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Less is more for the even-smaller new Dell XPS 13

Announced ahead of CES 2018, Dell's premium 13.3-inch laptop is smaller, stronger, cooler and built for high performance.

Dell updated its premium ultraportable XPS 13 toward the end of 2017, but that's not stopping the PC maker from overhauling it for 2018. 

Meet the new new Dell XPS 13. It's not far off from the last version, but there are some key changes Dell made to the design to eek more performance out of Intel's eighth-generation processors while keeping battery life long and shrinking its overall footprint. 

The 2017 version was the world's smallest 13.3-inch laptop and now that title goes to the 2018 model. According to Dell, the new XPS 13 is 24 percent smaller by volume due in part to the 4mm border around its InfinityEdge display, which gives it an 80.7 percent screen-to-body ratio. 


Dell's InfinityEdge displays have bezels that are just 4 mm. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

You can pick from 4K UHD- or full HD-resolution touch displays or a full HD non-touch one, all with a max brightness of 400 nits. Dell said it fixed an issue with color shifting at max brightness, too, so the 4K UHD version will still have 100 percent sRGB color gamut at 400 nits (the full HD screens are 72 percent sRGB). The webcam is still at the bottom, but at least it's centered now, and it's an infrared camera for logging in with facial recognition. You can get a fingerprint reader built into the power button, too. 

Like its predecessor, the XPS 13 has a CNC machined aluminum body in platinum silver with carbon fiber composite palm rest in black, but it's joined by a new rose gold model with alpine white woven glass fiber palm rests. The glass fiber is layered for strength, but is still lightweight and has a soft feel to it and is coated to prevent yellowing. The materials are strong, but keep the weight down to about 2.7 pounds or 1.2 kilograms.

To get the body thickness down to 0.46 inch (11.6 mm), you do lose full-size USB ports in favor of dual Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports and a USB-C 3.1 port. (Dell does include a USB Type-A to Type-C adapter, though.) Any of those USB-C ports can be used to charge or power the laptop, and there's a microSD card slot to bolster internal storage. 

Several configurations will be available this month starting at $1,000 (about £740 or AU$1,275 converted) featuring: 

  • Eighth-generation Intel quad-core i5-8250U or i7-8550U processor 
  • 4GB or 8GB RAM (1,866MHz) or 16GB RAM (2,133MHz)
  • 128GB SATA SSD or 256GB, 512GB or 1TB PCIe SSD
  • Intel UHD Graphics 620
  • Killer 1435 802.11ac (2x2) or Intel 8265 802.11ac (2x2) both with Bluetooth 4.1

Dell doubled up on heat pipes and fans and used Gore Thermal Insulation (a first for laptops) that helps steer heat out of the device instead of into the laptop's chassis. The cooling improvements let Dell get more performance from its components while cutting down on heat that would typically reach your lap or hands. 

Despite the performance improvements, Dell says its benchmark results have these XPS 13's running for up to nearly 20 hours with a full HD display or up to around 11 hours with a 4K display. Of course, actual battery life will more than likely be less, but we did break the 12-hour mark in our online video streaming test with the late 2017 version. 

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