Everyone wants to get a slice of the Ultrabook pie and the latest entrant to join the club is Dell. They launched the XPS 13 Ultrabook just the other day in India in the hope to grab some of the limelight that Lenovo and Asus have been enjoying for a while now. Dell’s Ultrabook hails from their XPS line-up, so you’ll notice many of the design cues are borrowed from their current offerings. Let’s see if it has what it takes to claim the top spot in the market.
On Video: Dell XPS13
Design and Build
There’s no getting away from the fact that Dell have created an incredibly sexy looking notebook. It doesn’t matter from which angle you look at it, the XPS 13 is definitely a head turner. This is mainly due to the choice of materials used to build the chassis. The lid and most of the base is crafted from machined aluminium and base is protected by carbon fire. This makes it extremely sturdy and durable, while still maintaining a very slim profile. The notebook measures about 18mm in depth at its thickest point and weighs around 1.36kg. While this may seem light on paper, it feels quite heavy, which is a bit odd. If you hold it folded down like a book, then you won’t notice it, but if you move it around with the lid open, it feels heavy. The fit and finish of everything is impeccable and Dell has given a lot of attention to detail.
No fingerprint headaches
Connectivity is the best among Ultrabooks. While it’s nice to see USB 3.0, there are just two ports when we normally have three. DisplayPort is a nice addition, but it would have been better if we had HDMI, since the cables are easier to find and are cheaper as well. There’s also no card reader present, which is a shame. Other ports, include a headphone jack and a battery status indicator.
USB 3.0 is a nice addition
Inside, we’re greeted by a 13.3-inch display with Corning’s Gorilla Glass for protection. This ensures your display remains free of unwanted scratches overtime. The edge-to-edge glass gives the screen a seamless look and also allows Dell to fit a larger screen into a smaller chassis. Along with the 1.3MP webcam, there’s an ambient light sensor as well that automatically dims and brightens the display, based on the amount of light in the room. The keyboard area has a very nice rubber finish to it and the same extends to the trackpad as well. While the keyboard is comfortable and backlit, the trackpad could have placed a little more towards the left instead of the center. We found that while typing, your right palm tends to touch the edge of the trackpad, which engages the vertical scroll, moving the page and at times the cursor, all over the place, which is quite annoying. Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut to quickly disable the trackpad either. Overall, the build and finish of the notebook is very good and is right up there, along with Lenovo’s U300s.
Dell is offering the XPS 13 in three preset flavours. We got the base model, which packs in a Core i5-2467M CPU from Intel’s ULV range. The other components include a 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. There’s not much in terms of customization on the hardware front as Dell has already configured three offerings for you. Software-wise, you get some utilities from Dell, like DataSafe Online backup and webcam utility. You also get McAfee Security Center (30 day trial) and Office Starter 2012, which includes Word and Excel. Other services include one year Dell Online Backup up to 2GB.
The XPS 13 is certainly quick, but then again it should be, considering the OS resides on an SSD. Typing on the notebook is relatively stress free and the keys offer a good tactile response, so it doesn’t cause fatigue even after long hours of typing. My only issue here is with the trackpad, which is placed in the center and it would have been more ergonomic, if it were towards the left.
As far as performance goes, it’s very similar to the Lenovo U300s. It manages slightly better performance in PCMark Vantage, but when it comes to video encoding or rendering, the Asus pulls head of the curb. One thing we noticed was that the exhaust fans that are placed underneath the notebook tend to spin wildly as soon as any media is played back. This not only makes it noisy, but also tends to heat up quickly, but only at one spot, towards the center. The audio is actually quite loud, if you’re listening to lounge or jazz music. Songs that make heavy use of bass don’t sound great and neither did we expect it to.
The carbon fibre bottom
Dell throws in a 47WHr 6-cell battery that’s non-removeable. If you use the Ultrabook carefully with a little word processing and browsing, it will easily last you for about 4-5 hours. However, if you’re going to watch a lot of videos, then it will drain out a lot quicker. The XPS 13 lasted just 2hrs in Battery Eater Pro, which is a lot less when compared to the Asus UX31, which lasted for 3hrs and 20min and it had a Core i7 CPU.
The new Dell XPS 13 range starts from Rs.79,900, which is just too expensive for what’s on offer. Granted, it’s a very well put together Ultrabook and it has looks to die for, but once again, it’s really hard to ignore the big fat elephant in the room. If thin and light is your main concern, then Acer’s TimeLine X series offers very good value for money notebooks. It obviously doesn’t have aluminium and carbon fibre, but it gets the job done. Ultrabooks are very good alternative to netbooks, but not at these prices.
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