Dell XPS 13 (2020) assessment: The laptop computer endgame
“The Dell XPS 13 has been the most effective laptop computer you should buy for years, and that is nonetheless true in 2020.”
- Attractive design
- Taller 16:10 display screen
- Practically bezel-less body
- Two Thunderbolt three ports
- Bigger keyboard and touchpad
- Glorious efficiency
Two designs outlined the previous decade in laptops. The early decade was all in regards to the MacBook Air, which dominated the primary half of the 2010s and impressed a sea of look-alikes. The second half, nonetheless, was all about Dell’s XPS 13. The unique thin-bezel, small footprint laptop computer, it began a development that’s now ubiquitous.
Nevertheless, after 4 years of iteration, Dell has cooked up one thing new. One thing recent. One thing that takes all the pieces I’ve lengthy cherished in regards to the design and strikes it ahead into a brand new period.
Don’t name it a reboot. That is the laptop computer’s endgame.
Design and show
Extra of what issues. That’s all the time been the XPS group’s motto, however right here it’s extra obvious than ever. It begins with the display screen, which is now 13.four inches in a 16:10 facet ratio, which is barely nearer to sq. than the standard 16:9. It’s solely zero.1 inches taller than earlier variations, nevertheless it feels like extra. The 16:10 ratio means further traces in my Phrase doc, extra rows in my spreadsheet, and fewer scrolls on a webpage.
This does end in black bars on most movies, that are normally formatted for 16:9. Nevertheless, for the one who spends the vast majority of their time with a laptop computer in work mode, that’ll be a worthy trade-off.
The 16:10 display screen is identical one used on the XPS 13 2-in-1, which was already class-leading. It affords 500 nits of brightness, among the many finest distinction I’ve seen, and glorious colour accuracy.
It’s additionally sharp. The decision is 1,920 x 1,200, which suggests extra pixels than your typical 1080p display screen. You gained’t be choosing out pixels on it, so except you’re a photograph editor, you shouldn’t have to go for the higher-res panel. The advantage of the 4K+ display screen is extra than simply pixel depend — it’ll even have a wider colour gamut.
It’s not simply the panel itself that seems like extra of what issues. It’s additionally the best way the dearth of bezels frames the display screen. The highest and sides are as small as ever, however now the underside bezel will get to hitch in on the enjoyable. Dell makes use of a novel dropped barrel hinge that sits barely under the floor of the keyboard deck. A part of that bezel, which was already small, is out of sight. It’s a small trick to make the bezel look that a lot thinner. On the white mannequin that I reviewed, I like the choice to alter the bezel colour to black as a substitute of white. It makes it even much less pronounced.
Regardless of the slim bezel, Dell has squeezed its 720p digital camera module into the highest, and Nostril-cam is a factor of the previous. It’s not an ideal webcam, nevertheless it’ll suffice in a pinch. Making much more use of the area, there’s now an IR digital camera for handy Home windows Whats up facial-recognition login.
Keyboard and touchpad
Transferring down from the display screen to the keyboard deck, the design continues to observe the “extra of what issues” philosophy. Not a millimeter of area on the keyboard deck has been left with out a objective.
The keyboard takes inspiration from the XPS 13 2-in-1 in look — although not in really feel. The keycaps are bigger, with much less area between every. They now stretch as much as the edges of the keyboard deck.
The facility button (and built-in fingerprint reader), which was as soon as off to the proper of the structure, is now built-in into the highest proper, very similar to it’s on MacBooks. One other small change to the structure I respect is the full-size left and proper arrow keys. Earlier XPS keyboards have included half-sized keys, with Web page Up and Web page Down filling within the gaps. This is able to usually end in unintentional skips down the web page.
It’s rapidly develop into one among my favourite laptop computer keyboards to sort on.
One a part of the keyboard I’m blissful Dell didn’t redesign is the precise really feel of the important thing presses. Slightly than go the best way of butterfly mechanisms (akin to on the XPS 13 2-in-1), they nonetheless have 1mm of journey and a handy guide a rough mechanism. As we’ve seen even Apple transfer away from its personal butterfly keyboards, Dell made the proper selection right here. It’s rapidly develop into one among my favourite laptop computer keyboards to sort on.
The identical is true of the touchpad, which has grown in total dimension from final 12 months’s mannequin. Dell additionally labored on dampening the clicking mechanism so it’s quieter. I’d nonetheless favor it to be even softer, however the monitoring and gesture help is superb, as all the time.
Ports and construct high quality
On the edges, you’ll discover huge adjustments for those who’re aware of the older XPS 13. Due to the character of that edge-to-edge keyboard, there’s now not room alongside it for ports. There are few, they usually’re now pushed as near the again as doable. On the proper is a Thunderbolt three port and the headphone jack, and on the left is one other Thunderbolt three port and a MicroSD card slot.
That is one much less USB-C than the earlier mannequin, which sucks. Dell is now at Apple ranges of port choice, matching the MacBook Air in USB ports. In contrast to that system, I do favor having a Thunderbolt three port on all sides quite than collectively. It makes charging handy, no matter what aspect the ability outlet is on. HP’s Spectre x360 trades out the additional Thunderbolt three port for USB-A to help older equipment.
Regardless of the stiffer total really feel of the XPS 13, it’s now simpler to open.
The edges are actually clad in diamond-cut aluminum, which provides a little bit of glitz to the framing and a sturdier total really feel to the construct high quality. A skinny layer of polycarbonate fiber covers the palm rests with its distinctive weave texture. Except for the unibody aluminum design of the MacBook Professional, it is a well-built as laptops come.
The additional aluminum provides simply the smallest quantity of additional weight, which is now at 2.eight kilos. That matches the load of each the MacBook Air and the HP Spectre x360 13. At zero.58 inches, although, it’s a bit thinner than each of these laptops.
Regardless of the sturdy really feel of the XPS 13, it’s now smoother to open. What a reduction. For years, it was one of many few premium laptops that couldn’t be opened with only one finger. A one-finger open is simple now, although I want there was a lip to make it much more easy.
It’s straightforward to only take a look at a laptop computer’s processor and name it good. Nevertheless, there’s extra to efficiency than a spec sheet. The XPS 13 makes that apparent. Regardless of utilizing the identical components as different laptops, Dell has persistently innovated in pulling efficiency out of its parts.
All the identical tips are in play right here, akin to strips of Gore materials used to dissipate warmth. And the processor is now upgraded to the latest Intel’s 10th-gen Core ‘Ice Lake’ chips.
Dell continues to boost the bar for efficiency.
That’s not too thrilling in 2020, however once more, the XPS 13 beats its opponents in uncooked single-core efficiency in Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R20. Even the 16GB of RAM that got here in my assessment unit was overkill for what most individuals will do with this laptop computer. (The Core i7 mannequin I reviewed is priced at $1,250, although there may even be a Core i3 choice beginning at $999.)
That is among the many strongest quad-core laptops you should buy, even flexing its muscle in HandBrake video encoding. Late final 12 months, Dell launched an XPS 13 with a six-core processor, however this new mannequin is barely 7% slower in HandBrake. Spectacular.
So, sure, Dell continues to boost the bar for efficiency. Improve to the 4K+ mannequin, and you’ve got a killer photo-editing laptop computer. That doesn’t imply you should purchase this laptop computer for 3D rendering or video enhancing, however for many duties, you gained’t discover a quicker laptop computer at this dimension.
It ought to be famous that the $999 Core i3 with 4GB of RAM can be out there (although not at present on sale). That dual-core processor gained’t have close to the identical efficiency, although I haven’t examined it but myself. Nevertheless, for those who simply need a laptop computer for internet shopping, Microsoft Phrase, and watching motion pictures, the Core i3 will likely be greater than ample.
Intel’s discrete graphics have improved fairly a bit with Ice Lake, which suggests the XPS 13 can play video games. Kind of.
Dell nonetheless pulls higher body charges out of those parts than its opponents, however that doesn’t imply it is a gaming laptop computer. Fortnite is playable in 1080p for those who convey all of the settings down, however you’ll have to drop it to 720p to get smoother gameplay. Informal and fewer demanding video games play nicely sufficient, however you’ll see higher efficiency out of the Razer Blade Stealth 13, which options an Nvidia GTX 1650.
I’ve excessive expectations for the battery life of pricy laptops. Someway, the XPS 13 surpassed them. It lasted over 11.5 hours in our gentle internet shopping check, crushing laptops just like the MacBook Air, Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, and Floor Professional 7. It doesn’t fairly beat the most effective of the most effective just like the HP Spectre x360 or ZenBook 13 UX333, nevertheless it’s not far behind both.
Battery life will all the time rely on what you’re utilizing it for. On one excessive finish, the XPS 13 can last as long as 14.5 hours in native video playback, or as few as 5 in heavier duties. For the common particular person, constant use all through a full workday shouldn’t be an issue.
You possibly can count on these outcomes to be dropped by just a few hours for those who purchase the 4K+ mannequin. Once more, that makes this 1080p+ mannequin the perfect resolution for most individuals.
The Dell XPS 13 is the most effective laptop computer you should buy. That has been true for a number of years, and it’s nonetheless true in 2020. That’s not a straightforward feat when making this many adjustments to an iconic design. The XPS 13 has slowly grown a bit costlier through the years, however if you’re this good, the premium branding has been earned.
There are nice selections for those who’re trying to spend beneath $1,000. For everybody else, the XPS 13 ought to be your subsequent PC.
Are there any options?
There some very shut opponents to the XPS 13. Should you’re in search of a laptop computer with a 360-degree hinge, I like to recommend the HP Spectre x360. It’s small and refined just like the XPS, and it’s a bit cheaper.
One other good choice is the brand new MacBook Air. Now that includes quad-core processors and a greater keyboard, it’s reclaimed quite a lot of the respect of earlier generations of Macs. It doubtless can’t compete in battery life, nonetheless, and it nonetheless lags a bit in efficiency.
The Floor Laptop computer three by Microsoft is one other attention-grabbing choice at a detailed worth level, thickness, and weight. It additionally affords a bigger three:2 display screen with the next pixel density, as long as you may bear its giant bezels.
How lengthy will it final?
The XPS 13 is constructed to final, because of its up-to-date parts and durable construct high quality. There’s nothing particular about its one-year customary guarantee, however this laptop computer ought to final you a minimum of three or 4 years.
Must you purchase it?
Sure. It’s the most effective laptop computer you should buy.