The Dell XPS 13 may be getting a little long in the tooth now, but has the addition of the latest 7th generation Intel CPU’s shown there is still life in the old dog?
The chassis is instantly familiar and has changed little from previous models. The awkwardly positioned camera remains to give the most unflattering image possible (and does not support Windows Hello) and there is a good selection of ports on either side. Besides the Dell-specific power socket (which is a shame) there is a Thunderbolt 3 port, USB 3 and headset socket. There is also a useful battery status light. On the other side there is a slot for a security cable, another USB 3 socket featuring PowerShare and a SD card slot.
The chassis feels sturdy and well-made – it has that hewn-from-a-block-of-metal feel beloved of German cars. There is no flex, and while the XPS is not heavy by any stretch of the imagination, is does not feel flimsy.
Unfortunately, the laptop remains as awkward to open as in previous generations and could really do with some sort of lip to flip up the screen.
Keyboard and Trackpad
Once open, the feeling of quality continues. The keys have good travel and are backlit. There is no flex and bend in the keyboard, and the trackpad is one of the best I’ve used, with multi-touch capability and again, that feeling of quality. Unfortunately, there is no fingerprint reader on this model, although it is an option in some regions.
The 13.3 inch glossy touch-screen is a fingerprint magnet, but in the QHD+ (3200×1800) variant here it is absolutely stunning. Blacks are deep and colours pop. It is an absolute joy to use, and the much vaunted tiny bevel really does give the feel of a large screen on this very small chassis. It does, however, show up many of the problems Windows 10 has with scaling on high DPI screens.
This particular model is the core i7-7500U, with 16gb RAM and a 500gb SSD. As you would expect, this laptop flies through pretty much anything that is thrown at it (albeit only marginally faster than the outgoing model). Other than games. Intel HD 620 Graphics mean that this is not a gaming rig. Do not expect to be playing Forza any time soon. However, it is more than adequate for less demanding games such as Minecraft. It is a shame that this model is not offered with an alternative graphics card (as in previous generations.)
WiFi is impressively fast on this laptop, supporting 802.11ac with Bluetooth 4.1 also being available.
Software-wise, the laptop ships with Windows 10 Home (Pro is an option), and trial editions of Microsoft Office and McAfee, along with a number Dell utilities. Obviously, not as clean as a Signature Edition, but better than some.
Battery and Thermals
Battery life is interesting – the XPS 13 has a chunkier 60 watt-hour battery and I have seen reports of this laptop lasting 14 hours in normal use. This has not been my experience over the first week of use – 11 hours has been the best I have achieved so far with the power-saving settings at their most aggressive.
As for temperature, the chassis remains cool in normal use. However, some applications will cause the fan to kick in (Google Chrome, I’m looking at you..) The fan is relatively quiet, but definitely audible.
This laptop is going to be my daily driver for the next year and I will report back in 6 months with a longer term view of it. At present, it represents good value for money if you want the very latest Intel has to offer, although not really a worthwhile upgrade if you have the previous model.