Dell XPS 13 Review

2016’s Dell XPS 13 is a powerful high-performance laptop suited for a wide variety of tasks. Today, we’re reviewing the latest Dell XPS 13 with InfinityEdge display and the Intel Core i7 Processor.

About the XPS 13

The Dell XPS 13 is one of Dell’s most powerful and stunning laptops. Featuring a QHD (3200×1800) touchscreen, a 256GB SSD, and an Intel Core i7-6500U processor, the Dell XPS 13 is no slouch when it comes to performance.

Other nifty features include the backlit keyboard, dual-array digital microphones, and Bluetooth connectivity.

Released in February 2016, the latest version of the Dell XPS 13 is priced starting at $1099.99. It’s available for purchase from Costco, Amazon, the official Dell website, and other major retailers. This is not quite classified as a mobile workstation, but is being hailed as their signature edition laptop of this year.

Is the Dell XPS 13 your next ultrabook? Let’s take a closer look at its tech specs.

Dell XPS 13 Tech Specs

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-6500U Quad-core with 2.5GHz
  • RAM: 8GB LPDD3 1866MHz
  • Storage: 256GB Solid State Drive (SSD)
  • OS: Microsoft Windows 10
  • Display: 13.3” touchscreen InfinityEdge Quad HD+ (3200×1800 resolution)
  • Graphics: Integrated Intel Iris Graphics 540
  • Connectivity: Dell Dual Band Wireless-AC 1820A WLAN and Bluetooth 4.1
  • Communications: Widescreen HD Webcam (720p) and Dual-array Digital Microphones
  • Sound: 2 x Stereo Speakers and MaxxAudio Pro Audio Processing
  • Keyboard: Dell Backlit Keyboard
  • Ports and Slots: 2 x USB 3.0 (1 with Powershare), 1 x Thunderbolt 3, 1 x Media Card Reader, 1 x Headphone Jack, Native DisplayPort 1.2 Video Output, VGA, HDMI, and Ethernet
  • Battery: 4-Cell 56 WHr Battery
  • Dimensions: 11.98” x 7.88” x 0.33” – 0.6”
  • Weight: 2.9 pounds

Dell XPS 13 Features

The Dell XPS 13 is a feature-rich ultrabook that surpasses many of its competitors in terms of tech specs. It’s also available at a surprisingly competitive price. That’s the tradeoff of the smaller, 13.3-inch screen: you can get powerful tech specs at a decent price, but you won’t get an enormous screen. Many users prefer that – especially since the resolution of the screen is so high (much higher than HD resolutions of 1920×1080).

Here are some of the most important features, pros, and cons to pay attention to with the Dell XPS 13:

Excellent Display

The XPS 13 is widely praised for having one of the best displays in its price range, and we have to agree. Featuring a 3200×1800 resolution display across 13 inches, the XPS 13 has a pixel density of 276 PPI. That’s far too sharp for your eyes to notice individual pixels.

The display itself is an IGZO panel, which is a technology introduced to the market by Sharp. Without getting too technical, IGZO uses amorphous silica to replace indium gallium zinc oxide, which boosts electron mobility many times over. That leads to faster response speeds.

One weird quirk with the display is that you can’t adjust Content Adaptive Backlight Control (CABC) how you like. This feature uses sensors to determine ambient brightness, and then adjusts your screen based on that information. Dell is reportedly releasing a tool that lets you adjust CABC in the future (it’s offered on all other Dell products).

Although the screen brightness is decent, many users have reported problems using the XPS 13 outdoors. The reflections off the screen are simply too strong.

Performance

When you’re buying the XPS 13 with the Core i7, you’re buying the laptop with the highest level of performance (i3 and i5 models are also available for a cheaper price). The Skylake Core i7-6500U processor is listed at 2.5GHz but can actually scale up to 3.1GHz when you need extra performance.

SSD

We also appreciated the 256GB Solid State Drive, which provides incredibly fast startup times, transfer times, and load times for everything on your computer. If you’re the type of person who needs mountains of space on your computer, then 256GB may not quite be enough. But if you want fast, powerful space, the 256GB SSD will get the job done.

CPU Performance

In benchmark tests performed on NotebookCheck.com, the Dell XPS 13-9350 Touch performed higher than almost all its competitors in CPU testing (only the Surface Pro 4 was higher).

Graphic Performance

It wasn’t quite the same story for graphics testing, where the XPS 13 was outperformed by the Surface Pro 4, the Surface Book, and the Apple MacBook Air 13. If you’re looking for enhanced graphical functionality and powerful gaming performance, then the integrated graphics on the XPS 13 won’t have quite enough power for modern gaming at high graphics settings.

Interestingly enough, the HD 520 graphics card used by the XPS 13 is the same used by the Surface Pro 4. However, the one in the XPS 13 is held back: maximum clock should be as high as 1050 MHz, but the HD 520 in the XPS 13 never gets above 1000 MHz. This is why we see a performance difference.

Average Webcam

If you’re planning to do a lot of Skyping with friends over your laptop, then the Dell XPS 13 might not have quite the performance you need. The webcam is capable of delivering 720p footage at 1280×720 pixels.

That might sound good – but it’s actually low for this price range. At this resolution, you’re going to notice problems with image sharpness and pixilation, especially when you’re indoors. Photos will also be pretty average. The webcam isn’t horrible, but it’s decidedly average.

Very Quiet

The XPS 13 is widely praised for its quiet performance. Even when you’re in high performance mode, the fan rarely spins. Notebookcheck.net reported a maximum idling noise of 34.8 dB(A), which is the same noise as under load.

Ultimately, the noise is described as being one of the quietest laptops in its class. For comparison, Apple’s MacBook Air 13 “roars” with 46 dB(A) in the same stress tests given to the XPS 13.

To put 30dB in perspective, it’s the amount of noise in a whisper-quiet library. A normal conversation from 3 feet away is 60 to 65dB.

Power Consumption and Battery Life

The XPS 13 showed some severe battery life problems when it first launched. However, these battery problems have since been solved.

In one battery test, the Wi-Fi test stopped 35% earlier on the i7 model compared to the i5 model (a difference of 118 minutes).

After the XPS 13 was released, Dell quickly released an updated version of its BIOS that addressed the battery life complaints. After testing battery life, the idle runtimes increased to 13:04 hours from 9:37 hours before the update.

As a result, the XPS 13 now competes well with its rivals and has some of the best battery life in its class. All it took was one BIOS update.

Casing and Design

Dell has always made good-looking XPS laptops, and the XPS 13 is no exception. The metal casing gives the ultrabook a smooth, impeccable build. It also has a surprisingly slim profile for an ultra-mobile design.

The bezel around the display is where the XPS 13 really starts to look sexy. The display bezel is extremely thin, making the high-resolution screen a joy to look at.

Dell XPS 13 Pricing

The Dell XPS 13 is available across a wide variety of retailers. Here are some prices we can find online:

  • Amazon: $1028.99
  • Costco: $1199.99
  • Dell.com: $1749.99

Note: Check the tech specs before you buy the XPS 13 and make sure it’s the 2016 model with the Core i7 processor. Dell has released plenty of XPS 13s in the past, and even the 2016 models can feature either the i3 or i5 processor. If you see a computer sold for a price significantly out of this price range, then it might not be the XPS 13 we reviewed in this article.

Conclusion: Should the Dell XPS 13 Be Your Next Laptop?

The Dell XPS 13 with the Intel Core i7 processor is a powerful laptop that comes outfitted with a beautiful display and strong tech specs. Performance testing shows that the XPS 13 competes with the very best in its class – including the Surface Pro 4 and the MacBook Air 13.

The few problems with the XPS 13 include a poor-quality webcam and the lack of control over the ambient light sensor. Early battery life problems at launch were quickly resolved with one BIOS update.

If you need an ultrabook with strong CPU performance and don’t need enormous graphical power, then the Dell XPS 13 with the Intel Core i7 may be your new laptop.

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