Revisiting Dell's XPS 13 Ultrabook, In Full HD

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From the press materials to the construction, it's clear Dell is trying to one-up Apple's MacBook Air. This machine features bonded Corning Gorilla Glass, machined aluminum, and carbon fiber construction.


Compared to the 13-inch MacBook Air, Dell's XPS 13 Ultrabook is a little thicker and ever-so-slightly heavier. It measures 12.4 inches (W) by 8.1 inches (D) by 0.24-0.72 inches and weighs 2.99 pounds, whereas the MacBook Air checks in at 12.8 inches (W) by 8.94 inches (D) by 0.11-0.68 inches (H) and 2.96 pounds.

The top cover on Dell's systems is precision-cut from a single block of aluminum and feels rigid at every corner. Dell went with a carbon fiber composite base that it says is every bit as strong as aluminum, but cooler to the touch and lighter. A ring of anodized aluminum wraps around the base like lipstick, adding to both the aesthetic and overall solid construction. It's arguably not as sexy as the MacBook Air, only because Apple's machine looks paper thin, but it's a fine looking Ultrabook with a premium look and feel. It also has rounded corners, so if you're a college student, the XPS 13 should slip into and out of your backpack without getting caught up on anything.

As you'll see further down the page, the XPS 13 utilizes a tapered design that is increasingly thin towards the front.


Dell's most proud of the XPS 13's new panel. Customers can now opt for a Full HD 1080p (1920x1080) display with twice as many pixels as a 720p screen. In case you're keeping count (and Dell is), that works out to 44 percent more pixels than an HD+ panel found on the 13-inch MacBook Air. It's not just about pixel count, though.

It's a brighter display than before, which Dell rates at 350-nits, and offers exceptional viewing angles at up to 178 degrees. Dell's not overselling the panel quality -- it's exceptionally bright at full bore, vivid, and easily viewable from multiple positions without significant degradation. Dell also claims the XPS 13's displays offers a 72 percent color gamut versus the 45 percent color gamut on standard panels. We weren't able to run screen through DisplayMate's tests, like we do with our monitor reviews, but subjectively, pictures and text looked crisp and sharp.



Sitting center below the keyboard is a glass touchpad with integrated buttons and gesture support. It's plenty large for this size Ultrabook, and if you learn the different gestures, it's easy to navigate Windows 8 like a boss. Swiping from the right side of the touchpad and towards the left, for example, brings up the Charms menu. When it works, anyway. It takes a little practice to get accustomed to the gesture response, which can be a bit finicky at times. Otherwise, it feels nice and soft to the touch.

Flanking the touchpad on both sides are magnesium alloy palmrests with soft touch paint. It has a rubberized feel similar to some smartphones that adds to the comfort level, with the added bonus of not attracting fingerprints and smudges the way glossy finishes do.

As for the keyboard, it falls just short of pure awesome. Dell nailed the spacing between keys, and the curved keycaps mold comfortably to your fingertips as you hammer out emails and documents. Plus, it sports a backlight! On the downside, the key travel is just a little too short for our tastes, and inherent to the 13.3-inch form factor, there just isn't room to squeeze in a numpad, not without squishing the other keys, anyway. Overall, Dell delivers a really nice typing experience



Our ports picture gives you a better glimpse of the tapered design that we touch on earlier. This allows the XPS 13 to remain relatively thin without giving up access to full sized ports towards the back, though it does rule out the inclusion of a built-in optical drive. With so much emphasis now on cloud computing, this won't be a problem for most users.

From left to right, you can make out the AC power port, USB 3.0 port with PowerShare, and the headset jack. Note that the USB 3.0 port is not color-coded blue, but it is indeed a SuperSpeed port.



Over on the right side is an LED battery gauge indicator that you can turn on or off, another USB 3.0 port without PowerShare (and also non-color coded), and a mini DisplayPort. It's a little curious (and disappointing) that there's no HDMI output, though at least the XPS 13 is Intel WiDi ready.

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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.

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

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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?

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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...

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

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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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