Dell XPS 13 (2018) Laptop Review
Is this Dell the best ultraportable we've ever seen?
Ah, Dell. Cue the wistful sigh. Known for reliable builds and affordability, the company is a fan favorite here at Reviewed. On the other hand, we also feel like utilitarian design is becoming a bit dated. Fortunately, the tech giant recently refreshed its XPS laptop line in a big way, and we're so here for it. To quote Samuel L. Jackson from Jurassic Park: Hold onto your butts.
The new Dell XPS 13 (2018) (available at Dell for $1,850.00), with its killer looks and colorful display, tics all the right boxes. In addition to the eye-catching color scheme and barely-there bezels, the keyboard is an absolute dream to type on. But while we love the responsive touchpad and customization options, it's not a flawless product.
For example, the webcam is located at the bottom of the display, which makes for some really unflattering angles. Dell also ditched the older ports, meaning you'll need to crack out an adapter. Last but not least, the XPS is one noisy machine. It's not a deal-breaker per se, but it might be distracting in a classroom environment. Drawbacks aside however, we think this XPS is the best 13-inch laptop you can buy.
About the Dell XPS 13 (2018)
The new XPS comes in three configurations. The base model ($999) features 4GB of RAM, an Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, and a 128GB SSD. While the base configuration is good for the average user, the mid-tier version ($1,199.99) ups the RAM and storage space.
The high-end configuration, with its 4K touchscreen display and 1TB of storage space, is in a class of its own. That's all well and good if you've got the funds, but it'll set you back $1,849.99. As for our review unit, you can check out the specs below:
CPU: Intel Core i7-8550U
GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 620
Display: 13-inch 4K Ultra HD touchscreen (3840 x 2160)
Memory: 16GB of RAM
Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD
Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), 1 USB-C 3.1, micro SD card reader, headset jack
Weight: 2.67 lbs
If you can live without the 4K touchscreen display, we'd recommend it. If you're an average user, the 1080p non-touch display will get the job done just fine. Actually, at least according to other reviews, the 1080p display is more colorful than the 4K one.
What We Like
The modern design is a welcome change
Dell has stepped outside of its comfort zone and I think it's paid off. While design is a matter of taste, it's hard to argue that the white and rose-gold model is beautiful. It looks a lot like the Matebook X we reviewed last summer, but personally I prefer the XPS, as I'm partial to the alpine-white keyboard.
In addition to the significant design change, the white interior is also resistant to stains and yellowing. It feels pretty tough and sturdy, too. If you run your fingers along the palm rests, you'll be able to feel the woven fiber texture. Not only does it look like a premium product, it really feels like one too.
You're getting a killer display
Tiny bezels means more picture and that's exactly what you're getting here. When I watched the trailer for How To Talk To Girls At Parties, the aliens' bright, skintight outfits really popped. Colors are vivid and it's plenty sharp, too. I was even able to make out small details like the rock n' roll pins on the main character's jacket.
The keyboard is great to type on
The keyboard offers a comfortable typing experience. Not only are the keys well-spaced, they're springy as well. The backspace is tiny compared to the other keys, but I didn't mind because my hands are small. There's a stiffness to it that I like as well. The only drawback is that the backlighting is a little hard to see against the white of the keyboard.
Battery life is pretty good for an ultraportable
When we put the XPS through our WiFi browsing test, which continuously cycles through popular websites like Yahoo and Twitter, it died in a little over five hours. Although it won't last you a full work day on a single charge, you're still getting a decent chunk of time, especially for an ultraportable. If you dim the screen or turn on battery saver mode, you can probably squeeze out another hour or two.
What We Didn't Like
Webcam placement is really awkward
While we love the barely-there bezels, that leaves no room for a webcam above the screen. So, with the webcam located on the bottom of the screen, it looks up your nose and it's anything but flattering.
Unless there's another dimension up there, I highly doubt anyone wants to look up my beak-like schnoz. If you use Skype often, this may be a deal-breaker. Then again, you could always plug in an auxiliary webcam.
Not the best connectivity options
Connectivity has really changed here. Dell removed the older ports (bye, bye USB-A) and that's a little annoying. Although USB-C ports are slowly becoming the norm, they're not the standard yet, so you'll still need an adapter.
Luckily, Dell planned ahead: there's a USB-A adapter included in the box. You're also getting a built-in microSD card reader, which is great for transferring media.
Fan noise is a problem
The XPS works hard (real hard) under heavy loads. When I had about ten tabs open, the fans were really whooshing and whirring. Thankfully, the chassis never got too hot. While fan noise doesn't bother me much at all (hi, I'm a gamer), it may be distracting in a classroom environment.
Should You Buy It?
Absolutely. It's the best 13-inch you can buy.
If you're looking for a swanky machine that'll turn heads, the XPS will do just that. Between the unique color scheme and the bright display, there's lots to love. The keyboard is comfortable and offers good tactile feedback, and we really dig the stain resistant material too.
As I've said, there are a couple flaws. The webcam is angled up your nose because of it's position on the bezels, which could be a deal-breaker for regular video chatters. There's also no USB-A ports, which means you'll need to tote an adapter along with you. Finally, fan noise is pretty darn loud when the XPS is wrestling with a heavy load.
Despite these minor annoyances, I'm still confident that the Dell XPS is one of the best ultraportables around, specifically the base and mid-tier models.
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