The XPS 13 is probably Dell's most popular notebook, perhaps not in terms of "units shipped" as it is a high-end product, but it tops the list in terms of branding and overall product halo. We have the latest XPS 13 (Model 9300) and we'll see how it works in our tests.

Technical data highlights

Configuration as tested

Our special test device is configured with the following components: Intel Core i7-1065G7, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD and costs around 1449.99 USD on the Dell website.

System configuration options

Dell suggests a wide variety of configurations, ranging from the 10th generation Intel Core i3 to the Intel Core i7 and including 8, 16 and 32 GB of memory. The storage options are 256 GB, 512 GB, and 1 TB.

As a result, the entry-level model costs $ 999.99 while the fully loaded model on the Dell website costs more than $ 2000. We couldn't choose a 32GB RAM option so we don't know the real price of this configuration.

All systems also have Killer AX1650 WiFi and Bluetooth 5.1 for the purist, but these aren't usually fluctuating factors.

Industrial design: ultra-compact, ultra-high-performance

The Dell XPS 13 is known for its compact form factor and great industrial design. Because of this, it's often referred to as a potential “MacBook Pro 13 killer,” and that's true when you're ready to start using Windows.

We met with the Dell design team and got an in-depth look at the laptop, plus background information on the various changes and technical challenges associated with this new model.

It's amazing how much technology Dell was able to use in such a small space. It's more compact than that MacBook Air, which is often thought of as a reference for small 13.3-inch laptops. The XPS 13 leaves the MacBook Air in the dust as it uses the latest processor design from Intel.

"THE XPS 13 LEAVES THE MACBOOK AIR IN THE DUST"

Both laptops are the same weight, but the XPS 13 is more compact. In the general comparisons the XPS 13 goes through, this becomes Lenovo X1 Carbon is significantly lighter at 1090 g compared to 1270 g. Nevertheless, the X1 Carbon is also considerably larger due to its 14-inch display and the focus on robustness (MIL-STD-810G certified).

To do this, Dell looked at all possible solutions to save space and pushed the industrial design of laptops to the limit to create this new XPS 13 (9300).

Keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard has large keys and is very comfortable to use. It doesn't have features like curved surfaces, but the key travel (~ 1mm?) And tactile feedback are both very decent.

My favorite feature of the keyboard is the backlighting, which creates a soft halo around the keys and also illuminates the character in the middle. I'm sure this detail was quite difficult to incorporate and I wish other OEMs would copy it in the future.

Ports

The Dell XPS 13 model 9300 only has two USB-C ports. Fortunately, both support Thunderbolt 3, the fastest and most versatile protocol that sometimes allows for multi-monitor, high-speed storage, and even external GPUs.

Even so, you might still run into the problem of forgetting your USB-C dongle when plugging in a projector or even using a simple USB stick storage device, for example.

If your work requires constant use of full-sized USB-A and HDMI / Monitor ports, take a minute to assess the downside of these ports not being built in. However, this is the price for an ultra-compact laptop.

Sound / speaker quality

The sound quality of the Dell XPS 13 is quite good, especially for a laptop of this size. You will have no problems watching movies and making high quality video calls.

However, we did notice some distortion of the acute sound when you increase the volume above 70%. I think that both the Huawei Matebook X Pro and Lenovo Yoga C940 design have better audio and remain the top laptops in that regard.

display

The Dell XPS 13 (9300) has a great IPS LCD display with excellent color rendering (100% sRGB coverage), decent brightness (268 NITs), along with incredibly good contrast and color uniformity that got 4.5 / 5 and 4.5 / 5 according to our SpyderXElite monitor analysis.

"IMPRESSIVE THIN BEZELS"

The bezels are impressively thin, and that's one of the reasons the XPS 13 can be insanely compact: you can't make a laptop smaller than the screen size, including the bezels, and this is the ultimate place to tweak right now.

The Dell XPS 13 2020 webcam is relatively standard from an image quality standpoint, but how small the camera module is is remarkable (for a laptop). I suspect that in-screen webcams will be the next frontier.

In 2020, several OEMs, including Dell and HP, are using extremely small camera modules in their laptops, so you can have a thin bezel and top-mounted webcam at the same time.

Pen (or lack of)

The XPS 13 9300 does not come with a pen and is not compatible with a digital pen. You can use a simple rubber pencil that simulates touchscreen interaction.

Dell has another laptop, the XPS 13 2-in-1 (Model 7390) that is compatible with the Dell Premium Active Pen. If you are creative and need a pen, this is the place to go for a look too.

XPS 13 speed

There are relatively small variations in computing speed between laptops running on the same processor. In general, the benchmarks should target which “class” of laptops you are looking at rather than trying to over-analyze a small 5% difference here and there.

According to our research, a lot of people compare the Dell XPS 13 to the Dell XPS 15, and that's why we're going to add the 15-inch version numbers here as there are significant speed differences that need to be highlighted.

Our The Dell XPS 13 Core i7 device performed very well against other popular computers, people often compare it to (according to Google), namely that Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 and the MacBook Air 13. While the Microsoft laptop isn't far behind, the aging processor design of the MacBook Air can be clearly felt in synthetic benchmarks like Geekbench 5.

"OUR DELL XPS 13 CORE I7 DEVICE DONE VERY WELL"

The XPS 15 data shows some fluctuation factors: multicore CPU and graphics performance, both of which are much higher than the fastest version of the XPS 13. If you want to edit video, you should also consider the Dell XPS 17.

This is not surprising as the XPS 15 has a more powerful CPU option and a discrete graphics processor. The large case allows for much better thermal management. If you want superior "absolute performance" the XPS 15 is the obvious choice between the two.

XPS 13 battery life

The XPS 13 9300 has a battery capacity of 52 Wh, which is very comparable in its category, and virtually all close competitors have similar battery sizes.

With an equivalent CPU configuration, the differences between different laptops depend on whether they have a 4K display (-20% to 30% battery life) or a discrete GPU.

In the PCMark10 battery test "Modern Office", which continuously performs productivity tasks, This laptop lasted ~ 14h41mnwhich is pretty impressive.

We measured the charging speed of the battery at 34 Wh per 60 minutes free, which is common. For example, the Lenovo Yoga C940 has a charging speed of 42 Wh per 60 minutes – that's significantly faster (~ 23%), so things could get better here.

On the other hand, the Dell XPS 13a power supply is tiny and more convenient to transport.

Fast charge is particularly useful for frequent travelers or highly mobile users who do not have easy access to an electrical outlet. For people who go to a meeting here and there, it's not that critical.

Conclusion

The Dell XPS 13 is the best ultra-compact 13.3-inch notebook and deserves its excellent reputation. It's a fabulous all-round computer that doesn't compromise, and while you might complain about the lack of a USB-A port, there aren't really any alternatives (at this size) that have a USB-A port.

The performance in relation to the size is also particularly good and offers quite a punch for an ultra-compact. The display quality is good enough for creative work too, though I'd rather think the XPS 15 would be a much better creative laptop if budget wasn't an issue.

"THE BEST ULTRA-COMPACT 13.3 INCH"

If you're considering the MacBook Air and don't want to bother Windows, the XPS 13 is better than the MacBook Air in every way except it won't run macOS.

The $ 800 Surface Laptop 13.5 ”offers a remarkably attractive value proposition, but please rate that 128 GB SSD storage enough. I think it's too tight.

If the form factor suits your usage and the Dell XPS 13 fits your budget, we highly recommend it as it's a nice 13.3-inch laptop.

While we haven't tested all of the variants of this laptop, the various configurations have small variations in speed / price so you can optimize the value of a potential purchase.

Overall product rating: 9.8 / 10

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