Dell XPS 13 (2016, Gold Edition) review: The laptop with the golden touch

The keyboard is miles ahead of the especially shallow ones on the Razer, LaVie, 12-inch MacBook and other superslim laptops, with a deep, satisfying click, a strong backlight and full-size versions of the shift, tab, and other vital keys. The touchpad is a good size, but, as in the original XPS 13 and the recent XPS 15, there's a floating quality to it that annoys me more every time I use it. Using a two-finger scroll too frequently accidentally reads as a pinch-to-zoom request, and the pad itself moves almost imperceptibly under your finger before actually registering a click -- which makes very precise tapping difficult at times.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The excellent screen makes up for it, however. The 3,200x1,800 resolution is close enough to 4K to satisfy most high-res needs, and with the display going nearly to the edge of the outer shell, it really stands out. Touch response is excellent, and the bright image doesn't wash out, even from side angles.

Faster than ever

Most of the similar laptops we've tested have a current-gen Intel Core i7-6200U or 6500U processor (the "U" indicates it's a low-voltage chip that uses less power, but also isn't as fast as the CPUs in larger laptops). The high-end Dell steps up to Core i7-6560U, which helps it beat the Razer Blade Stealth, most-recent MacBook Air, and other laptops in our performance tests.

The Iris graphic chip here -- a name used to denote Intel's higher-end integrated GPU -- works fine for high-res video and some basic gaming, but isn't going to turn this into a portable PC gaming rig. Less demanding newer games, like The Witness, worked fine at low detail settings and 1080p resolution.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Battery life was better than I expected, but not fantastic. The new gold XPS 13 ran for 6 hours, 12 minutes in our streaming video battery test, which is acceptable but not especially impressive. The Lenovo Yoga Y900 ran for almost two hours longer, and the MacBook Air for almost twice as long. A very high-res screen always has an impact on battery life, so consider a 1,920x1,080 display if you need an all-day laptop.

Conclusion

The XPS 13 line remains one of our top picks for a 13-inch laptop, because of its striking display, overall solid design and a good set of high-powered features at a reasonable price. This new-for-2016 update offers tweaks both inside (newer CPUs, Iris graphics) and out (the snazzy-looking gold color), but the super-premium price makes it a much tougher sell when there are so many excellent laptops in this category from $1,000 to $1,200 or so.

Yes, you can have your gold laptop, but you've got to really want it.

Multimedia Multitasking test 3.0

Dell XPS 13 (Gold Edition)
466
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2015)
505
Razer Blade Stealth
515
Lenovo Yoga 900
586
HP Envy 13
626

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)


Geekbench 3 (Multi-Core)

Dell XPS 13 (Gold Edition)
7,236
HP Envy 13
6,931
Razer Blade Stealth
6,874
Lenovo Yoga 900
6,713
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2015)
5,672

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance



Streaming video playback battery drain test

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2015)
608
Lenovo Yoga 900
422
HP Envy 13
358
Dell XPS 13 (Gold Edition)
312
Razer Blade Stealth
192

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)



System Configurations

Dell XPS 13 (Gold Edition) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2HGz Intel Core i7-6560U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel Iris Graphics 540; 256GB SSD
Razer Blade Stealth Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5HGz Intel Core i7-6500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1024MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2015) Apple Yosemite OSX 10.10.2; 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-5250U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1536MB Intel HD Graphis 6000; 128GB SSD
HP Envy 13 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 128GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga 900 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5HGz Intel Core i7-6500U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 512GB SSD

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