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Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 9310 review: 11th-gen Intel chips keep this small 2-in-1 at the top

It's everything we liked about the 2019 model, with better performance and battery life. (It even costs a little less.)

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Dell's tiny XPS 2-in-1 remains one of the best-looking laptops you can buy.

Josh Goldman/CNET

In 2019, Dell completely overhauled its XPS 13 2-in-1 laptop to make it one of the best models in the category. In fact, it was so good it didn't really leave a lot of room to make it drastically better. But, the PC maker still managed to give the 2020 version, the XPS 13 2-in-1 9310, enough of a boost with Intel's 11th-gen Core processors to help it keep its place as a top pick. 

8.9

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 9310

Like

  • 11th-gen Intel processors increase performance and battery life
  • Overall superb combination of features, design and performance

Don't Like

  • Memory, storage are onboard type and can't be upgraded post-purchase
  • Active pen not included
  • Base configuration only has a Core i3 CPU

Although the 9310's price starts at $1,099, its Core i3 CPU doesn't offer the same capabilities as the Core i5 and i7 configurations that are Intel Evo-certified. The Evo label means the system is tested to hit certain mobile performance requirements such as getting at least 9 hours of battery life with normal use, recharging quickly and being just as responsive on battery power as it is plugged in. All of these things are true of the $1,500 Core i7-based XPS 13 2-in-1 I tested. The same configuration sells for £1,649 in the UK and AU$2,999 in Australia

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 9310

Price as reviewed $1,500
Display size/resolution 13.4-inch 1,920x1,200-pixel touch display
CPU 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7
PC memory 16GB LPDDR4x SDRAM 4,267MHz
Graphics Intel Iris Xe Graphics
Storage 512GB PCIe NVMe x4 SSD
Networking Killer AX1650 802.11ax Wi-Fi Bluetooth 5.1
Ports 2x USB-C (Thunderbolt 4), audio/mic jack, microSD card slot
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

While the new processors don't give you huge gains in performance, the 9310 is faster than last year's model. But, more importantly, it can maintain similar performance whether or not you're tethered to a power outlet. Even the integrated graphics are better. Plus, it reached 11 hours, 3 minutes in our streaming video battery rundown test -- an hour more battery life than the 2019 version I tested with essentially the same configuration, but with a 10th-gen Intel CPU.  

Part of the reason for that long battery life is the display. Dell offers this with a 13.4-inch, 16:10-aspect-ratio touchscreen that's available in a UHD Plus 3,840x2,400-pixel resolution, with 500-nit brightness (and it's HDR400 certified). Or you can get it with a FHD Plus 1,920x1,200-pixel resolution. I tested the latter, which gets just as bright as the UHD Plus display and has strong color and contrast performance. It's also less expensive and doesn't shorten battery life like the UHD Plus display. Generally speaking, 4K displays are battery killers. 

If you're going to cut back on your configuration to save some cash, going with the lower-resolution display is where to do it. Put your money into the processor, memory and storage; everything is soldered on with this two-in-one, which means you can't add a larger SSD or more RAM in the future -- what you get is what you get. 

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The base is nearly all keyboard and touchpad.

Josh Goldman/CNET

Small, slim and sturdy

Not being able to upgrade your storage and memory is going to be a deal-breaker for some. But if you're still on board, you'll likely be pretty happy with the rest of the package. Dell shaved off every last available millimeter of the chassis to get the XPS 13 2-in-1 as small as possible. 

The system uses an incredibly small camera module so it could squeeze it in above the display without increasing the bezel size, similar to the clamshell version of the XPS 13. And now the laptop has an IR cam, so you can sign in with facial recognition as well as the fingerprint reader built into the power button. 

The keyboard goes edge to edge and its MagLev switches give the keys a pleasing pop for a good overall typing experience. The large Windows Precision glass touchpad is great, too, with smooth, jitter-free performance. The XPS 13 2-in-1 supports pen input and Dell's active pen can magnetically attach to the body's right side or over the Dell logo on the lid. The pen is extra at $100 but is frequently on sale.  

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The addition of an IR camera means you can easily sign in to Windows with face recognition when the fingerprint reader is inaccessible in stand mode. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

Still one of the best you can buy

Dell didn't do much to update the XPS 13 2-in-1, but then again it really didn't need to. It was already a great convertible laptop and now it has better performance and battery life than its predecessor. The one other small change -- the addition of an IR camera -- adds to the appeal since it means you can sign with face recognition when the fingerprint reader is inaccessible in stand or tablet modes. Just make sure you get all the storage and memory you need up front.