Still, in everyday use, you're unlikely to notice too much of a difference. I've used Y-series and Core M CPUs regularly for the past two years, and for web surfing, streaming HD video and office productivity, the current versions of these chips are just fine. I was even able to do some light gaming on the XPS 13 2-in-1, loading up my current indie game obsession, the excellent Oxenfree, with no trouble at all.
Battery life gets close to MacBook territory, running for an impressive 8 hours and 56 minutes on our streaming video playback battery drain test. The most recent non-hybrid XPS 13 we tested ran for 7 hours and 52 minutes on the same test, while the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro ran for just over 10 hours.
Trade-offs and pop-ups
There are a few other issues to keep in mind that might be more impactful than the CPU choice. Compared to the standard XPS 13, you're swapping two full-size USB ports and an SD card slot for two smaller USB-C ports and a micro-SD card slot. That's a short-term hassle, but it's going to end up being the new long-term norm, so the sooner you jump aboard the USB-C train, the better. Dell includes a USB-C-to-USB-A adapter with the system, which is a welcome extra.
But, I'm bothered by the power button, which is a tiny sliver on the right side edge. It's hard to hit on purpose, but surprisingly easy to to hit accidentally. Also, this is more of a general Windows PC problem and something I've specifically run into on the other XPS laptops I've tested, but the sleep/wake cycle here can try my patience. Using either the Dell-provided preset or the standard "balanced" battery power plan, the system can a long time to wake from a sleep state, and usually requires hitting that power button and waiting around for a bit. To date, no one can match the simple, always works, instant-gratification sleep/wake cycle of a MacBook.
One more minor irritation: Microsoft is annoying enough with its repeated pop-up plugs to use the Microsoft Edge browser over other web browsers, I don't also need Dell to send along its own pop-ups, like the one from Dell Customer Connect, which suggested: "Tell Dell about your experience!" Yes, with the exclamation point.
The XPS to get
Even just as a clamshell laptop I like this better than the standard XPS 13, which is an excellent system, but its bulkier wedge-shaped design is a few years old at this point.
If you need something with more performance, there's always the 13-inch MacBook Pro. For a 2-in-1 hybrid with more advanced features, I love the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga, which features an amazing OLED display.
But both of those are significantly more expensive. At $999 to start, and $1,299 for this higher-end configuration, this is both a sharp-looking hybrid and a great value.
|Dell XPS 13 2-in-1||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Core i5-7Y75; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 615; 256GB SSD|
|Acer Spin 7||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Core i5-7Y75; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 615; 256GB SSD|
|Dell XPS 13 (late 2016)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD|
|Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch, 2016)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.2GHz Intel Core i5-7Y54; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 615; 256GB SSD|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (OLED)||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6600U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD|