Dell XPS 13 (2016, Gold Edition) review:

The laptop with the golden touch

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Dell XPS 13 (2016, Gold Edition)

(Part #: DNCWT5150S)
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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars 4 user reviews

The Good This updated XPS 13 has a stunning nearly edge-to-edge high-res display, and an upgraded processor and graphics.

The Bad This gold edition is very expensive, and battery life isn't as good as some other 13-inch laptops. The touchpad is tricky to use for some multitouch gestures.

The Bottom Line The excellent Dell XPS 13 series gets a high-end upgrade in this gold edition with improved performance, but also a high-end price to match.

8.3 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Battery 7.0

Picking the perfect portable laptop can be a trying task for both head and heart (and wallet). Some sentimental longtime favorites, such as the 13-inch MacBook Air, are still good general-purpose laptops, but with each year that goes by, the design gets older, and features fail to keep up with the times. Slick hybrids like the Lenovo Yoga 900 are powerful, slim, and play at the tablet game, too, but you'll pay for the privilege of folding the screen all the way back. Even the new Razer Blade Stealth manages to nail a lot of functionality for a decent price, but the gamer-centric design skews toward Call of Duty players.

Shoppers are stuck between choosing based on price, features, or design -- and generally speaking, settling on two out of those three is the best one can hope for. The Dell XPS 13 came close to nailing the perfect formula last year, with an eye-catching barely there screen bezel, decent power, and a sub-$1,000 starting price in the US. But, that entry-level model skipped the touch screen, a must-have feature for a premium Windows laptop (while the more expensive touchscreen model also had less battery life).

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Despite this, the XPS 13 became one of our favorite 13-inch class laptops, and the recent 15-inch version (naturally called the XPS 15) impressed with its own large screen and minimal bezel.

Rather than continuing to try squeezing out features to hit a more mainstream price, the latest version of the XPS 13 takes a more premium approach. The processor is a current-gen Intel Core i7, paired with 8GB of RAM and a big 256GB of solid-state storage. The touchscreen display has a very high 3,200x1,800-pixel native resolution, and the same very narrow bezel (Dell calls it the Infinity Display) that made last year's original such a standout. Graphics get an upgrade, too, adding the Intel Iris GPU, which isn't as good as having a discrete graphics card from Nvidia or AMD, but is a big step up from standard laptop fare.

Finally, as if to drive home all the premium features and upgrades, the aluminum outer shell is now gold-colored. And it's got a price to match, topping out the XPS 13 line at $1,649 in the US.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Yes, it's a premium price (for example, we've even seen some Oculus Rift-ready gaming desktops for less), but the gold XPS 13 has a great design, a fantastic keyboard, and even more than one year later, no one else has come close to matching the striking no-bezel look. If it's just too expensive, dropping the gold design, downgrading to a Core i5 CPU and losing the Iris graphics gets you down to a much more reasonable $1,399 configuration.

Dell XPS 13 (Gold Edition)

Price as reviewed $1,649
Display size/resolution 13-inch 3,200 x 1,800 touchscreen
PC CPU 2.2Ghz Intel Core i7-6560U
PC memory 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz
Graphics 128MB Intel Iris Graphics 540
Storage 256GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Going for the gold

While the gold chassis is a selling point, the look is actually rather muted in person. It's gold-ish, rather than bright and in your face. It's also not the first time we've seen this in a laptop, as gold hues are available as an option in the Apple MacBook and LG Gram, although it's still rare. Still, it's a nice break from the usual silver/gray look of most laptops, just don't expect it to read as especially bling-y.

Color aside, this new update doesn't stray much from the original. It's still a wedge-shaped laptop with a wide touchpad and generous keyboard, with enough ports and connections to keep most users happy. New is a USB-C port, used for data and video, but not power (other systems such as the 12-inch Apple MacBook and Razer Blade Stealth also use USB-C for power).

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Just as it the original XPS 13 did, this system has a relatively small footprint -- largely because there's no thick border around the display. The end result is that the XPS 13 has smaller dimensions than a MacBook Air, Lenovo Yoga 900 or Microsoft Surface Book, while weighing just about the same, 2.8 pounds (1.27kg) in this case. That makes the XPS 13 feel a little heavy when picked up, because you're packing the same weight into a smaller volume of space. Plus, recent lightweight laptops such as the Razer Blade Stealth and Lenovo LaVie have really spoiled me when it comes to laptop weight.

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