If I were to mention an ultralight laptop that sets a new standard for thin — machined from a single block of aluminum, able to go all day on a single battery charge and so well-designed it turns heads — most people would know what I’m talking about: the MacBook Air from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL).
Except I’m not. The laptop in question is a Windows PC and it’s a Dell XPS series.
That’s right a Dell — the latest Dell XPS 13 to be exact.
This laptop blows away any pre-conceived notions you might have of Dell as the producer of boring, enterprise-grade computers. Part of the new wave of Windows PCs running Intel Corporation’s (NASDAQ:INTC) latest Broadwell processors, the new XPS 13 is being billed as the smallest 13-inch laptop on the planet.
A multiple award winner at CES 2015, the Dell XPS 13 beats the MacBook Air at its own game, adds a “must be seen to be believed” display and still starts at less than$800.
Our Dell XPS review gives you all the details about this incredible new laptop.
Dell XPS 13 Review: Showing Apple How Premium Ultralight is Done
Apple’s MacBook Air has had the spotlight to itself for years when it comes to premium ultralight notebooks, but Apple’s design is beginning to age — especially the low resolution display.
The Dell XPS features an Infinity Display — a display that virtually lacks bezels so the screen seems to extend from edge to edge. This let the company package a 13-inch laptop into a form factor that’s closer to that of an 11-inch model.
That Infinity Display blows away the MacBook Air’s, even in its base Full HD configuration. It has a matte finish that eliminates the reflections that plague Apple’s notebooks. Move up to the Quad HD+ option and the resolution is a stunning 3200 x 1800 pixels. The XPS 13 also offers a touchscreen option for those who prefer to poke their way around Windows.
The body of the Dell XPS 13 is constructed of a single wedge of machined aluminum, but it’s topped with black carbon fiber, making for a comfortable (and cool) palm rest while adding visual interest. It also features a backlit keyboard with a nice feel and a responsive glass trackpad.
All in all, the display is stunning, the design execution stands out in a sea of Windows Ultrabooks and at just 2.6 pounds, the new Dell XPS throws down the gauntlet to Apple and other PC manufacturers.
Dell XPS 13 Review: Showing Off What Broadwell Chips Can Do
While Dell’s design studio obviously brought its “A” game when it came to the XPS 13, this tiny laptop couldn’t have pulled it off without Intel’s new fifth generation Core CPUs –the Broadwell chips.
Those Broadwell chips are significantly smaller and much more energy efficient, with a big boost in graphics processing capability. They’re faster, too.
The real world benefits speak for themselves in the Dell XPS 13.
The power to drive 5.7 million pixels on a bright 13.3-inch display, a machine that measures just 0.6 inches at it’s thickest (0.33 inches at the narrow point), and a battery life rated at up to 15 hours on a charge.
Despite the diminutive size, this laptop is easily capable of handling business and professional applications, although the built-in graphics means it’s not a good choice for video games.
Dell XPS 13 Review: Specs
- 13.3-inch matte IGZO display (Full HD or QHD+ touch capable)
- Fifth generation Intel Core i3 or Core i5 CPU with Intel HD Graphics 5500
- 4GB or 8GB RAM
- 128GB or 256GB SSD
- Full sized backlit keyboard, glass trackpad
- 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
- 52 WHr battery rated at up to 15 hours (FHD display) or 11 hours (QHD+ display)
- CNC machined aluminum chassis with carbon fiber palm rest
- 2x USB 3.0 (with Powershare), MiniDisplay port, SD card reader, lock
- Runs Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 8.1
- Weighs 2.6 pounds (FHD display) or 2.8 pounds (QHD+ display)
Dell XPS 13 Review: Conclusion
Other PC makers, such as Samsung Electronics, Acer Incorporated and Lenovo Group Limited have been producing the closest things to a MacBook Air competitor, but always fall a bit short. They’re released some very attractive Ultrabooks, but Apple’s combination of size, premium quality, battery life and price has remained elusive.
Not many people would have expected a Dell XPS series to manage to not only catch Apple, but leapfrog the MacBook Air, yet that’s what’s happened with the new Dell XPS 13.
The most drool-worthy laptop so far of 2015, the Dell XPS 13 can be configured to meet the needs of power business users (including an optional $100 external battery pack that extends time between charges to as much as 22 hours). But with a base price of just $799 the XPS 13 should also appeal to consumers, especially when they see that display.
The primary downside to this new Dell XPS is similar to the issue MacBook Air owners face: RAM is soldered to the board and not upgradable. So ordering the bump from 4GB to 8GB (boosting that $799 price along the way) is the smart thing to do.
Other than that, it’s hard to find fault with the Dell XPS 13. And once Windows 10 is available, expect the user experience to get even better.
After years of selling the modern equivalent of “beige box” PCs (or oddities like the Dell XPS 12) and a year and a half after going private, Dell has hit a home run.
As of this writing, Robert Martin did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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