- Excellent quality
- Beautiful 1080p display
- Great keyboard and touchpad
- Good battery life
- Limited number of ports (no media card reader)
Quick TakeDell XPS 13 Ultrabook packs a great screen and equally great keyboard inside an attractive shell with fantastic build quality while keeping the weight at just three pounds.
This compact Ultrabook fits a 13.3-inch 1080p display with IPS technology into a small chassis. Read on to see why we really like this premium offering from Dell.
The XPS 13 is a high-end Ultrabook featuring premium build materials and a clean exterior design. Dell recently updated this 13.3-inch laptop with a 1080p display that is beautiful and great for productivity. With the exception of a limited number of ports, we find almost nothing to dislike about this computer.
Build and Design
Dell spared no expense in the XPS 13’s construction materials; the silver aluminum lid and carbon fiber chassis are strong and lightweight. There’s zero flex in the chassis or the lid. The display hinge is stiff enough that there’s no display wobble, even while using the notebook in a car (though the display lid can’t be opened with one hand). The rubberized coating on all but the aluminum surfaces lends a pleasant feel and adds a measure of durability.
The XPS 13’s physical design is simplistic yet not spartan; I like the tiny details like the shiny beveled aluminum around the lid and chassis. My only nitpick is that the display lid doesn’t go back more than a 45-degree angle. The chassis is exceptionally thin at anywhere from 0.24 to 0.71 inches. The whole notebook is just 2.99 lbs.
Input and Output Ports
This is one area the XPS 13 falls short; it has just two USB ports, a headphone/microphone combo jack and DisplayPort video out. I’m chiefly disappointed in the lack of a media card reader. On the other hand, one nice feature is the inclusion of a battery status indicator which lets you check the amount of battery power you have left even if the laptop is powered off. All picture descriptions are shown from left to right.
Left: AC power jack, USB 3.0 port, headphone/microphone combo jack
Right: Battery status lights, USB 3.0 port, DisplayPort video out
Keyboard and Touchpad
The XPS 13 manages a full-size keyboard utilizing Chiclet-style keys, with extra spacing between each key. It has white LED backlighting which is useful in the dark. The keys have a lively action and provide a superb typing experience thanks to the ample key travel, something so many Ultrabooks get wrong. The keyboard is quiet enough to use in a classroom or meeting.
The Cypress trackpad is another one of the XPS 13’s highlights. It’s actually a clickpad – press down anywhere to produce a click. This is one of the better implementations of a clickpad; there is ample tactile feedback from each click and more importantly, it takes the same amount of pressure to produce a click across the whole surface. The clicks are slightly louder than expected but there’s always the option of tapping to click. The touchpad is actually bonded Gorilla glass which lends to the solid feel and makes it slightly cool to the touch. I like the rubberized surface a lot; it provides just the right amount of resistance.
Screen and Speakers
This notebook comes with one display choice and it’s a good one: a 13.3-inch diagonal IPS (In-Plane Switching) panel with a full HD resolution. IPS technology translates to unlimited viewing angles – the picture looks the same no matter where it’s viewed (most notebooks come with TN (Twisted Nematic) panels, which suffer from color distortion depending on the angle).
The 1920×1080 resolution is fantastic for business and pleasure; 1080p has twice the pixels of a 720p display (1366×768 pixels). It means a sharper picture; more detail is visible in pictures since there are more pixels to show it. A 1080p resolution also means being able to use two windows side-by-side comfortably plus the ability to see more info at the same time without scrolling (more lines of text in a web page or Word document, for example).
The downside of this display is the glossy surface; it enhances contrast and brings colors to life and the expense of glare, acting like a mirror in well-lit environments. As a final note, this display does not have touch capability.