February 7, 2015

692 words 4 mins read

Review: Dell XPS 13 (2015) w/ Touch

2015-02-06 16.50.43
This week at the office we got in a couple “Dell XPS 13s with touch”. The unit is a follow up to the previous generation of Dell XPS 13, which I had affectionately nicknamed the “Dellbook Air”. Thus far I have been pleasantly surprised with the current generation, whereas the previous generation I did not care for or use for very long.

Specs/Hardware:

  • Intel i7 2.4ghz
  • 8GB RAM
  • 3200*1800 High DPI Display
  • 10 point multi-touch display
  • 512GB SSD
The specs can be summarized as “this is a fairly powerful machine”. What the specs don’t tell you is that it’s a nice unit. It doesn’t have the luxury feel of a Macbook Air, but it is a solid portable nonetheless. The exterior is an aluminum affair with everything on the inside being black plastics. The “biggest” thing you’ll notice about the XPS 13 is that it is actually smaller that the Macbook Air (though it is thicker).

Display

A sample of the infinity display, and lack of hDPI support care of Todoist
The “infinity display” is a bit stretching it through, since there is a border, but I’ll give Dell points for the fact that the bezel is damn small. Overall this is very nice, however the placement of the webcam is something of an oddity, being below the screen, rather than above.

It is a high DPI display running at 3200 by 1800, or 276 ppi. That’s roughly the same density as the third generation iPad. It looks great out of the box and on applications that support hDPI. Unfortunately, a lot of Windows applications are not designed for hDPI and have almost illegibly small text.

Touchpad / Input

If you were to read my review of the old XPS 13 Ultrabook, or any number of other Windows laptop reviews, my biggest complaint on most units is the touchpad. Most of the machines have terrible touchpads that can render the machine useless. Not so with the new XPS 13, in fact I have yet to even start yelling at it. I won’t say it’s a “joy” to use like the Macbook’s, but it hasn’t been an issue. Having the touch screen display means I might not use the touchpad quite as much as normal, but when I do use it — it works. That one small feature alone makes me quite excited.

Macbook Air (left) vs Dell XPS 13 (Right)
The keyboard is your standard chiclet, the same kind you have on most laptops these days. While the XPS 13 is physically smaller than most 13” laptops, the keyboard doesn’t feel cramped. A non-scientific comparison shows the overall keyboard size is roughly the same as the Macbook’s. The only real downside I can find with the keyboard is that the backlight has only 3 settings: high, low, and off.

Misc items

Normally I don’t much mention the speakers on laptops, one should just assume they suck, however the XPS 13 should get an “honorable mention” for speakers. They’re loud, really surprisingly loud. Do they have a lot of bass? No. Do they sound like nice speakers? No. But they are loud and that’s a feature I quite appreciate.

I haven’t had a chance to extensively test the battery, but my gut feeling is that it’s just “OK”. If you’re a power user like me, it’s not going to last all day. Dell claims an 11 hour life, but I think half that is more realistic. The Chrome “1 tick” bug was fixed a while ago so that probably will help most users keep their battery.

13’ Macbook Air in red… looks big? It’s strange but true

Summary

The important take away is that the new Dell XPS 13 with Touch is a decent machine. The touchpad doesn’t suck and it’s powerful (for it’s form-factor). At ~$2,200 each as configured (I’d go for the 256GB HD to save some money), they aren’t cheap. I’d still prefer a Macbook Air for the money, but if I was forced to go Windows — the XPS 13 gets my vote. We’ll see if that stands after I get my hands on the new Gen 3 Lenovo X1’s though.