Dell’s XPS 13 certainly isn’t wanting for style. Sporting a slick wedge profile that measures .24–.71 inches front to back, the XPS 13 is all matte-silver, machined aluminum up top, with a carbon fiber base. A soft-touch surface on the bottom makes the device easy to grip and two rubber “feet” that run horizontally along the underside will surely hold it in place on any surface and promote airflow. Dell even took care to construct a thin metal door on the XPS 13’s underside to hide the Windows certificate of authenticity sticker and sundry other unsightly logos.
An embedded magnet keeps the lid securely attached to the base when the laptop is closed, but opening it can be a challenge—it’s a two-handed affair. Inside, the XPS 13 continues its logo-free theme (save for the “XPS” on the screen bezel). The black, soft-touch palm rest is void of third-party branding. It’s kept company by a black magnesium clickpad and a shiny black island keyboard, which is backlit. The screen consists of edge-to-edge Gorilla glass. As with the HP Folio 13, it’s 13.3 inches with a 1366x768 resolution. The TN panel displays all the typical weakness—move your head or the screen beyond the narrow sweet spot and see contrast and colors diminished.
Edge-to-edge Gorilla glass adds to the XPS 13’s sharp aesthetic and makes the screen less vulnerable to the rigors of regular use and travel.
Dell offers the XPS 13 at a starting price of $1,000, configured similarly to HP’s Folio 13, but the company sent us its beefiest configuration, sporting a 1.7GHz Intel Core i7-2637M and a 256GB SSD on a SATA 6Gb/s bus. The difference is apparent in our benchmark results. The XPS 13 performed pretty closely with our zero point, save for the Photoshop test, where the Zenbook displayed anomalous results. The XPS 13’s slight leads are likely due to the 2637M’s 100MHz Turbo frequency advantage. Aggressive cooling could also be a factor—the XPS 13’s fan was noticeably, even distractingly, loud under load (even after a BIOS update meant to address thermals). Because it’s priced nearly 50 percent more than the Zenbook, we’d have hoped for a larger performance delta. Sure, twice the storage capacity counts for something, but $400-plus? And for that you get no media reader or Ethernet port.
On the other hand, the XPS 13 is enterprise-friendly, offering TPM along with other IT-centric options. It also features Intel’s Smart Connect technology, which updates your email and select apps while your system is asleep, so the most current info is there for you instantly. Rapid Start, a requisite of ultrabooks, is present, too, making the XPS 13 capable of booting in 19 seconds and coming out of sleep near-instantaneously.
Is it a solid package? You betcha—particularly for business-folk who aren’t budget-conscious.
Dell XPS 13
Attractive styling; good build; strong performance.
Out of pocket
Loud under load; not easy to open; TN panel; pricey.
Premiere Pro CS3 (sec)
Photoshop CS3 (sec)
ProShow Producer (sec)
Quake III (FPS)
Quake 4 (FPS)
Battery life (min)
Our zero-point ultraportable is an Asus Zenbook UX31E with a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-2557M, 4GB of DDR3/1333 RAM, integrated graphics, a 128GB SSD, and Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.
1.7GHz Intel Core i7-2637M
Dual‑channel 4GB DDR3/1333
Samsung 256GB SSD
USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, headphone/mic, webcam, Bluetooth, 802.11 a/g/n