The Dell XPS 13 has consistently appeared on the lists of the best Windows ultrabooks. And what's not to like? Made using premium materials, it is slim and compact, with a lovely, near bezel-less screen. The 2021 version (9310) sports a similar chassis as its 2020 predecessor, but has been upgraded with Intel's latest 11th-gen Core processor.
- 13.4-inch UHD (3,840 x 2,400 pixels) touchscreen
- Core i7-1165G7 processor with 16GB system memory
- 52 watt-hour battery
With slim bezels on all four sides, the XPS 13 boasts an outstanding 91.5% screen-to-body ratio. This 16:10 touch display is truly beautiful, with a crisp 4K resolution. It also gets very bright (up to 500 nits). For those who prefer vivid hues, the preloaded Dell CinemaColor software, which lets you switch between four colour presets (movie, evening, sports and animation), really pushes the colour saturation to overdrive when set to animation. To my surprise, Dell has, despite the slim bezel, managed to cram an infrared, facial recognition Web camera above the screen. For video meetings, this 720p camera is just about usable — there is quite a bit of noise and some colours seem off.
Build quality is excellent. The lid is a solid piece of metal and glass that exhibits virtually no flex even under pressure. The aluminium chassis is equally rigid and sturdy. And yet, the notebook itself is relatively portable at around 1.3kg for my touchscreen model. Like previous models, the palm rest is softened by a layer of carbon fibre that is not as unyielding nor as cold as plain aluminium. Dell says the key caps of the XPS 13's backlit keyboard is now larger than before. I certainly had no complaints — the keyboard feels very tactile and comfy to type. The power button (above the Backspace) doubles as a fingerprint sensor, if facial recognition is not your thing.
Like many ultra-slim laptops, the XPS 13 omits the older but still useful USB Type-A port. Instead, it has two Thunderbolt 4 ports (USB-C) — most users will need a dongle if they plan to connect to a monitor or an external storage drive. Dell includes a dongle for USB Type-A devices. Performance-wise, the XPS 13 is fast and responsive. However, its Intel Core i7 chip has been found to fall short of the competition from AMD and Apple in certain benchmarks. To be fair, I probably won't be able to tell the difference in daily computing tasks. What I can say is that the base of the XPS 13 can become rather warm, even while browsing the Web. I would not place it on my lap for long.
The XPS 13 is an Intel Evo laptop, and is said to offer good battery life (over 9 hours with a Full-HD screen). But this does not apply to my review set due to its 4K display. In my video-loop battery test, the XPS 13 managed 5hr 40min — decent, but not great. Dell offers the XPS 13 in various configurations, including a Full-HD screen option that will probably have better battery stamina. Prices start from S$1,899 for a Core i5 model. Overall, the Dell XPS 13 is a top ultrabook with an excellent display and a compact, portable design. Buy it from Dell, or from authorised retailers on Shopee and Lazada.
Note: Review unit provided by Dell.
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