A wor­thy Mac­Book Air com­peti­tor

Dell’s new XPS 13 sports In­tel’s Haswell pro­ces­sor comes with big­ger bat­tery, high-speed wire­less, is power ef­fi­cient and bears close re­sem­blance to Mac­Book Air in de­sign and looks

CRN - - CONTENTS - ED­WARD J COR­REIA

Dell’s new XPS 13 sports In­tel’s Haswell pro­ces­sor comes with big­ger bat­tery, high-speed wire­less, is power ef­fi­cient and bears close re­sem­blance to Mac­Book Air in de­sign and looks

Com­pare to the pre­vi­ous ver­sion, the new XPS 13 is no longer chal­lenged by view­ing an­gle is­sues thanks to an IPS panel with its near 180 de­gree range

In the first ma­jor re­fresh of its XPS 13 mod­els since the re­lease of Win­dows 8, Dell has equipped its ul­tra lights with In­tel’s fourth-gen­er­a­tion Haswell pro­ces­sors, 1920x1080 full HD dis­plays, a big­ger bat­tery, In­tel high-speed wire­less and a 10 point mul­ti­touch op­tion.

In an ear­lier re­view of the Dell XPS13 ul­tra­book, the CRN Test Cen­ter had re­ported that it was among the best ul­tra­book-style lap­tops we had ever seen, and bore re­sem­blance to Ap­ple’s Mac­Book Air. We still feel that way, but now that we have had our hands on the quad­core Haswell ver­sion, we are ready to let go of the prior model.

The XPS13 starts at $1,049 with an In­tel Core i3, 128 GB SSD, 4 GB RAM and Win­dows 7 Home Pre­mium. That is just $50 more than a sim­i­larly equipped unit from the prior gen­er­a­tion. Pric­ing tops out at $1,649 for a quad­core In­tel Core i7 4500U 1.8 GHz pro­ces­sor, 256 GB SSD and Win­dows 8.1 Pro run­ning on 8 GB RAM, the unit we tested.

As one might ex­pect, the Haswell-based XPS 13 out­per­formed its 3rd gen­er­a­tion coun­ter­part. This year’s 1.8 GHz Core i7 turned in a top score in Geek­bench 2.3 of 8,765, plac­ing it in fifth place in CRN’s all-time list for lap­tops. The prior model’s 1.7 GHz Core i7 scored 7,457. That’s an im­prove­ment of nearly 18 per­cent. In both cases, Win­dows was con­fig­ured for max­i­mum per­for­mance and any in­stalled nag­ware was ei­ther dis­abled or re­moved be­fore test­ing. The sys­tem cold boots in about 10 sec­onds and re­turns from sleep in around two.

Where Haswell re­ally shines though, is in power ef­fi­ciency. In our me­dia play­back test, Dell’s cur­rent XPS 13 ran a con­tin­u­ously loop­ing video from its SSD for a to­tal of 6 hours and 45 min­utes, com­pared with 3 hours and 12 min­utes for the In­tel Core i7 2637M-based unit.

The XPS 13 still mea­sures 12.4-inches long by 8.1-inches wide, and is just 0.2 to 0.7-inches thick at the widest side of its ta­per. With touch, it weighs a feather more than 3 pounds—and with­out a feather less. Chalk that up to its grippy car­bon fiber base, ma­chined alu­minium case and mag­ne­sium palm rest with a warm, com­fort­able tex­ture. Its beau­ti­ful 350 nit LED lit HD panel is pro­tected by Go­rilla Glass edge to edge.

Its 45 watt power sup­ply in­cludes an AC ca­ble that is some­what short at 32-inches, but more than makes up for it on the DC side with a thin ca­ble that’s more than 8 feet long and has a lighted power tip. There is also a cord­less AC con­nec­tor with a two-way swivel that al­lows the small power brick to stand up­right in an out­let strip or sit flush against a wall out­let. Dell’s Touch­Pad is a su­per large 4-inches across by 2.5-inches up and down.

The new XPS 13 is no longer chal­lenged by viewingan­gle is­sues thanks to an IPS panel with its near 180 de­gree range. The older XPS13 em­ployed a less ex­pen­sive TN panel. The XPS 13 still of­fers pre­cious few ports. Along the left edge is a head­set jack, USB 3.0 and the power in­put. On the right edge is an­other USB 3.0 port, a mini dis­play port and a bat­tery sta­tus but­ton. We still don’t like the power con­nec­tor, which pro­trudes straight out of the left side and might as well have a kick me sign on it.

The new XPS 13 is avail­able with In­tel Core 13, i5 and i7 pro­ces­sors, In­tel HD 4400 or HD 5000 graph­ics (Core i7 4650U only). All mod­els also deliver a back­lit key­board, HD we­b­cam with dual mics, and dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac and Blue­tooth 4.0 through In­tel’s AC 7240 net­work adapter. A one-year war­ranty is stan­dard. Dell’s Haswell-based XPS 13 ul­tra­book is a prod­uct rec­om­mended by the CRN Test Cen­ter.

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