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Dell XPS 13 (late 2017) review: Next-gen performance with the same superb design

Dell sticks with its winning premium ultrabook design while adding Intel's latest mobile CPUs for all-around better performance.

Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials
  • More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
Joshua Goldman
4 min read

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.


Dell XPS 13 (late 2017)

The Good

The Dell XPS 13 keeps everything that was great about the previous model -- including its nearly edge-to-edge-display, Thunderbolt 3 USB-C and fantastic keyboard -- and adds eighth-gen Intel processors paired with Dell technologies for a big performance boost and longer battery life.

The Bad

The thin frame around the display means the webcam is 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

With increased performance and battery life, Dell's premium ultraportable XPS 13 remains easy to recommend.

Dell's XPS 13 doesn't flip into different positions, detach from its keyboard to become a tablet or have a fancy context-sensitive touchbar, but it's still pretty excellent in its own right. 

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.


At 2.7 pounds (1.2 kg), the XPS 13 is fine for an everyday carry.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Dell XPS 13 (late 2017)

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)

Don't mess up a good thing

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 XPS 13's webcam position at the lower left of the screen is a compromise for the slim screen bezels. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

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). 

Dell XPS 13 (late 2017) pictures

See all photos

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. 

If it ain't broke...

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. 

Cinebench R15 CPU (Multicore)

Dell XPS 13 (2017) 624Lenovo Yoga 920 545HP Spectre 13 517Razer Blade Stealth (13-inch, 2017) 341Microsoft Surface Laptop 328Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016) 312
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 3 (Multicore)

Lenovo Yoga 920 13981Dell XPS 13 (2017) 13783HP Spectre 13 12892Asus ZenBook 3 (UX490) 8098Razer Blade Stealth (13-inch, 2017) 7897Microsoft Surface Laptop 7193Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016) 7178
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test

Lenovo Yoga 920 770Dell XPS 13 (2017) 736Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016) 696Microsoft Surface Laptop 621Razer Blade Stealth (13-inch, 2017) 482Asus ZenBook 3 (UX490) 449HP Spectre 13 405
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System configurations

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

Dell XPS 13 (late 2017)

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 8Battery 8