What if you took one of the best-looking, most capable 13-inch Windows laptops and added a 360-degree hinge that let you fold back the screen into a makeshift tablet? Make it thinner and lighter, and keep the entry price just under the $1,000 mark and you'd really have something.
That perfectly describes the new Dell XPS 13 2-in-1.
The original XPS 13, which dates back to 2015, delivered a striking design that stretched the laptop display from one edge of the lid to the other, reducing the bezel (that black strip around the screen) to a bare minimum. Now, as the thinner and lighter laptop design and no-bezel look has become a bit more of a commodity, Dell has upped the ante, allowing this touchscreen laptop to transform into a tablet.
I'd call the new 2-in-1 version of the XPS 13 a full-time laptop and part-time tablet, as opposed to something like the Microsoft Surface Pro, which is a full-time tablet and -- with the addition of its optional snap-on keyboard -- part-time laptop. And even if you never fold the XPS 13 2-in-1 back into a tablet, it still works perfectly well as a clamshell laptop.
The overall design is close to my platonic ideal of a modern laptop. It's slim, there's little wasted space on the compact body, and it has a few high-end features that help it stand out, such as a fingerprint reader, Thunderbolt-enabled USB-C ports, a dual-lens IR webcam, and that great edge-to-edge display. Note that the fingerprint reader works for Windows Hello login right now, but support for facial recognition login from the camera is coming via a future software update.
It benefits greatly from a comparison to the standard XPS 13 model, which Dell still sells (see our most recent review here). The 2-in-1 version is thinner and doesn't have the wedge shape that made the standard XPS 13 feel a bit bulky, but still has the same excellent keyboard and large touch pad. The configuration of the XPS 13 2-in-1 tested here is $1,299 in the US, but it starts at $999 for a decent set of components and the same 1,920x1,080 touch screen as this one.
This should be your default choice for an XPS laptop right now, even over the standard clamshell version, although it's worth noting the non-hybrid XPS 13 pulls its processors from a faster selection of CPUs. It's also a strong competitor with other premium hybrids, such as the Acer Spin 7.
Available configurations in the UK and Australia vary a bit from the US ones, with starting prices of £1,349 and AU$2,299, making it less of a midprice system in those territories.
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
|Price as reviewed||$1,299|
|Display size/resolution||13.3 -inch 1,920 x 1,080 touch-display|
|PC CPU||1.3GHz Intel Core i7-7Y75|
|PC memory||8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz|
|Graphics||128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 615|
|Networking||802.11ac Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Home (64-bit)|
A tale of two chips
There are a few sacrifices to make. The most important is swapping a standard Intel Core i3 or i5 U-series CPU for a lower-power Y-series one. That's basically a rebranded version of what Intel previously called the Core M CPU, which isn't as fast, but does work better in slim PCs that need to run for a long time with minimal fans or cooling.
Is there a performance difference? You bet there is. Core M and Core i-Y CPUs have never been as performance-oriented as even the low-voltage Core i5 and i7 U-series chips found in most mainstream slim laptops. They can, however, offer extra power on an as-needed basis thanks to some dynamic power throttling, boosting performance then easing off to keep internal temperatures in check.