Dell XPS 13 9370 (2018) Review

Dell’s XPS 13 has remained our favorite consumer laptop for the past few years, thanks to its beautiful nearly borderless display, light weight and sleek aesthetic. Now, after multiple generations of sticking with the same chassis, Dell’s premium flagship has a new design with slimmer dimensions and a beautiful white-and-gold color scheme. In other improvements, the XPS 13 9370 ($999 to start, $1,249 / $2,499 as tested) also offers an optional 4K display, a better webcam, support for eGPUs and a cooling system that promises stronger sustained performance.

However, to make its laptop thinner, Dell switched to a smaller battery and got rid of USB Type-A ports. As a result, some users will prefer the older, XPS 13 9360, which is still for sale and is powered by the same Intel 8th Gen Core CPUs.

Design

If you put the last few generations of the XPS 13 in a lineup, you would not be able to tell them apart, unless you looked at the CPU sticker on the deck. However, the XPS 13 9370 stands out with its new, optional gold-and-white color scheme, along with a slightly slimmer and lighter profile. Dell also sells the 9370 in the XPS 13’s traditional silver-and-black aesthetic.

Though it costs a little bit more ($50 extra on the base model), you’ll definitely want to get the white color, because it’s just plain stunning. The lid and bottom are made from gold-colored aluminum, while the white sides and deck are fashioned from woven crystalline silica fiber.

The deck’s weave-like texture adds an air of sophistication and felt good against our wrists, though not quite as comfy as the soft-touch carbon-fiber deck on older XPS 13s and on the silver model.

No matter which color you choose, the XPS 13 is a little bit slimmer and lighter than its predecessor. The XPS 13 9370 weighs just 2.65 pounds and is a mere 0.46 inches thick at its thickest point (0.3 inches at its thinnest). The last generation XPS 13 9360 weighs 0.13 pounds more and is 0.14 inches thicker. HP’s Spectre 13 is even svelter, weighing 2.4 pounds and measuring 0.41 inches thick. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon tips the scales at 2.49 pounds, but is 0.6 inches.

Ports

Unfortunately, when slimming the XPS 13 down to 0.46 inches, Dell had to ditch the standard, USB Type-A ports and full-size SD card reader that appeared on all the previous generations. On the left side of the XPS 13 9370, you’ll find two Thunderbolt 3 ports, which can charge the laptop or connect to high-speed peripherals. There’s also a Noble lock slot and a battery gauge, which shows the charge level on a series of five white lights.

On the right, you’ll find a 3.5mm audio jack, a microSD card slot and a USB Type-C port, which can output DisplayPort video. Both the Dell XPS 13 9360 and ThinkPad X1 Carbon have standard USB ports in addition to the Thunderbolt 3, while the HP Spectre 13 also lacks USB Type-A connectors.

In a major improvement over the XPS 13 9360, the 9370’s Thunderbolt 3 ports support four-lane PCI connections so you can use the laptop with an eGPU (external graphics card) that enables serious gaming. Prior models had only two lanes of PCI connected to their Thunderbolt 3 ports, so they couldn’t work properly with external graphics. We tested the XPS 13 9370 with an Aorus Gaming Box 1070, and it worked.
Display

The XPS 13 9370’s 13.3-inch, InfinityEdge display has bezels that are 23 percent thinner than the almost nonexistent borders on the XPS 7360. Because there’s virtually no frame around the top and sides of the screen, images just seem to pop more.

We tested the Dell XPS 13 9370 with both a 3840 x 2160 (4K, Ultra HD) touch screen and a 1920 x 1080 non-touch screen. Both models offered impressive brightness, color quality and sharpness, though the 4K screen was noticeably better. When I watched the 4K movie Tears of Steel, the neon pink and green lights impressed on both displays, but were richer on the Ultra HD panel. Fine details, such as the wires on a robot’s body and the wrinkles in a character’s jacket, stood out on both panels, and colors stayed true, even at 90 degrees to the left or right.

According to our light meter, the XPS 13 9370 with 1080p screen achieved an impressive mark of 372 nits, while the model with the 4K panel blew us away with 415 nits. Both numbers are significantly higher than the ultraportable laptop category average (290 nits), the X1 Carbon (275 nits) and the HP Spectre 13 (247 nits). The XPS 13 9360 with 1080p screen scored a similar 368 nits.

The 1080p screen on the XPS 13 9370 reproduced an impressive 117 percent of the sRGB color gamut, but the 4K panel was much more vibrant, hitting a full 130 percent. Both numbers compare favorably to the category average (105 percent) and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (104 percent with 1080p screen). But the 1080p panel is only 5 to 6 percentage points ahead of the XPS 13 7360 (112 percent) and the Spectre 13 (111 percent).
Audio

The XPS 13 9370’s side-mounted speakers deliver audio that’s loud, but rough around the edges. When I played AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” the music was boisterous enough to more than fill our lab, but the guitar and drums were a little harsh and tinny. The pre-loaded Waves MaxxAudio software allows you to fine-tune the equalizer. Disabling MaxxAudio, which is on by default, made the music sound hollow and distant.

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