Dell XPS 13 review (2018): Still the best Windows laptop
After three years of dominating ‘best of’ lists, Dell’s 13-inch ultraportable gets a makeover.
There's a reason we've heaped praise on Dell's XPS notebooks over the past few years. They've always been gorgeous and capable machines, with near bezel-less screens that other computer makers quickly copied. Most importantly, they brought an air of refinement to the Windows laptop market -- something you could previously only find from Apple. Dell's latest XPS 13 continues that tradition of excellence, though there are some changes that might irk longtime fans of the lineup.
Still gorgeous thanks to the InfinityEdge screen
A bit lighter and slimmer than before
Supports external GPUs
Display now supports HDR
You’ll pay for the 4K display in battery life
No traditional USB ports or full-sized SD card reader
Dell’s latest XPS 13 doesn’t stray from the line’s high standards. It’s fast, slim and sturdy. Sure, the company didn’t change much, but it didn’t really have to.
As you'd expect, the XPS 13 still feels like a high-end machine, thanks to its sleek aluminum case and rock-solid build quality. This time around, Dell added a white interior to its rose-gold case to make it more fashionable. It might just be a taste issue, but many Engadget editors found the new styling to be a bit too cheap and garish for the XPS line.
The woven-glass-fiber palm rest feels comfortable, at least, and Dell claims it's also stain-resistant. Unfortunately, its kryptonite is sunscreen and mustard, so definitely don't bring it to a beach cookout. But, rest assured, you can still snag the XPS 13 with a silver case and black-carbon-fiber interior if you'd prefer to stick with the traditional style.
This year's XPS 13 comes in a slimmer and lighter package, weighing in at 2.7 pounds and measuring between 7.8 mm and 11.6 mm thick. In comparison, the previous XPS 13 was a bit heavier if you wanted a touchscreen, at 2.9 pounds. It's light, but because the case looks so thin, it feels denser than you'd expect.
To make the newer case work, Dell had to drop USB-A ports and a full-size SD card slot. Instead, you've got three USB-C ports, two of which are compatible with Intel's Thunderbolt 3 standard, as well as a micro-SD card slot. And yes, you can charge from any of the USB-C connections. Gamers will also appreciate the ability to hook up an external GPU to the Thunderbolt ports, something that wasn't possible in previous models.
And of course, there's a gorgeous 13.3-inch screen available in 1080p or 4K at the high end. You can choose between standard and touchscreen options, and there's HDR support, finally. That'll let you see video that's both brighter and darker than before. The "InfinityEdge" bezels are 23 percent thinner than before, according to Dell, though it's not something I noticed at first. (Probably because they were already pretty slim to begin with.)
Another minor change: Dell moved the 720p webcam to the center instead of being off to the side. It's still stuck at the bottom of the screen -- which is a casualty of that InfinityEdge display -- but at least it's easier to align your face properly. There are also four far-field microphones in the XPS 13, which will make it easier for you to shout commands at Cortana, or clearly chat with friends over Skype.