Editors' note, Nov. 13: A score for the Dell XPS 13 reviewed here was incorrectly reported as 401 for the Cinebench R15 CPU benchmark test. The correct score is 624. The comparison charts that follow this review have been updated accordingly. The rest of the review is unchanged.
The laptop -- the world's smallest with a 13.3-inch display -- might be a simple clamshell, but it's a well-designed one that's comfortable to use despite its diminutive dimensions. It hasn't changed much since the redesign in 2015 that introduced its InfinityEdge display, which virtually eliminates the frame around its display. Late in 2016, Dell tuned it up with seventh-generation Core i-series CPUs and a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port and now it's back with Intel's 8th-generation chips.
As with most new technology, though, getting Intel's latest adds to the cost. Dell is still selling the "old" XPS 13 starting at $800 for a pretty mediocre configuration built around a seventh-gen Core i3 processor. The new XPS 13 with an eighth-generation Core i7 chip starts at $1,200 in the US, £1,300 in the UK and AU$2,300 in Australia. That's expensive, but not overpriced for this system's power, battery life and mobility.
|Price as reviewed||$1,200 (£1,300, AU$2,300)|
|Display size/resolution||13.3-inch 1,920x1,080 display|
|PC CPU||1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U|
|PC memory||8GB DDR4 SDRAM 1,866MHz|
|Graphics||128MB Intel UHD Graphics 620|
|Storage||256GB PCIe SSD|
|Networking||802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.1|
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)|
Although the new XPS 13's performance gets a boost, the design doesn't change. Roughly the size of an average 11.6-inch laptop, but with a 13.3-inch screen, it's made from aluminum with carbon fiber palm rests with a comfortable soft-touch treatment. A big part of what makes this small size possible is the InfinityEdge display that eliminates all but a sliver of a border around the screen. You can choose between a 13.3-inch UltraSharp Quad HD+ (3,200x1,800 pixels) touchscreen and a 1,920x1,080-pixel-resolution display with a matte antiglare screen.
The XPS 13 can be used for work and play, of course, but it's definitely more for the former than the latter. Its combination of a small, lightweight body matched with an excellent backlit keyboard and touchpad makes it great for commuters and college students. The keys have a pleasingly firm feel with good travel and are well spaced and sized. The precision touchpad is smooth and responsive with no cursor jumpiness.
The laptop's also not a bad choice for a small office/home office setup, where you want a PC that can be used anywhere, but its Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port lets you quickly switch to a desktoplike experience capable of driving multiple monitors, Ethernet, external storage, speakers and power with a single cable connection. You also get a USB 3.0 port, an SD card slot and a mic/headphone jack. A fingerprint reader with Windows Hello support is also available, but it's optional and not standard, which is ridiculous.
There is a built-in webcam, too, but due to the screen's lid-spanning design, Dell stuck it down in the lower left corner below the screen. The result is awkward up-the-nose video chats. On the other hand, if you're typing, your left hand appears so large that those on the other end of the conversation probably won't notice the extreme angle.
The webcam is really the only design misstep (though switching the power connector to a USB-C port would be a welcome change). Even the laptop's stereo speakers, mere slivers on the sides, sound decent for listening to music or watching some YouTube clips.
Also, while the UHD+ screen might be nice to have, the full HD screen looks good and delivers better battery life. According to Dell's tests, it reached up to 22 hours on BAPCo's MobileMark 2014 battery benchmark as well as 13 hours and 31 minutes of Netflix video streaming (the QHD+ version streamed for four fewer hours).
Though I don't think you're likely to hit more than 20 hours in normal use, we did break the 12-hour mark in our online video streaming test. Anecdotally, with mixed use and brightness set to 50 percent, I worked an entire day using web apps and streaming music and still had battery life to spare for my hourlong commute home.
As for the new processor, it's impressive, too. Dell claims the combination of the updated processors and Dell's own dynamic power mode results in a multitasking boost of more than 40 percent compared with the previous version. On the Geekbench 3 multicore benchmark test it hit a score of 13,783. The similarly configured XPS I reviewed last year with the seventh-gen Core i7 CPU reached 7,878. On the Geekbench 4 multicore test it hit 13,385. Although you might not notice this performance increase in regular use, it means you'll have some overhead to keep running smoothly for years to come. However, if you'll need to keep this laptop for a long time, you might want to get it with 16GB of memory, especially since Dell used slower 1,866MHz RAM.
The Dell XPS 13 has been a favorite ultraportable for the past couple years for its design and performance. The new processor just makes it that much easier to recommend.
|Dell XPS 13 (late 2017)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD|
|HP Spectre 13||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD|
|Lenovo Yoga 920-13IKB||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD|
|Razer Blade Stealth (13-inch, 2017)||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 (13-inch, 2016)||Apple MacOS Sierra 10.12.1; 2GHz Intel Core i5-6360U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 1,536MB Intel Iris Graphics 540; 256GB SSD|
|Microsoft Surface Laptop||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD|
|Asus ZenBook 3 (UX490)||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD|