Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

PC Advisor - - CONTENTS - Henry Bur­rell and Andrew Wil­liams

Dell is no stranger to peaks and troughs when it comes to be­ing in fash­ion. Luck­ily, it’s a brand that’s in the as­cen­sion once more, helped by a sub­tle re­brand­ing and ex­cel­lent prod­ucts to match. This rise has been greatly helped by the ex­cel­lent XPS 13, one of the best Win­dows lap­tops in the world. The firm’s lat­est up­date to the range, the XPS 13 2-in-1, is a con­vert­ible touch­screen ver­sion. With tablet func­tion­al­ity and the op­tion to use the Ac­tive Pen, it con­tin­ues to help Dell blur the lines of its tar­get mar­ket.

Price

Dell of­fers four con­fig­u­ra­tions of the XPS 13 2-in-1, max­ing out at £1,669 for 512GB SSD with a Core i7 and 8GB RAM.

De­sign

This is one of those prod­ucts that begs to be touched and used. The de­sign is stun­ningly thin, yet the right side of sub­stan­tial, with a me­tal­lic frame and plas­tic de­tail­ing in all the right places.

The 13.3in In­fin­i­tyEdge dis­play has in­cred­i­bly thin bezels. In­deed, Dell claims the unit is ac­tu­ally the size of an 11in lap­top when closed. This is a bit of a stretch, but it’s cer­tainly one of the most com­pact 13in mod­els out there mea­sur­ing 304x199x13.7mm. Dur­ing our time with the XPS, we were able to perch it upon our knee on our com­mute.

The chas­sis also houses a mi­croSD slot, two USB-C ports, a lock slot and a head­phone jack. The whole thing, when closed, has an el­e­gant ta­per to it, with a pro­fes­sional blend of sil­ver and black colours. The pres­ence of the soft fin­ish of the body when opened also helps to add to the premium look and feel of the lap­top. Un­like the 13in MacBook Pro, the Dell keeps tra­di­tional scis­sor mech­a­nism but­tons on its full-size key­board. There are, how­ever, two hinges that let you spin the screen around and use the unit as a tablet. As the di­men­sions of the screen are lap­top-size, you prob­a­bly won’t find your­self us­ing it in por­trait mode, but in land­scape mode you can take ad­van­tage of the touch­screen and Ac­tive Pen (sold sep­a­rately for around £80).

You may not use it as a full-on tablet, but the fact the op­tion is there, along with pen in­put, is all the more at­trac­tive when Dell has achieved it with­out com­pro­mis­ing the us­abil­ity of the de­vice as a tra­di­tional lap­top.

Like the firm’s other XPS mod­els, the build qual­ity is great. The screen doesn’t bend eas­ily un­der pres­sure, there’s al­most no flex to the key­board and even when you pick the lap­top up by one edge, it doesn’t feel like you’re mis­treat­ing it.

If you’re go­ing to spend as much time us­ing a lap­top on the road as in the of­fice or at home, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is a per­fect fit.

Fea­tures

Dell’s lap­tops are ex­tremely flex­i­ble when it comes to spec­i­fi­ca­tions and cus­tomi­sa­tion. The en­try-level model ships with a sev­enth-gen­er­a­tion Kaby Lake In­tel Core i5 pro­ces­sor, 4GB RAM and 128GB solid-state stor­age. It’s good to see the firm opt for In­tel’s lat­est chips, though th­ese are the low-volt­age ver­sions.

Also on-board is an In­tel HD graph­ics card, a widescreen HD

(720p) we­b­cam with dual mics, 802.11ac 2x2 Wi-Fi con­nec­tiv­ity and pow­er­ful stereo speak­ers. There are two cam­eras that sit oddly at the base of the screen (due to the In­fin­i­tyEdge dis­play) that are Win­dows Hello-ready (the tech that al­lows for reti­nal se­cu­rity iden­ti­fi­ca­tion). Bar the still de­bat­ably an­noy­ing lack of a USB-A port or full-size SD slot, this lap­top won’t dis­ap­point with the func­tion­al­ity on show com­pared with other barer ul­tra­books on the mar­ket.

Dis­play

There are two screen op­tions when you buy an XPS 13 2-in-1: a 1080p dis­play or a more pixel-dense QHD+ one with 3200x1800 pix­els. This is the ‘step be­low’ 4K, and there’s an ar­gu­ment to be made that 4K in a 13in lap­top is overkill any­way.

Dell sent us the 1080p ver­sion and, con­sis­tent with it be­ing the cheaper op­tion, its per­for­mance is very good if not quite world­beat­ing. To the naked eye colours look well-sat­u­rated and fairly deep, but our col­orime­ter tells us it ac­tu­ally only cov­ers 85.6 per­cent or sRGB, 61.6 per­cent of Adobe RGB and 64.2 per­cent or DCI P3.

Graph­ics pro­fes­sion­als who need wide colour gamut cov­er­age should check out the QHD+ ver­sion or some­thing like the 4K Razer Blade Stealth, which has in­cred­i­bly rich dis­play colours. We don’t think any­one else needs to worry, though, par­tic­u­larly as the good 1100:1 con­trast keeps the screen look­ing punchy.

The back­light maxes-out at 305cd/m2, which again isn’t a class-lead­ing statis­tic, but was enough to let us use the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 out in the park to write some of this re­view. It does use some po­ten­tially an­noy­ing auto bright­ness man­age­ment you can’t switch it off, but that’s prob­a­bly more an an­noy­ance to lap­top testers than real peo­ple.

Per­for­mance

Per­haps the most se­ri­ous rea­son to con­sider not buy­ing the XPS 13 2-in-1 out­side of its price is the kind of pro­ces­sor it uses. All ver­sions have Core i-se­ries pro­ces­sors, but they are In­tel’s Y-se­ries ones.

Th­ese are the most power-fru­gal of In­tel’s premium lap­top chips, with less raw power on tap than the cor­re­spond­ing U-se­ries Core i5 or i7. U-se­ries chips are what you’ll find in the ma­jor­ity of thin lap­tops, as only ul­tra-ul­tra skinny ones tend to use the kind seen here. You may have bumped into them be­fore when they were called ‘Core M’, in pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.

The good news is that for everyday use and gen­eral pro­duc­tiv­ity tasks, one of th­ese

Y-se­ries chips won’t feel ob­vi­ously slower than a quad-core desk­top­grade CPU. They’re fast, Win­dows feels re­spon­sive and they even per­form well in most bench­marks.

Our re­view model has a Core i7-7y75, and it scored 6906 in Geek­bench 4 and 2558 in PCMark 8. This is the sort of score you might get out of a ‘nor­mal’ Core i5 lap­top CPU, but ef­fi­ciency and small size are the real aims of this kind of pro­ces­sor.

For our sort of day-to-day usage, which at its most tax­ing in­volves Pho­to­shop edit­ing of large images and a bit of light video edit­ing, it’s ab­so­lutely fine. If, how­ever, you’re reg­u­larly go­ing to be max­ing-out the CPU, you might want to find some­thing with a bit more power.

The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is also poor for gam­ing, as the Core i7-7y75 has a much worse graph­ics chipset than the Core U-se­ries ones seen in the nor­mal XPS 13. Where we can nor­mally make our stan­dard test games, Thief and Alien: Iso­la­tion just about playable at 720p with graph­ics set­tings chopped down, we strug­gled here.

At min­i­mum set­tings, 720p, Thief runs at 15.6fps, drop­ping to a painful 4.9fps when we switched up to 1080p, high set­tings: how you’d want to play the game ide­ally. Alien: Iso­la­tion runs at 20.8fps at 720p, and 9.3fps with the

res­o­lu­tion at 1080p and the graph­i­cal qual­ity in­creased. None of th­ese re­sults are playable un­less you have very low stan­dards.

If you care about lap­top gam­ing, you prob­a­bly shouldn’t buy the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. How­ever, we could have told you that from a quick look at the spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

One ben­e­fit of the high-ef­fi­ciency brain is that it doesn’t need fans, so is silent 24/7. Af­ter a few hours of test­ing, the rear of the un­der­side had be­come a bit warm, but not wor­ry­ingly so. There ap­pear to be no is­sues with heat man­age­ment here.

Bat­tery life

The main ben­e­fit of the CPU style is bat­tery life. While this model has a much smaller bat­tery than the nor­mal Dell XPS 13, with 46Wh to the non-hy­brid’s 60Wh, stamina is still very good. Play­ing a video on loop, it lasts 10 hours 13 min­utes, at 120cd/m2 bright­ness – enough for all-day use. It runs longer with light use still, but it com­fort­ably out­lasts the HP Spec­tre 13 and Asus ZenBook 3.

Soft­ware

It ships with Win­dows 10 Home, which works well in tablet mode but is ex­cep­tional in lap­top mode. Win­dows has re­fined it in the lat­est Cre­ators Up­date. We found it to be an easy match for the MacBook/ macOS Sierra com­bi­na­tion as well as any other PC out there run­ning Win­dows 10.

With Win­dows Ink, you can use the Ac­tive Pen to take notes, an­no­tate doc­u­ments and ex­plore the newer cre­ative fea­tures of Win­dows 10. We must ad­mit that if you are keen to fully em­brace dig­i­tal note tak­ing or illustration this isn’t the ma­chine for you (try the Mi­crosoft Sur­face Pro 4 or the Len­ovo Miix 720), but the abil­ity to be able to use those func­tions while still in­vest­ing in a fully-fledged lap­top will make the XPS a tempt­ing choice for some.

Ver­dict

The XPS 13 was al­ready ex­cel­lent, and it’s a smart move from Dell to re­lease this hy­brid edi­tion with­out com­pro­mis­ing the de­sign and func­tion­al­ity of the orig­i­nal vi­sion. The XPS 13 2-in-1 is an ul­tra­book that will fit in to any home or work en­vi­ron­ment. The thin bezels, ex­cel­lent key­board and thought­ful de­sign are marred only by a high price. The hy­brid form is wellex­e­cuted too, al­though it’s worth con­sid­er­ing about whether you’ll ap­pre­ci­ate a fold­ing touch­screen when it comes at a premium. Then again, this is the fu­ture.

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