Dell XPS 13 (2015) Review

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Dell has never failed to surprise me. And unexpectedly, I am surprised again by seeing the new XPS 13 2015 edition.  In a time of MacBook Air and Yoga style laptops; this one is really something exceptional and unique, but of course in a good way. Dell claims the XPS 13 is a laptop with 13 inch display in the chassis of an 11 inch one and believe me, having a 0.2 inch bezels, it truly is.

Anyway, the size of the laptop is not everything at all, and surely Dell knows it. That’s why this skinny monster has the new 5th generation Broadwell Core i-series processor, 8 GB of DDR3L 1600MHz memory, 256 GB of SSD storage and an amazing 13.3 inch (3200×1800) IPS QHD display. It is the first laptop with almost borderless screen. Though the base price $1399 (with touch screen) might seem kind of expensive, but considering every aspect, this laptop worth the money.

Pros

  • A nearly borderless display made it the smallest 13 inch laptop
  • Amazing display
  • QHD+ resolution
  • Strong audio performance
  • Attractive design
  • Strongly built
  • Comfortable keyboard
  • Good performance
  • Ultra light weight

 

Cons

  • Odd webcam placement
  • Bad ventilation system
  • Noisy fan
  • Relatively expensive
  • Below average battery life
  • Moderate touchpad
  • No Ethernet port

 

Specifications

  • Brand: Dell
  • Model: XPS 13
  • Version: 2015
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-5200U 2.2 GHz
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500
  • Memory: 2 x 4GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
  • SSD: 256GB
  • HDD: none
  • Optical Drive: none
  • Display Type: IPS Touchscreen with Corning Gorilla Glass
  • Screen Size: 13.3 inch
  • Screen Resolution: 3200×1800 (16:9)
  • Audio: 2x Waves MaxxAudio Pro Speakers
  • Keyboard: Island style keyboard with backlit
  • Navigation: 4.1 x 2.3 inch touchpad
  • Webcam: 720p HD Webcam
  • Video Ports: mini Display Port
  • Audio Ports: Combo headphone/microphone jack
  • USB: 2x USB 3.0
  • Media Ports: SD Card Slot
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11ac
  • Network: none
  • Bluetooth: 4.0
  • Ethernet: none
  • Width: 11.9 inch / 30.4 cm
  • Depth: 7.9 inch / 20.0 cm
  • Height: 0.6 inch / 1.5 cm
  • Weight: 2.8 pounds / 1.25 kg
  • Battery: 52Wh non-removable battery
  • Battery Life: 11 Hours
  • Operating System: 64 bit Windows 8.1
  • Warranty: 1 year Limited
  • Base Price: $1399 on Amazon

 

Build and Design

The design of the XPS 13 is perfect! Dell has done an amazing job. Aluminum outer body, carbon fiber interior and borderless design, I couldn’t imagine better.

Basically, as they claimed, it is a 13 inch laptop in an 11 inch chassis. Dimensions are listed as 11.9 inches (30.4 cm) wide, 7.9 inches (20cm) deep with a thickness of just 0.6 inches (1.5 cm). It is both smaller and slimmer than MacBook Air 13.

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The outer body of the XPS 13 is completely coated with aluminum, both on the top and bottom. The lid looks attractive and has a strong build. There is a black strip around the center with a Dell logo inside, which matches perfectly. The bottom of the device is well built as well. There is a metallic plate, hinged on one side, covering the tags and serial number to keep the bottom clean and subtle. Also, there are 2 full width rubber feet on the bottom and they will help you to use the laptop on any surface.

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Now, if you open the lid, there is an amazing screen with just 0.2 inch thin bezel along with the carbon fiber palm rest. With the battery the laptop weighs only 2.8 pounds (1.25 Kg). Overall, with the strong build and elegant design, the XPS is perfect as a premium Ultrabook.

Keyboard

Speaking of the keyboard, I really like it, even though it is surrounded by fingerprint loving carbon fiber. It is an island style keyboard. The keys are generously sized and well spaced. Even the arrow keys are perfectly sized, and those are usually the first things to get shrunk when space is an issue.

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As I tested, the buttons are strong and provide good feedback. Moreover, the keyboard has decent backlit support.

Touchpad

For such a small sized laptop, the 4.1 x 2.4 inch touchpad is fairly large. The responsiveness of the pad is good and it is quite accurate. When tested, the touchpad was able to perform all kinds of windows 8.1 gestures. However, personally I think the touchpad could be smoother and better polished.

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Connectivity

Though Dell kept it simple, the connectivity feature of the XPS 13 is quite rich and versatile.

The left side features the mini DisplayPort,  a USB 3.0 port along with the power and headset jack.

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While the right side features another USB 3.0 port, SD card slot and security lock port.

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There is nothing on the back side of the laptop. However, the front side of the laptop has a single light, which glows when the laptop is charging and flashes yellow when the battery is critical.

Display

To be honest, the screen is the main attraction of this laptop. While the name “infinity display” is technically inaccurate, this is the closest thing to a laptop with borderless display. The screen offers wide viewing angles, which will come in handy, especially when you are outdoors. When testing, even with the window open and bright daylight, I could still see every little detail on the screen without any issue. The maximum brightness of the display is 400 nits along with a contrast ratio of 1480:1.

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Moreover, instead of commonly used HD resolution, the touch display of the XPS 13 has QHD+ (3200×1800) resolution and it is also protected by the famous Corning Gorilla Glass. The only drawback of the screen I’ve found so far is the auto brightness system. Because of it, you won’t be able to adjust display brightness by yourself.

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Audio

The XPS 13 has two side mounted speakers. These MaxxAudio Pro tuned speakers are loud and fairly clear. When tested, I was able to get a maximum of 95 decibels from it. Also, since the speakers are mounted on side, the sound is not muffled when the lid is closed or when surface the laptop is resting on.

Performance

The XPS 13 is one of the first laptop having a 5th generation Intel Core i-Series processor. The time of Haswell is over. These new fifth Gen processors are based on Brodwell-U architecture. The model I tested had a Core i5 5200U processor. Though I don’t really know the whole difference between the Haswell and new Broadwell processors, as I have seen, the new one has a 14nm architecture and needs only 15W power to run. Besides, this new processor came with latest HD 5500 GPU.

As expected, the fifth Gen processor did not bring a huge performance change for the CPU. It is slightly faster than the previous generation processors. Considering the single threaded tasks, the performance is almost similar, though multithreaded tasks show a marginal difference in performance.

The new HD 5500 GPU is a lot more powerful than the previous version. You will be able to play almost all last gen games on it without worrying about the lag. However, you will have to reduce the game resolution as the native 3200×1800 is too much for an integrated GPU. I smoothly played Farcry 4 on it with medium graphics settings and 1080p resolution. But when I made the game resolution 3200×1800, it was barely playable.

Beside the processor, 8 GB of DDR3L memory and 256 GB SSD provide the usual performance. When tested, I could get a maximum of 160 Mbps data transfer speed.

Heat and Noise

Though Fanless design is common nowadays, the new Broadwell-U processors require a fan. When I was playing games, the fan had to work hard to keep the processor cool. The noise of the fan was around 40-45 dB, and I think it was totally bearable. Beside these extreme situations, the laptop runs cool and quiet. You will barely notice any noise when watching videos or browsing the internet.

Battery Life

The XPS 13 came with 52Wh non removable lithium ion battery. Dell claims that this touchscreen version has over 11 hours of battery life. I was able to get around 8 hours from it when listened to music and browsed internet. To be honest, 8 hours of battery life is amazing for a laptop with i5 processor and IPS touchscreen.

Customization

The customization feature of the XPS 13 is quite versatile.

The base price of the laptop is just $799 and this basic version has an Intel Core i3 5010U processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Its full HD display has a resolution of 1920 x 1080p, but $799 version doesn’t have touchscreen support.

The most expensive version of the XPS 13 has a QHD+ touchscreen (same as the version I’ve reviewed), an Intel Core i7-5500U processor, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and Windows 8.1 Pro. It is priced $1,949.

Anyway, you can customize this laptop just as you like. The laptop supports all three (i3, i5 and i7) Fifth Gen Core i-Series processors. For storage, you can get from 128GB – 512GB SSD, depending on your need. But when it comes to the memory, options are kind of narrow, as you will have to choose between 4 and 8 GB.

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Wrap Up

To be honest, till now the XPS 13 is the best premium laptop of 2015 so far. Top class builds materials, a good keyboard, and the latest generation Intel processor with a Gorilla Glass protected 3200×1800 IPS touch display, as well as solid state storage, what more could you expect from an Ultrabook.

So, if you are planning to get a small and light laptop with fast performance and a great screen, this one surely one of the best choice. The only drawback this laptop is the battery life, which is merely average with the touchscreen. Even then, considering every aspect, the $1,399 price tag is worth it.

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