Revisiting Dell's XPS 13 Ultrabook, In Full HD

Introduction & Specifications

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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