Revisiting Dell's XPS 13 Ultrabook, In Full HD

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Technology marches to the beat of its own drum and the hard part is keeping in step with the rhythm. You may recall, for example, that we already reviewed Dell's XPS 13 Ultrabook a year ago, singing high praise for its edge-to-edge display, stellar battery life, and overall performance, which at the time was the best we'd seen from an Ultrabook. If we were to compare it with today's crop of Ultrabooks, however, we'd have to sing a different tune now that Ivy Bridge is pervasive in the market. Or would we? Dell went back and re-wrote the lyrics without changing the name of the song, which is our way of saying the XPS 13 Ultrabook we have for review is a refreshed model.

The biggest upgrade comes in the form of a much improved display. Dell's XPS 13 is now configurable with a Full HD 1080p display that not only offers a higher resolution than yesteryear's 1366x768 res, but it's also brighter (350-nit brightness) and boasts superior viewing angles (up to 178 degrees). It's just a higher quality panel all-around versus the 2012 model.

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook Stock

Inside the retooled XPS 13 is an Ivy Bridge foundation. Our model shipped with 3rd Generation Intel Core i5-3337U dual-core processor clocked at 1.8GHz (up to 2.7GHz via Turbo), 3MB of cache, and Hyper-Threading support. For a little extra coin, you can jump up to a Core i7-3537U chip, which is also a dual-core part but comes clocked at 2GHz (up to 3.1GHz via Turbo) and 4MB of cache. Both processors are rated with a 17W max TDP, so you shouldn't lose too much in the way of battery life by opting for the faster part unless you're pounding no it constantly with heavy workloads.

Otherwise, this is really the same XPS 13 as before, though the unit Dell sent us is a little better spec'd and has twice the amount of RAM (8GB versus 4GB), and of course it's running Windows 8. Are these upgrades enough to once again impress us? Let's find out.

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook
Specifications & Features
Processor Intel Core i5 3337U Processor
Operating System Windows 8 64-bit
Chipset Intel QS67 Chipset
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4000
Memory 8GB DDR3 1600 MHz DRAM
Display 13.3" Full HD 1080p (1920x1080) 16:9
Storage 256GB solid state drive (SSD)
Optical N/A
Networking Integrated 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 3.0
Intel Wireless Display ready
Interface 2 x USB 3.0
1 x PowerShare
1 x mini DisplayPort
1 x Headphone/microphone combo jack
Webcam 1.3-megapixel with dual array digital microphones
Battery Li-Ion (6-cell) non-replaceable
Power Adapter 45W AC adapter
Dimensions 12.4 (W) x 8.1 (D) x 0.24-0.71 (H)  inches
Weight 2.99 pounds
Manufacturer Warranty 1-year
Pricing: $1,400 (as configured)

One thing we need to note here is that we received a pre-production model from Dell with a 128GB solid state drive (SSD). Since then, Dell decided to upgrade this particular configuration to a 256GB SSD at no extra cost, so you're getting more bang for your buck (twice the amount of storage). Our benchmarks reflect the 128GB SSD, which we're told runs almost exactly the same as the 256GB SSD, but our evaluation will reflect the additional storage capacity since that's what end-users are receiving.
Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook Stock2

The other thing we should point out for those of you referencing last year's model is that the new XPS 13 features faster RAM (1600MHz versus 1333MHz) and improved graphics performance (Intel HD 4000 Graphics versus 3000). In short, there's more here than just an upgraded display.

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acarzt one year ago

I would add no Touch screen with Windows 8 as a negative.

The13.3" Acer S7 is also in this price range (features a 1080p touch display)... I'd love to see a review of that one as it would compare directly to this dell.

marco c one year ago

That Acer machine is BAD A$$. Would love to get one in. I've used it personally and think it is beautiful.

samwelaye one year ago

hot: hdmi

not: no hdmi.

which is it? Went back to the specs sheet so i'll assume its no hdmi, but does it come with a displayport -> hdmi adapter, and if so does sound pass through correctly?

blueboy2011 one year ago

Actually I would think that you would see a degraded performance mainly because of an adapter to HDMI if you were to get one. On the other hand, it you have the budget to get a Wi-Di receiver, I would recommend one only because their's no HDMI out of the box. If it did, I wouldn't even consider the extra cost involved in it. This Ultrabook would have been the perfect machine if it had HDMI, which is inexcusable in a $1400 system...

RodRyan one year ago

Can this laptop be set up to allow for dual boot with the options being Win 8 and Win 7?

GAustralia one year ago

I have had this Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook for about a month: 128 GB SSD, i7 8GB memory. My rating for it is 2 stars out of 5. I subtracted 3 stars for unmet expectations on crispness of text when viewing the internet – on Microsoft Office the text clarity is fine. The reviews said that for the 2013 model of the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook the screen was improved to be comparable to a MacBook Air. With this information and knowing that the price of this Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook is 2 to 3 times that of a nonultrabook laptop I had high expectations for this screen.

In my experience these screens are better for viewing internet text:

• My 3+ year old Dell V13

• IPhone 4S

• 3 year old IPad

• Dell U2410 Monitor

• Dell U2412M Monitor

The Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook HD screen should have been the same or better than my 3+ year old Dell V13 on viewing internet. However, I describe the internet text, such as on this website as slightly bold and a bit fuzzy, and on larger title text a little bit of fuzziness around the letters with perhaps the “S” the worst. It is interesting that with Microsoft Office there is not this same fuzziness.

I went to Harvey Norman and looked at all of the Ultrabook screens. The best screen was on an ASUS HD with IPS technology followed by a Sony VAIO. The ASUS is nongloss which I like better than the gloss screen of the XPS V13.

Dell should have figured along the way that the screen is the most important part and perhaps should have a model differentiation based on a better screen. Screen is one area where Apple has gotten right and Dell needs to learn from Apple – the iPhone 4S screen blows this one away. Screens have gotten much better over the past few years so the bar has been raised against Dell. Their desktop U2410 and U2412M are really good – better than this XPS V13.

With The Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook you can really crank up the brightness to be comparable to a MacBook. This is done automatically when plugged in. In battery mode (the whole purpose of it) the default is a lower level of brightness yet this can be adjusted upwards. One downside is that the adjustment does not stay when powered off – so must adjust each time the laptop is turned on. Also, when cranked up in battery mode the brightness varies annoyingly probably part of the battery saving “features”yet I saw this on another brand of ultrabook as well so maybe this is an industry standard.

The Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook has HD and what this sometimes means is that I have had to reduce the resolution else the items look too small such as when using remote desktop for work - looks like the view on a 24 inch screen but shrunk down to a 13 inch screen.

One area of genius from Dell was to sell this with Windows 7 (on the business website) not Windows 8. From what I read, besides tanking global PC sales, Windows 8 kind of assumes everyone is a new user which I see as an insult to those who have used the software for decades. For my remote desktop for work the view is Windows 7 and I don’t think this will ever look like Windows 8. Heads should roll at Microsoft for Windows 8 as it appears kind of like a Windows VISTA debacle. If they get it right in future versions then the cost to upgrade from Windows 7 to 8 is really low.

You have seen my comments on the screen – I suggest a demotion of Dell Product Management responsible for this.

However, those in Dell responsible for the design should get promoted. In my view Dell has been a leader in design (in the Windows world) while others don’t consider design important and make ugly boxes. Example, while the ASUS Ultrabook IPS has a superior screen to the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook it looks boxy and industrial in comparison. For this XPS 13 thought was put into the feel of the keys, the back, a bit of two tone, and perhaps a little bit retro look to the keyboard fonts. I do like the backlit display, yet I don’t like the light coming out under the keys – yet I think that this is an industry poor standard. The LEDs are nice, a little LED showing at the power connector if it is plugged into the wall.

There is extra space in the bag I had for the V13 when the XPS13 is put in. Dell should offer bags as an option as I imagine their design team would pick nice ones.

Performance other than screen: very good. Nice quick start up. The V13 I thought was pretty good too.

I put a similar review on the Dell website yet it is interesting that the site does not show any reviews now including mine. Dell you had your chance to make good with me.

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