The Dell XPS series has given us some of our favourite Windows laptops for quite sometime now but will the new 2018 iteration be any good when compared to the likes of the razor-slim Asus Zenbook UX430UQ and Apple lover’s MacBook delight?
In practice, yes. We usually end up recommending an XPS 'cos it packs a bit of everything. Amazing build quality? It’s here. Gorgeous new paint job? Pick up the Rose Gold variant, easy. Beefy specs? Quite the One Punch Man this. How big? It will put an A4 size book to shame.
Our review variant is top specced with a 4K and HDR screen but we’ve reviewed a lower variant with 1080p screen as well. So let's see if the XPS 13 is worth your hard-earned money or not.
Dell XPS 13 (2018) Design
Over the years Dell has been consistent with their build quality. The XPS 13 is strong and sturdy, without any flimsy parts. In fact, it’s an absolute package of premium cladding. There’s a refreshingly new colour here as well. The aluminium shell is shaded in Rose Gold and sports a striking alpine white colour with a woven glass fiber palm rest, while the Platinum Silver comes with a black carbon fiber palm rest. The inner soft touch is part of the XPS’s appeal and personally, I really love it.
Among the lightest and thinnest, the XPS is not much of a benchmark. It’s 1.21kgs and not very far from competing with razor-thin laptops. But it really stands out because of how compact it is — I could move it around using my index finger and thumb.
Remember mocking Apple MacBooks for being dongle junkies? Well, with the XPS 13 you get three USB-C ports, one headphone jack and a microSD slot. That's it. Welcome to the dongle age maybe? All three USB-Cs support DisplayPorts, of which, the two on the left side have Thunderbolt 3. You even get a USB-C to USB-A adapter in the box.
Dell XPS 13 (2018): Display and sound
Recognising a Dell XPS is really easy - You look at the bottom of the screen. Dell has again placed the camera under the screen, so be ready to fill the screen with your flabby double chin when firing it up. Why? Because Dell thinks the screen is important than the camera and we tend to agree.
The screen borders are now 23% thinner, reducing from 5.4mm to 4.2mm. The 13.3in display comes in two options - one with a 1080p and the other sporting a 4K HDR display. Our review unit was the 4K display with HDR display and it was an absolute stunner. The colours were well saturated, the contrast was natural-like and the blacks were just begging to start an episode from Netflix’s Altered Carbon. It’s a touchscreen too, which honestly is a bit pointless because the laptop doesn’t turn over backwards for some 2-in-1 advantages. However Dell says that this is more of a manufacturing aspect over design. You see, most 4K laptop screen manufacturers include a touchscreen.
Our team has reviewed a 1080p variant and that too is brilliant. For the 4K HDR screen with touchscreen you’ll need to shell out ₹1,59,790 which is ₹18,300 more than the ₹1,41,490 variant that has the same specs as the 4K model but with a 1080p screen.
The lower two variants get an anti-glare display while the highest 4K variant has a gloss finish. And with 400 nits, it’s pretty bright too.
The speakers are loud with a good amount of detail. Though the bass is almost non-existential. It doesn’t really trouble the Apple MacBook’s speakers.
Dell XPS 13 (2018): Performance and battery
Dell has plonked in an Intel i7-8550U processor with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. It works flawlessly with Windows and daily tasks are a breeze. It’s the era of processing cores so you evidently get four over the traditional two cores. Basically what this means is you can move from colour correcting your DSLR shots to producing soundtracks for your next basement party without any hiccups.
The USB-C charger is a step forward for Dell. The laptop does heat up while charging which is weird because what is the charging adapter for? Meanwhile, it doesn’t heat up when working and binging on content. This might also have something to do with Dell’s new thermal insulation trick called GORE. Dell says this new material has less conductivity than air and hence keeps the heat away from your soft hands. So even if you crack up the pace of workload on the innards, your hands ain’t gonna to get toasty.
Any thoughts of playing games on this won’t cross your mind as much, and it shouldn’t because there’s no dedicated GPU here. The Intel UHD graphics 620 is a bare minimum to run any of latest titles.
We got about a little under seven hours of battery life from the laptop and it’s not bad at all for something stuck to a 4K HDR screen. The 1080p version pulls in about 10 hours of work time. So if you’re someone always sitting away from a plug point, the 1080p variant could be your calling.
Dell XPS 13 (2018): Keyboard and trackpad
Dell hasn’t spared a button to cheap out here. The keyboard is a high quality treat. It’s a slightly silent typing affair with some amount of resistance from the keys. You can adjust the backlight between bright, dim to completely off.
The trackpad steals the show. It is a delight to work on with the smooth textured glass surface. Even the buttons are nice and clickety. It’s not as generously spaced out as the MacBook but it’s sufficient and one of the best in the market right now.
The fingerprint sensor embedded in the power button is a boon for anyone trying to avoid Windows Hello for a chin recognition.
Dell XPS 13 (2018) Verdict
The Dell XPS 13 isn’t the world’s thinnest or lightest wonder out there but it won’t break your back or lose a size battle to most. Which is fine, because it trumps where the competition doesn’t.
Packed in that amazing body is a gorgeous screen that’s calibrated to your binge-friendly routines. The innards, combined with Intel’s latest and greatest, do most of the heavy lifting without breaking a sweat.
The 4K and HDR variant is worth the jump, if you have ₹18,300 to spare. Otherwise, we love the 1080p variant as much too. Sure, it’s a bit costlier than its competitors, but those aren’t XPS.