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Dell XPS 13 (late 2017) review

Editors’ note, Nov. 13: A score for the Dell XPS 13 reviewed here was incorrectly reported as 401 for the Cinebench R15 CPU benchmark test. The correct score is 624. The comparison charts that follow this review have been updated accordingly. The rest of the review is unchanged.

Dell’s XPS 13 doesn’t flip into different positionsdetach from its keyboard to become a tabletor have a fancy context-sensitive touchbar, but it’s still pretty excellent in its own right.

The laptop — the world’s smallest with a 13.3-inch display — might be a simple clamshell, but it’s a well-designed one that’s comfortable to use despite its diminutive dimensions. It hasn’t changed much since the redesign in 2015 that introduced its InfinityEdge display, which virtually eliminates the frame around its display. Late in 2016, Dell tuned it up with seventh-generation Core i-series CPUs and a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port and now it’s back with Intel’s 8th-generation chips.

As with most new technology, though, getting Intel’s latest adds to the cost. Dell is still selling the “old” XPS 13 starting at $800 for a pretty mediocre configuration built around a seventh-gen Core i3 processor. The new XPS 13 with an eighth-generation Core i7 chip starts at $1,200 in the US,  £1,300 in the UK and AU$2,300 in Australia. That’s expensive, but not overpriced for this system’s power, battery life and mobility.

At 2.7 pounds (1.2 kg), the XPS 13 is fine for an everyday carry.

Dell XPS 13 (late 2017)

Price as reviewed $1,200 (£1,300, AU$2,300)
Display size/resolution 13.3-inch 1,920×1,080 display
PC CPU 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U
PC memory 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 1,866MHz
Graphics 128MB Intel UHD Graphics 620
Storage 256GB PCIe SSD
Networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.1
Operating system Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Don’t mess up a good thing

Although the new XPS 13’s performance gets a boost, the design doesn’t change. Roughly the size of an average 11.6-inch laptop, but with a 13.3-inch screen, it’s made from aluminum with carbon fiber palm rests with a comfortable soft-touch treatment. A big part of what makes this small size possible is the InfinityEdge display that eliminates all but a sliver of a border around the screen. You can choose between a 13.3-inch UltraSharp Quad HD+ (3,200×1,800 pixels) touchscreen and a 1,920×1,080-pixel-resolution display with a matte antiglare screen.

The XPS 13 can be used for work and play, of course, but it’s definitely more for the former than the latter. Its combination of a small, lightweight body matched with an excellent backlit keyboard and touchpad makes it great for commuters and college students. The keys have a pleasingly firm feel with good travel and are well spaced and sized. The precision touchpad is smooth and responsive with no cursor jumpiness.

The XPS 13’s webcam position at the lower left of the screen is a compromise for the slim screen bezels.

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