At the end of 2017, Dell updated the XPS 13, their flagship laptop. An opinion piece from this author on the Inquisitr said the device isn’t the PC equivalent of a MacBook Pro.
“Dell’s updated XPS 13 is certainly a more powerful computer when compared to the 2017 version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, but the latter is a much better computer with more than enough power for most tasks. As Apple has proven once again, quality is more important than quantity.”
Well, it ends up that Dell was just trolling us because two months later, the XPS 13 9370 was released. Last week, this author got his hands on one, spent a week with it, and can safely say that Dell made a noticeable improvement with the latest XPS 13. The unit being reviewed is the XPS 13 with an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, 4K screen, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. It costs $1699, but you can easily find a deal for $1499.
The biggest improvement is in the display. Dell provides a virtually bezel-free 13.3-inch screen that has an upgraded 4K resolution. Of course, many believe that 4K on a 13.3-inch screen is overkill, and in some ways it certainly is. It’s not worth the loss of battery life. But you still can tell the difference between a 4K screen and a non-4K screen, especially when it comes to typing. The letters look amazingly crisp in Microsoft Word.
But more importantly, Dell has improved the contrast ratio on their previously washed-out screen. The color settings are so perfect that you won’t mind that in the Intel Graphics panel, you can’t change the color vibrancy. The only issue is that, like previous XPS 13 units, the display automatically changes brightness levels, especially when using different internet browsers. It does this with the automatic brightness capabilities turned off. It’s really not a big deal, but it can get pretty annoying.
Where are the Ports?
In order to make the new XPS 13 slightly thinner, Dell had to get rid of the USB-A ports. Instead, there are now three USB-C ports, but two of those are Thunderbolt 3 capable. Just one year ago, this would have been somewhat controversial, but it’s forward thinking — everything will turn into USB-C within the next two years. And at least Dell is nice enough to include a USB-C to USB-A dongle.
Having keys that had only half as much travel as most keyboards might have been controversial just three years ago. But now, we have Apple’s “Butterfly” keyboard, so the short travel on the XPS 13 keyboard doesn’t seem like such a disability anymore. The XPS 13 keyboard is cramped, but it also works very well. Dell had to make some sacrifices to make the XPS 13 so thin, but they sacrifices on the keyboard are only minimal.
Along with the screen, the biggest upgrade on the XPS 13 9370 is the performance. The 8th generation i7 processor uses four cores instead of two, so tasks such as editing 4K videos are noticeably faster. Because of all the power, you will hear the annoying “coil whine” Dell’s computers are known for. The good news is that you’ll only really notice the noise in a silent or almost silent room. And the noise produced sounds a lot more like a running fan than a whistle.
Since 2015, the XPS 13 has had very little bezel space around the screen. Because of this design, Dell has always (controversially) put the webcam on the lower-left, which is just perfect for people to see inside your left nostril. Dell has now put the webcam in the lower-center. It still produces an unflattering angle, but not bad enough that you’ll have to go out and buy another webcam.
You would think that if Dell upgraded the display, they would upgrade the speakers as well to give a complete multimedia experience. However, the sound is still slightly tinny no matter how much you change the settings. There is no “oomph” to the sound like there is on the MacBook Pro and even the new Surface Book 2. The sound isn’t horrible, but it doesn’t make you want to forget your external Bluetooth speaker.
Dell had to make the battery slightly smaller so they could fit it in their slightly thinner laptop. However, the battery life actually improves a little bit from the previous generation. In two tests, which Netflix movies were streamed on a loop with brightness set at 70 percent, the XPS 13 9370 lasted more than six hours. Most people will be able to get eight hours of use without any difficulties. It’s not a good idea to leave the charger at home, but you won’t get too stressed if you forget it once in a while.
When compared to the 13-inch MacBook Pro that is similarly priced, you get a better deal with the XPS 13 9370, including a noticeably faster processor and a higher-resolution screen. However, the XPS 13 still doesn’t hit all the boxes like the 2017 13-inch MacBook Pro does. Apple’s laptop offers better battery life, a screen with a higher contrast ratio, and unrivaled speakers. Still, with the XPS 13 9370, Dell has come closer than ever in creating the ultimate 13-inch MacBook Pro killer. Dell’s laptop isn’t a killer yet, but it’s an ultimate threat.