Microsoft Surface Pro 3stars
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Apple MacBook Air (13-inch)
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display (2013, 15-inch screen)stars
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Asus Transformer Book T100
Update: Dell forwarded us a replacement XPS 13, which resolved some of our touchpad issues. This article has been amended accordingly.
Dell's reasonably late to the ultrabook party, but it's by no means the last across the line.
Despite hiding behind edge-to-edge gorilla glass, the 13-inch, 1366x768 screen isn't as bright or colourful as HP's Envy 14 Spectre, but given the price differential this is to be expected. Still, blacks are never black, but a disconcerting level of grey.
Dell's construction is excellent, with a rigid, strong chassis being the order of the day. While the lid may be rather similar to a certain fruit-themed manufacturer's thin laptop, open up the XPS and it's all matte black and silver inside. The surface begs for greasy hand and fingerprints to be left behind, so this isn't a laptop for those who need to keep things clinically clean. Flip it over, and you'll find a carbon-fibre base, which is a shame that you won't find it where it will be visible when you're using the laptop.
Typing response is springy but decent on the backlit keyboard, which gave us hope — then we discovered that Dell had strayed from Synaptics and Alps pads to try a brand called Cypress.
This usually doesn't bode well.
The pad is, thankfully, nowhere near as unpredictable and awful as those made by Sentelic. Our initial review unit had big issues with the palm check, even with the newer 184.108.40.206 drivers; thankfully a replacement unit from Dell addressed the issue, and typing became a predictable activity again.