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Dell XPS 13 Notebook Series review: Dell's golden ultraportable hasn't lost its luster

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The Good The Dell XPS 13 keeps everything that was great about the previous model -- including its near edge-to-edge-display and fantastic keyboard -- and adds the latest Intel Kaby Lake processors and Thunderbolt 3.

The Bad The design means the webcam is awkwardly placed at the bottom of the display. Though the QHD-resolution touchscreen is beautiful, it adds a lot to the price and hurts battery life. Gold version will cost you $50 more.

The Bottom Line Whether you scale back for better battery life or load it up for the best performance possible, the Dell XPS 13 remains one excellent ultraportable laptop.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

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

Review Sections

When Dell updated the XPS 13 in 2015, it stood out for its barely there screen bezel -- the frame around the display. Its 13-inch screen nearly filled the entire laptop lid, giving you more room to work, but in a smaller body just about the size of an 11.6-inch model.

And although other laptop makers like Lenovo have since adopted this near edge-to-edge screen design, the XPS 13 remains a favorite for the rest of the package. The current version includes the latest Intel seventh-generation processors (Kaby Lake) and a Thunderbolt 3 port. With the help of a dock or adapter, you can run a single cable from the XPS 13 to handle power, Ethernet, audio and video.

dell-xps-13-11.jpg

The Dell XPS 13 stays gold.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Available in silver or, for an additional $5o, gold, the XPS 13's pricing starts at $800 in the US, AU$1,900 in Australia and £1,000 in the UK. At those prices you get a nice 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution display with a matte finish (if you hate glare, this one's for you). The downsides are that it's not a touchscreen and you can't max out the laptop on memory or storage.

If you're looking for the full premium portable experience, you'll want to pay extra for the gorgeous quad HD 3,200x1,800-pixel-resolution touchscreen. Though there are people who don't see the value of a touchscreen on a laptop, I'm not one of them, especially on a system this small. The laptop is perfect for working in tight spaces, but too often I've found myself on a bus, train or plane unable to comfortably use a touchpad. With a touchscreen that's no problem since I can quickly scroll, tap and swipe my way around.

Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13 (touch, late 2016) Dell XPS 13 (late 2016)
Price as reviewed $1,900 (AU$3,000, £1,500) $1,150 (AU$2,000, £1,100)
Display size/resolution 13.3-inch 3,200x1,800 touchscreen 13.3-inch 1,920x1,080
PC CPU 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U
PC memory 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz
Graphics 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620
Storage 512GB SSD 256GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac Bluetooth 4.1 802.11ac Bluetooth 4.1
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit) Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

As for the higher resolution, it's not a necessity, but Dell doesn't offer a full HD touchscreen for this model. It is a nice, bright display that makes everything you do look sharper with better detail. The biggest downside here, outside of the increased price and reflections, is that this display really hurts battery life. With the touchscreen, the XPS 13 was able to last for just about 8 hours in our tests. Get the full HD display instead, though, and you're able to get more than 10.5 hours of run time.

If you were hoping for big performance gains by waiting for Intel's seventh-generation Core i-series processors, well, you're going to be disappointed. The overall performance differences between the last XPS 13 we reviewed running sixth-gen processors (Skylake) and these new Kaby Lake versions are minimal.

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