iGPU in existence, compared to one of the fastest. 1920x1080 screen. The speakers are "bad, even by laptop standards". And despite the extremely slow and low-power CPU, battery life is also bad.

    Yeah, totally comparable.
    Reply
  • velanapontinha - Monday, July 20, 2020 - link

    If only this was bases on a Ryzen 4700u... Reply
  • Smell This - Monday, July 20, 2020 - link


    Well ... Duh!
    ;- )

    Down With The King, Dell
    Reply

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