- beautiful glossy display
- spacious keyboard
- svelte sturdy design
- long battery life
- limited connectivity
- runs hot when taxed
Quick TakeThe refreshed XPS 13 keeps all of the machine’s best qualities (its design, keyboard and vibrant display), while adding the performance and features needed to be a top tier ultrabook. If you loved the look of the old XPS 13, but felt it was lacking in the performance department, the 2014 iteration may be worth a look.
The Dell XPS 13 is back and it’s better than ever. The update injects new life into the line with Intel’s fourth generation Haswell processors and full touch capability, all while retaining the high-end build and svelte design that made the Dell XPS 13 such an alluring choice to begin with.
With solid performance, a great look and a reasonable price tag (starting at $1,050) the refreshed Dell XPS 13 marks a notable improvement over its predecessor to provide an attractive offer.
Build and Design
While the refreshed Dell XPS 13 is the benefactor of some upgraded hardware, its design is nearly identical to last year’s model; and for anyone whose seen the 2013 Dell XPS 13, that’s a very good thing.
The laptop’s sleek curved design is accentuated by its silver matte aluminum brushed lid. The metallic protective coat offers a cool textured feel that is easy grip and provides an attractive, yet understated glare when catching the light in a room. The lid is topped off with a simple chrome Dell logo that sits on the center of the display cover.
A similarly colored band outlines both the display lid and the chassis, providing a smooth and subtle transition from the softer silver surface. The black soft-touch deck offers a much sharper contrast, which helps to tie the device’s color scheme together. The deck proves to be just as much a product of function as it is style, as the soft-touch material provides a comfortable durable typing surface. Finally the bottom of the chassis features a black carbon fiber build complete with an attractive checkered pattern.
Measuring in at 12.4” x 8.1” x 0.7” and weighing in at 3.03 pounds, the Dell XPS 13 isn’t the lightest ultrabook on the market, but its form factor is still highly conducive to travel. Just a smidge over 3 pounds the Dell XPS 13 isn’t as portable as some of the slimmer competing options, such as the 0.51” Samsung ATIV Book 9 (2.56 pounds) and the 0.56” Acer Aspire S7 (2.87 pounds). However, the Dell XPS 13’s form factor should be more than suitable for most users, matching both the 0.61” Lenovo Idea Pad Yoga 2 Pro (3.06 pounds) and last year’s Dell XPS 13 (2.99 pounds).
Despite its incredibly slender frame, the amalgamation of aluminum and carbon fiber provides a sturdy frame. Both the base of the chassis and the display lid held firm to heavy pressure with no noticeable rippling appearing on screen. The display hinge also stubbornly held its form under pressure, assuring that the notebook should have no issue with the wears and tears of travel.
The Dell XPS 13’s thin curvaceous design while attractive, only allows the device to house a few ports along its sides. The laptop does manage to provide the bare minimum, featuring a USB 3.0 port and a headphone jack on the left-hand side of the device. While the right side of the chassis houses a mini DisplayPort and a second USB 3.0 port.
The lack of an Ethernet connector is to be expected with an ultrabook, but the exclusion of an SD card reader is a far more difficult pill to swallow. It would have been nice to see Dell expand upon the device’s connectivity, given that last year’s model also did not offer a card reader.
Display and Sound
The XPS 13 features the same attractive FHD (1920 x 1080) display as last year’s model, but Dell has decided to throw in full touch compatibility this time around. The touch enabled panel is a welcomed addition, as the screen registers swipes and gestures without the delay. Not to mention that the added control mechanism proves to be a notable boon when navigating Windows 8.1’s home screen.
While the Dell XPS 13’s resolution doesn’t quite match the QHD displays found on the ATIV Book 9 Plus or Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro, the glossy panel still manages to provide an attractive viewing surface perfect for surfing the web or viewing media. Notebook Review was particularly impressed by the rich color contrast as the display accurately detailed the dark bold greens, blues and blacks seen in a gameplay stream of the upcoming title The Elder Scrolls Online.
With its exceptional brightness the XPS 13’s display affords flexible viewing angles. The device can easily host multiple onlookers, as the image quality holds its form well past 150 degrees before exhibiting any color loss. The one drawback to the glossy finish however, is that it can be a bit reflective in the light. In direct or heavy lighting the display will produce faint reflections, that are slightly more noticeable when viewing a dark backdrop. The reflective nature of the screen shouldn’t mar the overall viewing experience, but it’s a small annoyance at times.
The Dell XPS 13 houses its speakers on the bottom of its chassis. Despite the awkward location the speakers do provide a steady stream of audio (even when used as a laptop), capable of filling a modest sized room with ease. The audio quality will more than suffice for basic needs such as presentations, but the speakers struggle with more demanding tasks. While listening to an orchestral track NBR found that speakers produced a noticeable level of distortion. In a pinch the speakers will suffice when watching a movie or listening to music, but those looking for an optimal experience will want to turn to external speakers or headphones.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Despite its sleek ultrabook frame the Dell XPS 13 features a spacious island-style Chiclet keyboard. The hard rounded keys offer a small depression in their center helping to form to user’s fingers for added grip. Travel distance is excellent for a notebook with a 0.7” thickness. Even better, each key affords ample tactile feedback. After being compressed the keys quickly snapping back into place, producing an oddly enjoyable audible pop afterwards. With the keyboard’s forceful pushback and audible assurance, users can type comfortably knowing each keystroke has fully registered.
The Dell XPS 13 houses a modest sized touchpad directly below the keyboard’s spacebar. The soft rubber pad is easy to grip and provides a smooth comfortable surface. The pad itself is devoid of mouse buttons instead designating the bottom left and right portions of the pad (along with multi-finger gestures) to act as mouse buttons. The pad performs admirably quickly registering swipes and multi-finger gestures without delay.