Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Tech: Dell XPS 13 review


I've used a lot of laptops to write Shangrila Towers over the years, and the trend has been to seek out as much horsepower as I could afford in a sub 3-pound package. I started out on a tiny Acer Aspire One, moved up to a slightly less tiny HP Mini 210, and then upgraded to a nearly-human-sized Lenovo ThinkPad X120e as my finances improved.

The subject of today's review is the Dell XPS 13, an ultraportable laptop I picked up last year (you can still order it from Dell's website, although now the models pack 7th gen Intel Core processors).

Case Design and Form Factor

Dell bills the XPS 13 as the smallest 13" laptop in the world, and if they're wrong, they're not far off. The bezel around the 1920x1080 display is very thin, allowing the screen to run nearly to the edge of the case. Physically, it's a very slim, very sexy piece of kit, with a brushed aluminum exterior and carbon fiber palmrests. The thin profile doesn't allow for an overwhelming amount of ports, so if you need to connect to a projector, you probably want to spring for the adapter Dell sells.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The XPS uses a backlit island style keyboard that is fairly satisfying to type on. The finish on the chiclet keys is a little slick for my taste, but the keys themselves have good travel, and the keyboard has proven to be pretty durable. One big miss - the touchpad has those annoying integrated buttons that are easy to misclick.

Performance and Battery Life

The XPS is a big step up from my previous laptops in terms of performance. The onboard Core i5-6200U processor and 8 gigs of RAM can handle anything short of intense 3D gaming; even games like Civilization VI run okay. I do wish I opted for a larger hard drive - the 128 GB SSD is just too small for general use in 2017.

At first, this laptop had astonishing battery life (easily over 10 hours), but lately the battery has been draining in about 7-8 hours.


I really like the XPS 13. It's probably one of the best choices in this segment, and it's going to be the home of Shangrila Towers for the foreseeable future.


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