Dell XPS 13 (2017) Review

Dell’s XPS 13 has been our favorite laptop overall for the past couple of years, thanks to its light weight, long battery life, beautiful InfinityEdge screen and premium design. To keep up with the times, Dell has upgraded its 13-inch flagship with Intel’s new 8th Gen Core (aka Kaby Lake R), quad-core processor platform. Though the new, $1,299 model is otherwise no different from the 7th Gen-powered XPS 13 that Dell continues to sell, it offers much stronger performance and longer battery life while maintaining all the features that make this the best consumer laptop you can buy.

Design

Dell hasn’t changed the design on the XPS 13 in a few years, but there’s a lot to like about the aesthetic. The lid and bottom surface of the laptop are made from CNC machined aluminum that’s either silver or rose gold, depending on which color you choose.

The sides, back hinge and deck are made from a luxurious, soft-touch carbon fiber. I particularly like the deck, which has a subtle crosshatch pattern and a palm rest that’s one of the softest and most comfortable I have ever used.

The screen uses Dell’s famous InfinityEdge display, which has almost no bezel at all on the sides and top but places the webcam below the screen. The hinge that moves the lid is one of the strongest and tightest I’ve ever seen, which gives the laptop a high-quality feel but also requires two hands to open.

At 2.78 pounds and 11.98 x 7.88 x 0.6 inches, the XPS 13 is remarkably light and compact. Competitors such as Apple’s 12-inch MacBook (2.03 pounds, 0.52 inches thick) and Asus’ ZenBook 3 Deluxe (2 pounds, 0.47 inches thick) are even svelter, but both have smaller screens and fewer ports. Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2.49 pounds, 0.6 inches thick) has a larger footprint to accommodate its 14-inch screen, but it, too, weighs less than the XPS 13.
Ports

Unlike competitors that prioritize thinness over functionality, Dell outfits its lightweight laptop with a full array of useful ports. On the right side, you’ll find a USB 3.0 port, an SD card reader and a Noble lock slot. A Thunderbolt 3 port, a second USB 3.0 port, a proprietary charging connector and a 3.5mm audio jack live on the left side. Next to the audio jack, there’s a battery meter button and five lights that can show you how much juice you have, even when the system is off.

The Thunderbolt 3 port is particularly helpful, because it allows you to charge the laptop, output to multiple monitors and connect to high-speed USB-C and Thunderbolt peripherals over a single wire.

Unfortunately, the XPS 13’s Thunderbolt port supports only two PCI Express lanes rather than the four you get on other laptops, so Dell’s system doesn’t support eGPUs. (You can use some of them after bypassing a warning, but they run at lower speeds.)
Display

The XPS 13’s base-level 1080p, nontouch screen offers richly colored, detailed images and extremely wide viewing angles. When I watched a trailer for Thor: Ragnarok, shades like the purple in a statue and the mint green in Thor’s armor really stood out. The matte surface of the panel made fine details, such as Bruce Banner’s stubble,really sharp. Having almost no bezel on the sides and top of the screen also helps improve the experience.

Because the panel doesn’t reflect a lot of ambient light and the screen is so bright, viewing angles were some of the strongest I’ve seen. Colors didn’t fade at all from 90 degrees to the left or right, and they even stayed true when I moved the lid forward a bit. So, if you’re using the XPS 13 on an airplane tray and the person in front of you leans back, forcing you to lower your screen, you can still watch a movie.

According to our colorimeter, the XPS 13 can reproduce a vibrant 112 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is more than the category average (101 percent), as well as what we saw from the Lenovo X1 Carbon (104 percent) and the 7th Gen XPS 13 we tested last year (94 percent). The MacBook (117 percent) was a little more vibrant, and the Asus ZenBook 3 (111 percent) was about on a par.

The XPS 13 measured a strong 368 nits of brightness on our light meter. That’s far more luminous than the category average (289 nits), the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (275 nits), the 2016 XPS 13 (302 nits), the ZenBook 3 (309 nits) and the MacBook (340 nits).

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