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(Pocket-lint) – The Dell XPS 13 has been the go-to Windows ultrabook for many years now. Dell could have just put the latest processors in the old chassis, and there probably wouldn’t have been many complaints.
Instead, the brand chose to present the XPS 13 Plus, a striking reimagining of what the perfect ultrabook should look like. This change is so drastic that Dell has decided to keep the older model as a separate option for those who aren’t so sold on it.
We were excited to put the new model through its paces and see what life is like with an invisible trackpad, almost no ports, and plenty of power. Here’s how we got away with it.
The Dell XPS 13 Plus is a superb laptop with one of the boldest and most attractive designs we’ve seen in years.
It’s exceptionally powerful, incredibly thin, and overall very pleasant to use.
To get so much power in such a small chassis, some compromises had to be made. And some of them might just be deal breakers.
Battery life is poor, the laptop heats up quickly, and ports are extremely limited.
Despite that, it’s probably the coolest Windows machine money can buy, but you’ll have to learn to live with some serious flaws.
Dell XPS 13 Plus review: Gorgeous, futuristic and hard to live with
- Minimalist design
- Extremely high level of finish
- Incredibly powerful for such a thin laptop
- Pleasant keyboard and screen
- Solid webcam with Windows Hello.
- Massive lack of ports
- The Touch Bar can be annoying
- Battery life needs improvement
- It is quite hot.
- Dimensions: 15.28 x 295.30 x 199.04mm
- Weight: 1.26kg
- Aluminum chassis, invisible touchpad, zero-lattice keyboard
The first thing you’ll notice about the XPS 13 Plus is the lack of a trackpad. It’s there, in the usual place, but there’s no marking to indicate where it starts and where it ends, just a transparent glass panel.
We were afraid to walk away from the trackpad, but that never happened. In use, it feels perfectly natural, like any other laptop, in fact. It is large enough and normally positioned, so that after the first few minutes you don’t even have to think about it.
Another interesting aspect of the trackpad is that it doesn’t click in the conventional way. Instead, there are haptic feedback motors underneath that simulate the feeling of a click, very convincingly. Overall it works well, although it takes some getting used to clicking and dragging to highlight text.
Part of the reason for this futuristic design choice is that the XPS 13 Plus needs as much space as possible to keep its beefy processor cool. The haptic trackpad takes up less space than a conventional trackpad, which is also why the capacitive touch function row was chosen.
In practice, the touch row works quite efficiently, and you can press the Fn key to switch between function keys and other handy controls for things like screen brightness, volume, and microphone mute. .
However, we had a hard time getting used to the delete and escape keys being capacitive touch keys. Especially when you have to type in a shortcut like “ctrl+alt+delete”, it feels unnatural. Maybe some haptic feedback in that area would improve things.
Another standout design choice is the keyboard, which features minimal spacing between its large keys and spans the full width of the laptop. Not only is it beautiful, but it is also very pleasant to use.
It took us a while to get used to the slightly oversized keys, but once we did, we were able to type on the keyboard with ease. The keyboard’s stiffness is fantastic, which is impressive compared to the flexibility of our Surface Laptop 4, but the key travel distance feels a bit more natural on Microsoft’s offering.
There’s one last bold design choice worth mentioning, which we believe was also made in the name of cooling space, and that’s the lack of ports. The XPS 13 Plus only has two USB Type-C ports, both of which are compatible with Thunderbolt 4.
This lack of connectivity makes even the MacBook Air seem generous, with its 3.5mm headphone jack and MagSafe power adapter. For the XPS, you’ll basically have to wear a dongle at all times if you want to do serious work. However, it should be noted that USB-C to A and USB-C to 3.5mm adapters are included in the box.
Screen, speakers and webcam
- 13.4 inch OLED touch screen, 3456 x 2160 pixel resolution.
- 60Hz refresh rate, 400nit brightness.
- Two stereo speakers (tweeter and woofer)
- 720P webcam with Windows Hello
The XPS 13 Plus can be configured with either IPS or OLED panels, with resolutions ranging from FHD+ to UHD+. Our review unit has an OLED display with a 3.5K resolution.
The screen is vibrant, quite bright and has all the inky black contrast you’d expect from a high-end OLED panel. The usual thinness of the edges of the XPS is also present, which gives the device an exceptionally elegant and modern look.
Viewing HDR content is particularly impressive on this screen, although some Windows settings have to be changed to get it to work on battery power. The game was worth the effort, displaying an incredibly realistic image with dazzling reflections.
The built-in speakers are better than many of the laptops we’ve tested, and if you need them, they can get really loud. There’s a definite lack of bass, but detail is nice and there’s decent separation between left and right channels.
A 720P webcam is tucked into the small bezel at the top of the screen and, given its size, it performs very well.
It’s not the highest resolution, but the quality is there and the color reproduction is good. Windows Hello support makes logging in super quick and also handy for making payments online, we were happy to see it included.
- Intel Core i7-1260P
- 12 cores, up to 4.7 GHz
- 32GB LPDDR5, 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD
The star of the show here is Intel’s monstrous 28W 12th Gen processor, with 12 cores and 16 threads. It’s a real feat to get this thing to work in such a thin and compact chassis.
That said, it’s quickly apparent that there’s plenty of power under the hood as the laptop heats up pretty quickly. You will definitely need to be careful if you are wearing shorts.
During a normal working day, the XPS 13 Plus coped with all the tasks given to it. From endless Chrome tabs to editing Photoshop images to editing 4K video files in Premiere.
It’s not a gaming machine, and it’s not advertised as such, but we couldn’t resist testing out a few titles. We found it could handle GTA V at 1080p, with a playable, albeit insufficient, 30fps framerate. CSGO, on the other hand, handled it very well, giving us 150+ fps at 1080p, low settings.
Battery life and charging
- Built-in 3-cell, 55Wh battery
- Autonomy of about 7 hours (if you’re lucky)
- 60W power adapter with USB Type-C
For us, the biggest sore point was the battery life. We could maybe squeeze 7 hours out of a charge, if we were careful, but more often than not we experienced 5-6 hours of battery life. Coming from a Ryzen-powered Surface Laptop 4, which frequently gives us 12 hours or more, this was a shock to the system.
This is apparently mainly due to the high-resolution OLED display, nice as it is, so if battery life is a concern, it’s probably worth considering the IPS FHD+ model instead.
The laptop charges via USB-C, which unfortunately takes up one of the two ports on the device, leaving you with just one port for your accessories. The plus side is that there are an abundance of third-party options if you’re ever without your charger. Additionally, you can use the laptop charger to charge your phone.
The XPS 13 Plus is a brave redesign of one of the brand’s favorite computers, and there’s a lot to be said for it. If you’re looking for the ultimate power in the thinnest chassis possible, this is the one for you. However, you will have to learn to live with some important compromises.
Written by Luke Baker. Edited by Conor Allison.