Dell XPS 13 Review Late 2015: Refreshed With Skylake

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Software and User Experience

One thing can be said for Dell and the XPS 13 -- they don't mess around with bloatware.  Apart from a preinstalled copy of McAfee and a few Dell management applications, we are looking at a bare-bones Windows 10 loadout which makes it very quick and easy to get running out of the gate.  As an aside, our unit was not affected by the eDell certificate vulnerability.

Thanks to very capable hardware including the SSD, the XPS 13 cold boots to the desktop in a hair under 18 seconds.  Additionally, all programs load virtually without hesitation which enables you to be unrestricted in your productivity.  The cold application starts are helped pretty significantly by the new Intel SpeedShift technology unlocked with the Windows 10 November update which enables Skylake processors to manage their own frequency.  This significantly reduces processor ramp up times and decreases system latency. In brief, it will not help much with long queues of synchronous tasks but any burst oriented workflows will complete just a bit more fluidly. The ultra fast SSD in the machine also helps in this regard.

xps13 display mirroring
When 13 inches won't do

Dell's optional USB 3.1 Type C display and Ethernet adapter is very well designed.  It provides ports for HDMI, VGA, USB 3.0 Type A and Gigabit Ethernet in a convenient 2-3/8" x 2-3/8" x 11/16" package.  We did have some issues initially with connections dropping, but a Thunderbolt firmware update did resolve them.  While the reversible Type-C connection isn't essential here, it does make it more convenient to direct USB and Ethernet cables to the rear of the notebook if desired without needing to perform any kind of contortions.  This adapter includes an older revision of HDMI which only supports 1080p at 60Hz despite having the bandwidth to push 4K over USB 3.1.  If you have 4K needs, you should instead opt for their Thunderbolt Dock which can drive two 4K displays or a third party solution.  The $75 price tag isn't unreasonable for a dock but still feels steep considering this omission, but like the XPS 13 itself, transportability offers a lot of value.

xps13 display dock closeup
Greatly expand your options with this pocket-sized adapter

The keyboard and typing experience is the closest thing to a flaw the XPS 13 has.  The size of the keys are fine, but they have very short travel distance.  This makes it trivial to accidentally double tap the space bar, for instance.  That's not to say the keyboard is unuseable or even uncomfortable, it just has that trade-off and will likely require some time to adjust to if you are primarily accustomed to something like a standard desktop keyboard.  As a plus, the backlit keys can be cycled in intensity or disabled entirely with the touch of a button.  We particularly like that the whitepoint of the backlights and other LEDs very closely matches that of the display which improves the cohesion of the overall aesthetic.

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