Dell is one of the few trusted laptop brands that is known to produce quality products. It has always been a slightly premium in terms of pricing, but then the company has always had some really well made machines.
Speaking of well made machines, I got to test the XPS 13 which to me looks and sounds like the perfect portable Windows machine and quite a competitor for the Apple MacBook. Here is what I think about the sleek notebook.
Build and Design: 9/10
The XPS range has been known to offer stunning looks, ever since the range was introduced, and this early 2016 model of the XPS 13 proves it right. The XPS 13 offers a metal finish with a textured carbon fibre finish on the palmrest to offer a good grip while typing.The lid and the base are made out of machine-cut aluminum and feel very premium.
Of course, apart from all the high-standard materials, you will notice that the XPS 13 has a size of an 11-incher but boasts a 13-inch (almost) bezel-less display. Dell has managed to cram in a 13-inch display onto an 11-inch frame by trimming the bezels, allowing the whole chassis to be way smaller than traditional 13-inch laptops. The XPS 13 is technically the smallest sized 13-inch notebook in the market today.
Overall the construction of the notebook is solid. There is no bending and the hinge is very sturdy. Dell has not cut any corners and made the Dell XPS 13 the ultimate looking Windows ultrabook. The machine weighs in at about 1.2 kg which makes it quite lightweight and easy to carry in your backpack. For the sake of nitpicking, the edges of the metal frame could’ve been rounded off. While many laptop makers are trying to copy the MacBook, Dell has proved that you don’t need to be a copycat to make an attractive product.
Keyboard and Trackpad: 8.5/10
The implementation of the keyboard and the trackpad has been done well. The trackpad is large while the keyboard is well spaced out even on that small chassis. The chiclet-style keyboard offers a short key-travel, although, the feedback is pretty good. Typing is comfortable and apart from getting used to the layout, I didn't face any issues with the keyboard. The backlight is bright enough and offers two-level brightness. There are better keyboards on other laptops specifically made for business users, but then for an ultrabook it's excellent. Even the touchpad is spot on in terms of accuracy. It feels very smooth and even the gestures work flawlessly with a quick reaction time.
This is a premium ultrabook so you get some top-of-the-line specs. At the same time this isn’t built for gaming so don't expect a dedicated GPU. The unit that I reviewed was the high end version featuring an Intel 6th-gen Core i7 6500U processor that can go upto 2.5 GHz accompanied with integrated Intel HD 520 graphics. Memory tasks are managed by an 8GB LPDDR3 RAM module. For storage, there is a Samsung NVMe based 256GB SSD.
In terms of ports and slots, you get two USB 3.0 ports, a mini displayport (USB Type-C based thunderbolt also available), an SD card reader, a 3.5mm combo jack and a kensington lock port. There is also soft button on the left edge to check the battery status without having to open the lid. One of the USB ports is always on, which means you can charge USB based devices like a smartphone. Like most ultrabooks, you don’t get a LAN port. The laptop comes bundled with Windows 10.
This is one of the best looking displays I have seen on a notebook. The display only has a frame around it that holds it in place. There's an extremely thin bezel around the display. Thanks to this, Dell has managed to keep the overall size of the laptop quite compact.
The display measures in at 13.3-inch and with that resolution of 3200x1800 it gives a 276ppi. That is massive for such a small display. The results are a crisp looking screen. The panel is an IGZO 10-point multi-touchscreen made by Sharp. I never faced a lack of brightness be it under the sun, indoors or under artificial light. It is a bit reflective but not enough to ruin the experience. Watching movies is a delight on this screen especially if you have a 4K resolution video.
For an ultrabook, the XPS 13 is a serious performer. Since this is the top of the line variant, you get the best performance package from the lot. Multitasking is handled without any issues, and I didn’t face any slowdowns. I used Adobe Photoshop extensively and opened multiple Chrome tabs without any hiccups.
It fares equally and somewhat better than the Acer Aspire S13 and even the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon when compared in terms of benchmarks.The XPS 13 scored a promising 5210 on 3DMark Skydiver and thanks to Samsung’s NVMe based SSD the read and write speeds are quite commendable.
Gaming is not impressive but you can still play a few with low and medium settings. I tried Bioshock Infinite and got decent frame rates ranging between 45-51 FPS on low settings and about 25-28 FPS on medium settings.
Thermals are managed fairly well as most of the heat dissipates through the gap between the hinges. On heavy load, base gets warm but I never faced any insane amounts of heating.
Battery Life: 8/10
Although Dell claims a close to 10-hour battery life, I couldn't manage to get more than 7 hours and 30 minutes on medium to low brightness. This is pretty decent for a QHD display. This involved mix usage of web-browsing, video streaming and a lot of typing. Probably the 1080p version of the XPS 13 would be a better choice if battery is your priority. Thankfully the battery charges quite fast. In about one hour the battery goes from 0-100 percent which is impressive.
Verdict and Price in India
The XPS 13 is remarkable machine. It is perfect for someone who wants a crisp sharp display, especially if you like to edit photos on the go like me. It is very solid in terms of build quality and should last long. In terms of performance, I had no complaints. This isn’t a gaming machine, but it can handle less resource hogging games. So yes, I am not left behind when I have impromptu CS 1.6 sessions with my friends. I expected a bit more out of the battery, but with that resolution I think a 6.5-7 hour battery life is acceptable.
The Intel Core i7 version is priced at about Rs 1,33,000 while the Intel Core i5 model is about Rs 1,10,000. That’s a lot of money for an ultrabook. But for that you get that killer bezel-less display and the premium metal finish. But is the price really justified? Well comparing it to the US prices, it is definitely pricey. Maybe a price cut 10-20k would make it the perfect package.
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