Dell XPS 13 2-In-1 (2019) Review: A Near-Perfect Intel 10th Gen Laptop

Dell XPS 13 7390: White Spun Glass Is Back, Powered By Ice Lake

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Dell's XPS family of premium laptops has long been synonymous with excellent performance and build quality. In particular, the XPS 13 lineup has included some of the most highly awarded ultraportable PCs on the market today. Today, we have Dell's latest XPS 13 on hand: model 7390, which is a 2-in-1 model with a 360 degree hinge and a 13.3-inch multi-touch IPS display that converts what looks like an otherwise-traditional laptop into a tablet. Perhaps more importantly, this is the first retail notebook we've gotten our mitts on with Intel's 10nm CPUs, codenamed Ice Lake, in tow. In fact, Dell says this is the first notebook shipped to market with an Ice Lake processor inside.

Anticipation for Intel's newest CPUs grew back in July when the company officially announced the Core i7-1065G7, based on the latest manufacturing process. We took one of the speediest 10th-Gen CPUs, the Core i7-1065G7, for an early spin as part of a Software Development System, in a purpose-built 15" notebook. At the time, performance was outstanding, but questions remained how this CPU would do when stuffed into a tiny, retail-ready system like the XPS 13 7390 we have on hand today. We'll definitely get to that, but first let's take a tour of this lightweight laptop and check out the specs. 

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Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 starts at $999 with a Core i3-1005G1 processor, 4 GB of memory, and a 256 GB PCI Express SSD, though current discounts bring that starting price down a bit. Other processor options include the Core i5-1035G1 and higher-end Core i7-1065G7, which serves as the brains of our review unit. The digit after the G indicates graphics performance: G1 for the lower-spec UHD Graphics IGP and G7 for Iris Plus graphics with more horsepower. System memory configurations range from 4 to 32 GB of LPDDR4X memory, all of which is integrated into the motherboard. In the 2-in-1 line, the SSD is also integrated into the motherboard, and options of 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1 TB are available. All of the available options have four lanes of PCI Express 3.0 connectivity. 

Dell XPS 13 7390 Test Unit Configuration

At the heart of the XPS 13 7390 seen here is Intel's latest Ice Lake Core i7-1065G7 CPU with the company's Sunnycove processor cores. This CPU has four cores with hyper-threading, and speeds range between 1.3 and 3.9 GHz. This particular unit employs the default 15W TDP configuration. Dell paired Intel's 10nm CPU with 16 GB of LPDDR4X-3733 RAM in a dual-channel configuration. With this setup, the machine offers a boatload of bandwidth: nearly 60 GB per second. That throughput feeds not only the CPU but also the Core i7-1065G7's Iris Plus graphics, which has a whopping 64 execution units. Primary storage is 512 GB of speedy Toshiba NVMe solid state storage, all built into the motherboard, with four lanes of PCI Express 3.0 connectivity.

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The CPU and memory subsystem aren't the only components that are fast, though. Dell graced the latest XPS 13 with Killer AX1650 Wi-Fi, which supports the new Wi-Fi 6 standard and its 160 MHz channels for a maximum throughput of 2.4 gigabits per second. While physics always tends to get in the way of reaching theoretical maximum throughput, we had no problem saturating our 150 megabit internet connection or transferring files from a desktop with a wired gigabit ethernet connection over the XPS 13 7390's Wi-Fi while sitting approximately 25 feet from our TPLink Archer C7 router. It's good that the Wi-Fi module is fast, since there's not an ethernet port to be found on a notebook this thin without picking up a dock or a USB adapter.

Our aluminum and white review unit has a backlit keyboard with magnetic levitation keys, which we found to be comfortable while typing. The MagLev keys have just 1.3 millimeters of travel, but they also have a nice tactile feel. The arrow keys are half-height, and Page Up and Page Down sit directly above the left and right arrows. At first we found ourselves accidentally advancing the page up or down instead of arrowing around while we typed, but after a while it became second nature. This article was produced in its entirety using just the XPS 13 7390's MagLev keyboard and it didn't take long before we were typing up to speed.

backlit kb

Below the keyboard is a spacious clicky trackpad. You won't find any buttons on this pad, but the bottom half of the pad clicks on the left and right sides to replicate mouse buttons. The trackpad also supports all the multi-touch gestures for window management and scrolling that you would expect. Three-fingered swipes to switch apps and minimize or maximize application windows, and two-fingered scrolling are all along for the ride.

Dell XPS 13 Sights And Sounds

Above the keyboard is a 1920x1200 16:10 aspect touch-enabled IPS display with a maximum brightness of 500 nits. This panel supports 100% of the sRGB color space and has a contrast ratio of 1800:1. A 3840x2400 UHD touch display with HDR 400 support and the same 500 nits maximum brightness is available as an upgrade. Both display options boast Dolby Vision certification, 170-degree viewing angles, an anti-reflective coating with oleophobic properties to resist smudges, and a low-blue filter dubbed EyeSafe. Thanks to the high contrast ratio and relatively high pixel density, movies and webpages alike look great on our test unit's FHD display.
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The integrated speakers are surprisingly loud and sound pretty good considering they dwell in such a thin portable PC, but they're still laptop speakers so don't expect miracles. However, Dell tuned the speaker array with MaxxAudio created by Waves, which is known for its audio DSP plug-in effects. If you prefer something a little beefier or more private, a headphone jack is available for external speakers or a four-pole headset with audio conferencing capabilities, and it drove our desktop speakers perfectly. The built-in microphone is no slouch, either–Dell says the built-in far field microphone can detect your voice and launch Cortana from up to 14 feet away, and it worked well for us from across the room.

There's also a 720p wide-angled webcam for video chats, but there's no infrared support on tap so you can't log in with just your face. The power button doubles as a fingerprint reader though, if you want to use biometric authentication via Windows Hello. The lack of infrared camera is completely permissible in such a diminutive system, as IR sensors tend to take up a lot of space, and the bezels here are some of the thinnest we've yet encountered. Between the webcam and the speaker array, you'll have no problem Skype chatting or just chilling with Netflix.

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Since this machine is meant to be thin and light, Dell kept the port configuration lightweight. A pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports grace each side of the unit, and a single one of these is all you need to interface with Dell's optional Thunderbolt dock or other Thunderbolt peripherals. Each port gets its own four lanes of PCI Express 3.0 connectivity and support USB-C Power Delivery. The included 45 watt AC adapter uses USB-C, and we like that Dell skipped a proprietary plug. To help users avoid the dongle life, Dell also includes a USB 3.0 Type-C to Type-A adapter in the box. The only other ports are a micro SD card reader and a four-pole 3.5 millimeter headset jack which supports stereo headphones with or without an integrated microphone. While the connectivity is light, we appreciate that Dell skipped proprietary plugs in favor of straight Thunderbolt.

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