Dell XPS 13 9370 (2018)

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Dell‘s XPS line has al­ways been good, but this year it is now cer­tainly great. The 2018 XPS 13 is the best lap­top Dell has ever made, and boy has it made a few. Com­par­ing it to the Mac­Book is lazy – the XPS 13 is more pow­er­ful by some dis­tance than Ap­ple’s Mac­Book, the 12in ri­val of a sim­i­lar price. In fact, the Core i7 XPS 13 we tested is the smoothest, fastest XPS ever and wor­thy of your con­sid­er­a­tion if you have the money to spend on a high-end lap­top.

De­sign

Barely had the press re­lease been flung to ev­ery cor­ner of the earth be­fore the XPS 13 was be­stowed with

a CES In­no­va­tion Award. Just like last year. It seems Dell has cut a niche for build­ing a high-end Win­dows lap­top that looks good on an ex­ec­u­tive’s desk as well as per­form­ing well in all con­di­tions.

And to be fair it does look the part. Whether or not you like the rose gold and white model is a mat­ter of taste, but at least it stands out from the crowd com­pared to the uni­form black ver­sion that is by now very fa­mil­iar with its car­bon fi­bre fin­ish on the in­side and slick sil­ver ex­te­rior.

The cas­ing is now 23 per­cent smaller, which is al­ways good so long as it doesn’t af­fect per­for­mance, and the XPS 13 still feels as close to the pre­mium build of Mac­Books that a Win­dows ma­chine has come, al­beit with a more prac­ti­cal, less space-age de­sign.

With sim­ple lines, that just-about-sub­tle-enough car­bon fi­bre ef­fect on the in­side and a sleek, com­pletely flush 4mm bezel round the screen, it’s a good-look­ing piece of kit. The white model has a UV coat­ing on it too, and Dell claims you can wipe per­ma­nent marker off ei­ther one should you have a fran­tic board­room ac­ci­dent.

The bot­tom of the lap­top (yes it mat­ters) look much nicer than pre­vi­ous years, with Dell get­ting rid of all the le­gal text and other odd stick­ers to give a sleeker feel to the ma­chine. When you’re spend­ing this much, that stuff mat­ters, so well done Dell, for leav­ing just the fan grates and the XPS logo.

The key­board has a su­perb clacky yet springy feel to it, while main­tain­ing the slim­mer pro­file of the base – there are no low travel but­ter­fly keys you might find on a new Mac­Book or Mac­Book Pro. Add to that

a fin­ger­print sen­sor in the power key and you have a mighty fine de­sign, re­fined for 2018 needs.

Less fun is the we­b­cam place­ment, now un­der the Dell logo on the bot­tom of the screen. Even if it is a space saver, it’s still an­noy­ing but Dell told us it’s work­ing to fit­ting one into the top bezel on fu­ture mod­els. Although it’s eas­ier to stick a piece of tape over it where it is now, and you prob­a­bly should.

And at 1.21kg with those slim bezels, the lap­top is as com­pact and por­ta­ble as you could hope for.

This is an ex­cel­lently made ul­tra­book, nig­gles aside. Most of the Tech Ad­vi­sor staff when asked would se­lect this as their pre­ferred Win­dows lap­top. So how do the specs hold up?

Hard­ware

8th-gen­er­a­tion In­tel chips are mak­ing their way into many high-end lap­tops in 2018 and the XPS line is no

ex­cep­tion. We tested how they run day to day and against the cur­rent crop of com­pet­ing prod­ucts.

Pro­ces­sor, RAM and stor­age

Dell has added these 8th-gen In­tel Core i5-8250U and i7-8550U pro­ces­sors to the XPS 13, de­pend­ing on your needs and bud­get, while all mod­els have the In­tel UHD Graph­ics 620 GPU. Note that Cof­fee Lake chips are re­served for desk­top only – here the sil­i­con is 8th-gen, but is tech­ni­cally a re­freshed Kaby Lake ar­chi­tec­ture.

Other op­tions for you are a min­i­mum of 128GB and a max­i­mum of 1TB stor­age and 4/8/16GB RAM. Our high end 16GB RAM model per­formed out­stand­ingly, but you can ex­pect slower mul­ti­task­ing speeds in the 4/8GB ver­sions.

Dis­play

You can choose be­tween a non-touch 1920x1080 FHD or a touch­screen 3840x2160 4K Ul­tra HD. Again, we were given the high-end touch­screen ver­sion and it looks in­cred­i­ble. The in­sanely high res­o­lu­tion looks amaz­ing on a 13in panel and colour re­pro­duc­tion is a pleas­ant level of sat­u­rated.

Bright­ness is also out­stand­ing, and there’s very lit­tle oc­ca­sion you’ll want to have it on 100 per­cent. Un­der half­way is usu­ally fine.

Touch­screen in­put is still odd on Win­dows 10, but here the ex­pe­ri­ence is the best it can be. Un­like on cheaper lap­tops with the same fea­ture you don’t have to prod the screen re­ally hard, and it’s a good thing see­ing as the XPS’s lid is so thin. With min­i­mum wob­ble from in­ter­ac­tion, we found our­selves us­ing it more, as

much down to the qual­ity of the hard­ware build as the soft­ware in­ter­ac­tion.

While the 4K touch­screen looks truly phe­nom­e­nal, it’s not nec­es­sary for many. Touch­screen on full Win­dows 10 is still a hin­drance to pro­duc­tiv­ity in some cases where us­ing the track­pad or a mouse is sim­ply eas­ier, and the non-touch­screen ver­sion is still HD and fully ad­e­quate for all work and play uses and still bears a great res­o­lu­tion.

Key­board and track­pad

The key­board is bril­liant, with a great level of phys­i­cal re­sis­tance for longer typ­ing ses­sions. Keys are well spaced with a tex­tured fin­ish and a two-level back­light.

The track­pad is smaller than we are used to on a Mac­Book but aside from Ap­ple’s mas­ter­ful con­trol in­put, it’s the best Win­dows track­pad we’ve ever used – re­spon­sive, smooth and ac­cu­rate.

Its cen­tral po­si­tion is prefer­able as the car­bon fi­bre tex­ture ei­ther side proves a com­fort­able palm rest. The cur­sor doesn’t ran­domly shake or fire off in the wrong di­rec­tion in prob­lems that plague other lap­tops.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

For con­nec­tiv­ity needs are 2x Thun­der­bolt 3 USB-C ports and a fur­ther USB-C 3.1. All share re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for Pow­erShare, DC-In and Dis­playPort.

Dell has re­moved the SD card slot and all USB-A slots. We are go­ing to all have to get used to USB-C as it turns up on the phones in our pock­ets and the lap­tops on our desks. One day it will hope­fully be stan­dard­ized well enough that we’ll all only need one charger for all our gad­gets.

Un­like Ap­ple, Dell puts a USB-A adapter in the box, ac­knowl­edg­ing the an­noy­ing tran­si­tion.

There is a mi­croSD card reader built in though, so if you have an An­droid phone with ex­pand­able stor­age or dig­i­tal cam­era this might come in use­ful to trans­fer me­dia. Oth­er­wise it’s a new stan­dard to ad­just to in 2018.

Per­for­mance

The 1.8GHz In­tel Core i7-8550U CPU is overkill for most peo­ple, as most likely is the 16GB LPDDR3 2133MHz RAM. 8GB RAM should be enough for you even if you stick with the i7 model.

If you’re look­ing for the most pow­er­ful Dell ul­tra­book, note that the U-se­ries pro­ces­sor used here is po­ten­tially less pow­er­ful than the quad-core HQ CPU used in the last gen­er­a­tion of XPS 15. That said,

speed in­creases thanks to 8th-gen are de­cent and re­flected in our bench­mark­ing.

The be­low re­sults are en­cour­ag­ing for the new XPS 13. Its score in Geek­bench 4, which mea­sures raw pro­cess­ing power (CPU, GPU and RAM) was only just shy of the 2017 15in Mac­Book Pro.

The XPS notably out­per­formed the HP Spec­tre x360’s i7 set up, though aside from the lower Sur­face Pro re­sults, all these scores are com­pa­ra­ble. The per­for­mance be­tween the Dell XPS 13 and the lat­est 8th-gen Len­ovo Yoga 920 is also very sim­i­lar.

The PC Mark 10 score for the XPS is also de­cent, with good re­sults for Cinebench against the Sur­face Book 2, but con­sid­er­ably lower in 3D Mark, mean­ing the XPS 13 is still not quite the ma­chine you want to opt for if you want to in­dulge in very high-end graph­i­cal

PC gam­ing. But for most gam­ing needs it’s not far off the com­pe­ti­tion.

Bat­tery life

Dell claims the 52Wh bat­tery can run in some con­di­tions for up to 19 hours. Bear in mind that Dell has cut this down from 60Wh from the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion. This is to save on weight and com­po­nent space, while the next-gen pro­ces­sors should make the smaller ca­pac­ity more ef­fi­cient.

It cer­tainly ex­cels in bat­tery life and charges re­mark­ably fast with the sup­plied charger, but in our stan­dard video test it didn’t hit 19 hours.

With a 720p video loop­ing and with screen bright­ness at 120cd/m2 (40 per­cent in this case) the

XPS 13 man­aged 10 hours and 51 min­utes. This is highly re­spectable, but less than the 12 hours 30 min­utes the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion model did.

The lat­est HP Spec­tre x360 13 lasted 10 hours 32 min­utes with a 60Wh bat­tery, so the lat­est XPS 13 wins in this re­gard with a lower ca­pac­ity bat­tery.

By far the best per­form­ing lap­top we’ve tested for bat­tery life is the Len­ovo Yoga 920. It lasted 16 hours 45 min­utes in the same test, which is ut­terly amaz­ing. It also costs less pound for pound when you com­pare sim­i­larly spec­i­fied mod­els to the XPS. It’ll come down to which de­sign you pre­fer and if bat­tery life mat­ters that much to you (and it gen­er­ally should).

Part of the rea­son for the dif­fer­ence is the Dell’s 52Wh bat­tery in com­par­i­son to 70Wh, and its 4K res­o­lu­tion dis­play. We are still at the stage where most main­stream streamed con­tent is not 4K, but the XPS will have used more power even when play­ing 720p video. Un­less you need 4K< you can spend less on the lower end XPS 13, though we haven’t re­ceived this model to see the pre­sumed im­prove­ment in bat­tery life.

A lap­top that can go a full nine-hour work day away from the plug is a lux­ury, but Dell is still near the top of the pack, de­spite the XPS 13’s drop in bat­tery longevity here.

Au­dio

With a head­phone jack present, you’re able to plug in when­ever. But the speak­ers are pretty de­cent too, with Waves MaxxAu­dio im­prov­ing the clar­ity of streamed and down­loaded video con­tent. Paired with the 4K screen of our re­view unit, it makes for a very en­joy­able

Net­flix ex­pe­ri­ence. Like prac­ti­cally any lap­top speaker though it has its down­sides, and we haven’t yet reached the point where a lap­top speaker should keep the party go­ing. But there’s lit­tle to no dis­tor­tion here at all, so even the high­est vol­umes are ac­cept­able if needed.

Soft­ware

In our time with the XPS 13 2018, there’s not a lot to re­port other than you, of course, get Win­dows 10 Home. Busi­ness pur­chasers can opt for Win­dows 10 Pro.

Hav­ing said this, Win­dows 10 has never looked – or per­formed – bet­ter on a Dell XPS. The com­bi­na­tion of 4K dis­play, fluid pro­cess­ing power and best-in-class key­board and track­pad in­ter­ac­tion mean this is the best com­pact lap­top Win­dows 10 ex­pe­ri­ence go­ing. Even if you buy the en­try level Core i5 model, you’re get­ting the ben­e­fits, mi­nus the 4K.

As men­tioned be­fore, touch­screen in­ter­ac­tion is a sur­pris­ingly good one here, but it’s not nec­es­sary. It’s down to the clean feel af­forded by the track­pad and the ex­cel­lent use of RAM to mean the XPS 13’s soft­ware feels truly part of the ma­chine in a way only the truly best lap­tops do. It’s as good as you’ll find on a Mi­crosoft Sur­face prod­uct.

Ver­dict

If you need a com­pact, high per­for­mance Win­dows lap­top, the 2018 Dell XPS 13 is the best lap­top you can buy along­side the 8th-gen Len­ovo Yoga 920. It is com­pet­i­tively priced, and even the high-end touch­screen Core i7 model at £1,649 is at least £300 cheaper than the same spec 13in Mac­Book Pro.

In fact, for value for money, it is a bet­ter pur­chase than the Mi­crosoft Sur­face Lap­top as you get Win­dows 10 Home rather than Win­dows 10S, as well as sav­ing at least £500.

For all but the most hard­core gamers (for whom this lap­top is not the tar­get au­di­ence) and those who re­ally do want USB-A con­nec­tiv­ity, there is not a bet­ter Win­dows lap­top on the mar­ket. Henry Bur­rell

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

13.3in Ul­traSharp 4K Ul­tra HD (3840x2160) In­fin­i­tyEdge touch dis­play or 13.3in FHD (1920x1080) In­fin­i­tyEdge dis­play Win­dows 10 Home or Pro 8th Gen­er­a­tion In­tel Quad Core i5-8250U pro­ces­sor or In­tel Quad Core i7-8550U pro­ces­sor In­tel UHD Graph­ics 620 LPDDR3 4- to 8GB Dual Chan­nel SDRAM at 1866MHz

or 16GB Dual Chan­nel SDRAM at 2133MHz 128GB SATA, 256GB PCIe, 512GB PCIe, 1TB PCIe SSD 52WHr bat­tery (built in) 2x Thun­der­bolt 3 with Pow­erShare, DC-In & Dis­playPort 1x USB-C 3.1 with Pow­erShareDC-In and Dis­playPort mi­croSD card reader 4 Dig­i­tal Ar­ray Mi­cro­phones Full size, back­lit chi­clet key­board 1.3mm travel Op­tional Win­dows Hello com­pli­ant fin­ger­print reader in power but­ton Blue­tooth 4.1 Mira­cast ca­pa­ble 7.8-11.6302x199mm 1.21kg

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