This year’s most acclaimed new ultrabook, the Dell XPS 13, was quietly updated on Monday. It looks the same as the version released earlier this year, but looks are only skin deep. There are many significant differences.
The most unexpected difference is the screen. Many have liked the Ultra HD touchscreen on the Dell XPS 13 released earlier this year, but many others have noted that the screen looks like it has a grease coating — something that isn’t new for touchscreen laptops. However, the early 2015 version of the XPS 13 was extra greasy. The screen on the late 2015 XPS 13 barely has the grease coating, or at least the human eye can’t detect it.
Dell has not always been known for producing well-designed laptops, but they hit a home run with this one. It’s basically a laptop that has a 13.3-inch screen fit into a notebook chassis for 11-inch screens. It feels a lot like the 11-inch MacBook Air. Of course, there are some compromises that Dell had to make. The biggest one is that the keyboard feels cramped, and the keys don’t have that much travel. However, once you get used to typing on the XPS 13, the keyboard is fine.
Another issue — for some people who use Skype a lot — is the fact that the webcam is on the bottom of the screen. It couldn’t fit on the top since there is virtually no bezel. The webcam works, but be prepared for people in your conference commenting on your nose hairs, or even your double chin!
The good news is that Dell has finally fixed the buggy trackpad that was on the early 2015 version of the XPS 13. The trackpad now has a less rubbery feeling and, most importantly, works extremely well. It is almost as good as the trackpad on Apple’s laptops, and it would be just as good if the device didn’t sometimes refuse to register clicks. However, that can be an issue with Windows 10, because the same thing happens on the Surface Book.
The Dell XPS 13 is cheaper and works right out of the box, for the most part. The review unit for this article has experienced screen flickering problems and issues with the screen going completely black too many times. However, a driver update has reduced the problem by about 50 percent. It’s disappointing when the display driver problems occur, but the XPS 13 is still completely usable.
Considering how much power the XPS 13 takes up, the battery life is great. In a test that had videos streamed in a loop with brightness set at 80 percent, the XPS 13 lasted more than five hours. It should last up to eight or ten hours with normal use. The Skylake processor has definitely helped improve the battery life from the early 2015 XPS 13.
In conclusion, Dell has even more of a winning device with the XPS 13 than it had earlier this year. If it comes down to choosing a Surface Pro, Surface Book, or even a MacBook Air, the Dell XPS 13 should easily be your choice.
[Photo via Daryl Deino]