The XPS 13 starts at $799 and comes in two configurations: a standard non-touch model with a 1080p screen and a full-touch version with a 3200 x 1800 pixel panel. Both versions have what Dell is calling an “infinity display,” which really means a screen with very small borders around it, enabling Dell to put a larger display in a smaller package.
I’ve never been a fan of 11-inch computers: while they are certainly more compact and portable than their 13-inch counterparts, the compromises you have to make in terms of screen real-estate and keyboard comfort aren’t usually worth it. But a computer with a 13-inch display and the footprint of an 11-inch model? Count me in. That’s exactly what Dell’s promising with the XPS 13, and for the most part, it pulls it off. I’ve been using the touchscreen model (which is available for a steep $500 premium) for a few weeks, and I’m pretty sure that this is a look at the future of all laptops. But, sadly, only a look.
THE XPS 13 IS AN ALUMINUM LAPTOP THAT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE A MACBOOK AIR RIPOFF
You can split hairs all you want on whether or not the Dell is thinner than other ultrabooks or the MacBook Air, but it’s more than thin enough to be super portable. Its 9mm-thick frame slips into my bag with ease, and that’s really all I care about. The touchscreen model’s 2.8lb weight is also plenty portable.
The only thing that Dell didn’t really sort out with the XPS 13 is where to put the webcam: it’s located in the lower left corner of the display, which makes for unflattering up-the-nose angles during video calls. Additionally, my fingers consistently block the camera whenever I type during a video call, which is annoying to both parties. I would have forgiven Dell if it added a few millimeters to the border at the top of the screen to accommodate the camera in the proper location.
Typing on the XPS 13’s shrunken keyboard is a pleasant experience — the backspace key is smaller than normal, but most other keys appear to be normal-sized. Dell also managed to put in backlighting, making it much easier to continue using the XPS 13 once the cabin lights have dimmed on that cross-country red-eye flight. It’s a good keyboard.
TRACKPAD PERFORMANCE IS HIT OR MISS
As for the XPS 13 itself, its battery life issues and poor trackpad make it tough to recommend over other options, even with its ultra efficient design. Too many other computers do so much better in those respects that I can’t ignore them on the Dell.
But after years of seeing clumsy tablet-laptop hybrids and other ill-conceived designs, we’ve moved into the post-post-PC world now, and it’s clear the PC is back. The XPS 13 is one of the first exciting designs to arrive in this world, but it certainly won’t be the last. Buckle up, the laptop renaissance is just getting started.