Anatomy of Utrabooks (Part 4) - DELL XPS 13

4/6/2012 9:25:15 AM

Anatomy of Utrabooks (Part 4)


Description: Dell-XPS-13

Outstanding, elegant and potential. Dell had created a premium Ultrabook with XPS 13.

Dell had sent us an email informing that they was about to show us something really special. In order to see it, we also had to sign the agreement for not revealing this information. One day later, the mystery came out to be an initial model of XPS 13, the additional product which was expected in such a long time of Dell for its top-end laptop, and more important, it was its first Ultrabook of it.

XPS 13 there was nothing in common in design with neither Apple products or Dell laptops in its rich history. The lid was outworked with the dim light metal – the tradition but not official yet of Ultrabook – and the dark back added with a little bit of contrast. One kind of carbon fibers around the XPS metal label in the centre was curved with Windows and Intel logos.

Inside, Dell was really elegant. The anti-glare black plastic on the keyboard and wrist place was covered with a plastic and metal tint as smooth as silk. It was also light physically. Dell had announced that XPS 13 stuffed its 13.1” into the 12” frame, meanwhile it wasn’t as small as Zenbook UX21 of Asus but it was much neater than its 13.3” rivals.  

With the weight of 1.38kg, XPS 13 wasn’t regarded as too heavy; however, it brought the heavier feeling than its competitors. In reality, some members of PC & Tech Authority team complained about its weight. Whether due to its weight distributing all over the frame or its tender touching feeling but it was actually sturdy with the carbon base. In all, this was a steady and stable laptop.   

Touchpad and keyboard

Regardless its fairly small size, XPS 13 didn’t scarify its convenience. The fantastic keyboard, the light hollow in the middle of each key went along well with fast response and act decisively resulting in fast typing speed and confident as well. It was also backlit – a keyboard shortcut easily switched between to brightness mode or off completely. It had the best keyboard among a wide range of laptops, which included models of Apple.

The touchpad was as best as the keyboard. Occasionally it required a strong keystroke to response, and we missed the 2-fingered click ability to simulate the right click. Similar to its rivals, the multi-touch features seemed to be added temporarily – there was nothing to excuse for the fact that Windows wasn’t as friendly with gestures as OS X. However it wasn’t bad at all, the mirror surface left the fantastic feeling for the fingers, offered the exactly mouse control and all the pad sinking with a decisive click.


Whenever using for watching films or heavy video editing, XPS 13 offered the impressive performance. Our testing model was equipped with the high-end Core i7 processor along with the latest 256GB SSD of Samsung, PM830. It was a powerful combination – with the result of 0.62 in our tests, Dell threatened the 1st place of Asus’s Zenbook UX31. With the battery life in light-duty use of 8 hours and 11 minutes, Dell was subordinate than Zenbook UX31 just a little bit.   

SSD was as fast as 474MB per second continuous reading and 259MB per second for recording, XPS could wake from the hibernating mode less than 2 seconds, and load a wide range of applications immediately.

In the battle of medium quality display screen, the XPS 13 was outstanding. The protecting Gorilla Glass covered over the 13.3” screen, 1,366x768 and 296cd/m2 bright backlit. The color accuracy was accepted, and we didn’t even recognize any bluish tint or color fading effect as other Ultrabook displayed. 

Nevertheless, it had plenty points to improve. The 220:1 contrast ratio could place Dell into one of the best models in the test but its screen still struggled in detailed display in dark scenes, with the grey-black covered the nice details. The narrow viewing angle caused a little bit disappointed and made us have to tilt the screen backward and forward for suitable viewing angle.  

Audio was ear-catching. The MaxxAudio sound enhance feature of Waves made the weak sound of Dell into clear, bright, and with many preset which helped you easily adjust the audio quality to suited to many sources, even it was music, film or an audio book. It was the great competitor for all laptop in the test this month. 

The last complain for this XPB 13 was the connectivity. With 1 USB2 port, 1 USB3 port, mini-DisplayPort and an only 3.5 mm jack for headphone and microphone, it was obvious that Dell couldn’t be compatible with Portege Z830 of Toshiba.

The lack of Ethernet socket (or even adapter) could be reduced thanks to the existence of Intel Advanced N-6230 wireless chipset. With two-band wireless 802.11n standard supported, and Bluetooth 3, Dell was able to connect wireless quickly. The addition of GPS (Global Positioning System) sensor was so new, though we’d love to have radio 3G to replace it. (12. 54 => 13.10) 

We had tested the initial product of Dell XPS 13, therefore, it would be possible that some technical features would be changed a bit at the moment you read this review, but except for the improvement in the screen, any stable comments were not sure to change our opinions. It was attractive, well-designed and great keyboard. A big problem related with the price. At the moment we did this review, Dell didn’t announce the official price for XPS 13, so we lowered its grade. However, don’t misunderstand, if it was lower than UX31, we would restore its position.

Price: unpublished

Battery life in light-duty use: 8 hours 11 minutes

Performance: 5 stars

Battery life: 6 stars

Features/design: 5 stars

Value: not yet

Average judgment: 5 stars


With 2 bright mode, and ergonomic keyboard, that of Dell was the best among the group.

The wrist place was the magnet for fingerprint, but the soft plastic made a lovely feeling.

+ XPS 13 was the combination of balance and practicality. The ports had the reasonable distance between the wide USB ports with the splendid tone.

+ The normal labels of Intel and Windows seemed to be outstanding due to their lack, which were replaced by a curved label in the back by carbon fibers of XPS 13.  

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