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Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review: Part laptop, part tablet, all screen

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The Good This new version of the XPS 13 adds a hybrid hinge and thinner body. The edge-to-edge, nearly bezel-free display makes maximum use of space, and the starting price is extremely reasonable.

The Bad Standard USB ports get swapped for USB-C ones, the Intel Y-series processor isn't as fast as those found in more traditional laptops and the power button can be tricky to hit.

The Bottom Line Despite a few trade-offs in ports and processing power, this slimmer hybrid version of the XPS 13 is an excellent full-time laptop and part-time tablet.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.3 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 9

Review Sections

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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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The clamshell XPS 13 next to the new, slimmer XPS 13 2-in-1.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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
Storage 256GB SSD
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.

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