A Closer Look at the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook

Share

The Dell XPS 13 Ultrabooks are very handsomely designed laptops that enable you to speedily carry out tasks as well as enjoy digital media, in a very lightweight and size-efficient footprint. Options are available with energy efficient, second generation Intel Core processors, a dual-core 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 and a dual-core 1.7GHz Intel Core i7, but the most striking feature of these ultra-portable machines is the use of high-grade materials like carbon fiber, and the meticulous construction. The result is a computer that’s solidly built, attractive to look at, comfortable to use and easy to pick up and transport.

If you tend to think of Dell computers as staid yet reliable, with an overall plastic look and feel, the XPS 13 will surely challenge this perception. While it certainly doesn’t have the most original industrial design I’ve ever seen, there is a fluid continuity in its overall visual appearance that sets it apart from the pack. The glossy 13.3” (33.8cm) display flows seamlessly into the main chassis, giving way to the comfortable chiclet-style keyboard and generously sized glass touchpad, which supports multi-touch gestures.

Interestingly, the biggest standout feature on the XPS 13 hides underneath it. The carbon fiber base does a great deal to help the computer remain lightweight yet incredibly strong. Common downsides to laptop computers, especially Ultrabooks, are the heat issues. It’s pretty uncomfortable having a sizzling hot slab of electronics cooking on your thighs for any length of time. The carbon fiber base helps to dissipate the heat, allowing the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook to stay cooler. You can use the XPS 13 on your lap for extended periods of time, and you won’t have to take periodic breaks to go stand in front of your refrigerator to cool off. Another highlight of the base is parallel ribs that jut out slightly. These allow the computer to have a better grip on the surface it’s resting on, such as your legs or your sofa. It’s just a small detail of the design, but an important one. It’s nice to see a balance of function and fashion for a change, rather than just one or the other.

The second strongest feature of the XPS 13 is its keyboard. The keys are very comfortable to the touch, and not too deep or shallow. They are backlit, so you’ll be able to see what you’re doing in any environment. I’ve been using laptops with backlit keys for seven years now, and I personally could never give up this feature. Another aspect that makes the keyboard pleasant to use is the surface that surrounds it. While the lid and edges of the XPS 13 are made of sturdy machined aluminum, the area around the keyboard and touchpad are magnesium and coated with soft-touch paint, so it feels much cooler in temperature than metal. The result is simply a computer that lets you type comfortably.

The XPS 13 is a true Ultrabook. Not only is it noticeably thin and light, it’s got all of the internals that are central to the category. Both of the models currently available at B&H feature 256GB solid state drives, which enable it to power on and wake up from sleep mode incredibly quickly. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that SSD drives are more power efficient, reliable, compact and quiet. While the XPS 13 is especially thin, it has enough girth to support a little collection of ports. The right side is outfitted with a USB 3.0 port and a Mini DisplayPort connector, and the left side features a USB 2.0 port, a combo headphone/microphone jack and the AC adapter connector. There is no optical drive, but external CD and DVD burners are available separately.

A 1.3MP camera is located above the monitor, and the bezel is impressively narrow. The XPS 13 itself is only 12.4” wide, yet, as I mentioned earlier, the display is a full diagonal 13.3” (33.8cm). That’s a big screen for such a compact computer. There were, perhaps, some compromises made here, because the colors shift even when viewed at slight angles, but the end goal here is to have a fast computer that can painlessly be transported in a tote bag, and that goal has been met. Plus, the built-in speakers on the XPS 13 get fairly loud, and don’t sound half bad for a laptop, so it can double as your portable sound system. With integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000, this Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook is perfectly capable of running regular day-to-day activities, but not quite up to snuff for graphics-intensive gaming.

Whether you’ve used a Dell in the past or never laid a finger on one, the XPS 13 is worth getting to know. It comes loaded with the Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit operating system. So if you’re on the hunt for an Ultrabook, this model should be a contender.

  Dell XPS 13, 1.6 GHz i5  Dell XPS 13, 1.7 GHz i7
Processor 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-2467M
Dual-Core
Turbo Boost up to 2.3 GHz
1.7 GHz Intel Core i7-2637M
Dual-Core
Turbo Boost up to 2.8 GHz
Cache L3: 3MB L3: 4MB
Memory 4GB Dual Channel SDRAM, 1333MHz 4GB Dual Channel SDRAM, 1333MHz
Storage 256 GB SSD 256 GB SSD
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 3000
Integrated
Intel HD Graphics 3000
Integrated
Display 13.3" (33.8cm) widescreen 13.3" (33.8cm) widescreen
Native Resolution 1366 x 768 1366 x 768
Camera 1.3MP HD webcam 1.3MP HD webcam
Speakers 2 x 1.5W speakers 2 x 1.5W speakers
Keyboard Standard full size backlit chiclet Standard full size backlit chiclet
Touchpad Glass integrated button with gesture support Glass integrated button with gesture support
Construction Machined aluminum in silver
Carbon fiber composite base
Magnesium palm rest with soft-touch paint
Machined aluminum in silver
Carbon fiber composite base
Magnesium palm rest with soft-touch paint
Wireless 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi with Smart Connect Technology
Bluetooth 3.0
Intel Wireless Display ready
802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi with Smart Connect Technology
Bluetooth 3.0
Intel Wireless Display ready
Ports 1 x USB 3.0
1 x USB 2.0 (with Powershare)
1 x mini DisplayPort
1 x 3.5" headset jack
1 x USB 3.0
1 x USB 2.0 (with Powershare)
1 x mini DisplayPort
1 x 3.5" headset jack
Power 47WHr battery, 6-Cell Li-Polymer (built-in)
45W AC adapter included
47WHr battery, 6-Cell Li-Polymer (built-in)
45W AC adapter included
Battery Life (quoted from manufacturer) Up to 8 hours and 53 minutes Up to 8 hours and 53 minutes
Dimensions
(H x W x D)
12.4 x 0.71 x 8.1" / 31.50 x 1.80 x
20.57 cm 
12.4 x 0.71 x 8.1" / 31.50 x 1.80 x
20.57 cm 
Weight 2.99 lb / 1.36 kg 2.99 lb / 1.36 kg