OUR EARLY VERDICT
- Moving the webcam position, adding facial login and a four-mic array, giving Intel’s chips more headroom to perform even better and adding a 4K screen have all evolved the XPS into an even more formidable flagship laptop. In directly addressing the concerns of users, the Dell XPS 13 laptop is refined further than perhaps ever before.
- Centered IR webcam
- Gorgeous new design
- Beautiful optional 4K display
- Impressive performance
- Steeper starting price
- White option is pricier
- Still gotta’ move that webcam
The Dell XPS 13 has been TechRadar’s highest-ranking best laptop for three years running now. How do you improve upon a pedigree like that? Listen to the people – that’s how.
For CES 2018, the new Dell XPS 13 is hard evidence that Dell has its ear to the ground for your feedback, judging by the newly centered webcam that now has infrared optics for facial login through Windows 10. But, of course, there will always be room for improvement, considering the newly centered webcam is still beneath the display, not above it.
All told, we’re deeply impressed by the new XPS 13, thanks in large part to a new, stunning 4K Ultra HD display and the beautiful, new color option you see here. Of course, if you want in on the deepest revision on the XPS 13 design in years, you’re gonna’ have to pay up – and more than before.
Price and availability
Making a departure from its extremely popular pricing plan, Dell is offering this 2018 Dell XPS 13 at $999 (£1,269, about AU$2,190) to start, not $799 like it has for years.
That starting price nets you the usual Full HD display (no touch) with an 8th-generation Intel Core i5, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD inside.
Starting at that price should tell you that you won’t find an option for an Intel Core i3 processor from the 2018 XPS 13, at least not yet.
Possibly worse is that the new color option, Rose Gold on Alpine White, is considerably pricier than its bog-standard, silver-on-black model to start with similar hardware to boot, at $1,249 (£1,669, about about AU$2,880) to start.
This spec in particular simply doubles the aforementioned RAM and storage for 8GB of memory and 256GB of SSD space. The configuration you see in our spec sheet calls for a massive $2,499 (about £1,848, AU$3,189).
All configurations for the new Dell XPS 13 include three USB-C ports (two of which are Thunderbolt 3), a microSD card reader and a 3.5mm audio jack.
For those keeping score, the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro still offers just two USB-C ports – and threw away the SD card slot a long time ago. (At least it’s still got a headphone jack.)
This year marks the first time that Dell has tangibly changed the XPS 13 design since it graced the top of our rankings. First off, it’s actually, somehow thinner and lighter than the previous model released just months ago.
Dell slimmed down the XPS 13 chassis to be 30% thinner at just 0.3 inches (3.4mm) at its narrowest point and a touch lighter at merely 2.67 pounds (1.21kg).
Now, the most notable of changes to the XPS 13 design is bound to be the brand new Rose Gold on Alpine White color option.
While almost every laptop maker has a rose gold color option these days, Dell took it to the next level with an all-new set of materials for the complementarity-colored keyboard deck.
Dell is particularly proud that the new keyboard deck houses a crystalline silica material that has the white color literally woven into it like a fabric, in nine composite layers.
This is the first time woven glass fiber has been, well, woven into a laptop. Plus, the base has a titanium oxide coating which gives it a pearly shine, not to mention stronger stain-resistance than most.
Sadly, the same can’t be said for the plastic that borders the edges of the laptop. Over the past few days of use, we find this softer plastic has grown a little gray.
Of course, this XPS 13 model also marks the turning point on what might be its biggest bugbear: the webcam placement. Better yet, the new IR lens works well for speedy logins. (Though, the red flashing of the infrared lights is a little intense.)
The webcam comes equipped with four microphones for stronger video chatting input as well as far-field communication for yelling at Cortana from across the room. We’ll put this to further testing in a full review.
Another major improvement upon this year’s design is the display. Now, the screen is available with an optional 4K Ultra HD (3,840 x 2,160) resolution beneath a glossy, IGZO touchscreen. That touchscreen is coated in a 0.65% anti-reflective coating that aims to offset the downfalls of all touchscreens and screen glare. We didn’t notice much difference during our brief time with the laptop, but will consider it in further real-world testing.
With a 1,500:1 contrast ratio and 100% sRGB color profile, blacks look as if the backlight shuts off in those spots during darker scenes in videos and photos and colors pop with vibrancy.
With the latest Intel processors, the Dell XPS 13 for 2018 is the strongest one yet. That’s wholly unsurprising, but is nevertheless a reason to give the XPS 13 kudos. Naturally, what we see here are mighty impressive numbers from the latest XPS 13, beating its young predecessor’s numbers in every test.
In releasing this XPS 13, Dell is touting its use of Gore thermal insulation for stronger heat dissipation.
Dell’s new power management software also helps, with a ‘dynamic power mode’ that automatically delivers maximum power when needed, while carefully monitoring system heat. We’ll be sure to test for this feature more in a full review, but suspect that it too has something to do with the laptop’s battery life.
These battery test scores are most impressive for a laptop with a 4K display, but again well under Dell’s projections – again, wholly unsurprising. We can only imagine the numbers we might see on an FHD model, considering the previous lasted longer than 10 hours in one test.
At last, the most we can say of the laptop’s performance – without more real-world testing – is that it’s an improvement on the previous model basically everywhere performance is concerned.
Without getting too ahead of ourselves, it appears that Dell may very well have done it again. In directly addressing the concerns of users, Dell has refined its XPS 13 laptop further than perhaps ever before.
Moving the webcam position, adding facial login and a four-mic array, giving Intel’s chips more headroom to perform even better and adding a 4K screen have all evolved the XPS into an even more formidable flagship laptop.
We’ll reserve our score for the full review, but it appears that the rest of the laptops of CES might have some catching up to do already.