Dell collectively shocked everybody who follows the laptop computer market when it introduced the XPS 13 Plus. After I revealed my first impressions final December, I acquired every kind of DMs and emails from folks asking what the heck this factor was. It’s a laptop computer not like something ever seen — and many people have spent the previous half yr questioning whether or not that’s a very good or dangerous factor.
The common XPS 13 (no Plus to be discovered) has lengthy been one in all our prime Home windows laptop computer suggestions. It’s a standout in some ways, construct high quality chief amongst them. Dell is constant to promote that mannequin and has upgraded it to twelfth Gen processors. The XPS 13 Plus is a separate mannequin and, as I perceive, is for folk who wish to take that XPS’s efficiency to the subsequent stage — anybody who needs as a lot uncooked muscle as they’ll get in a 13-inch machine.
To that finish, Dell has pulled out each shoelace to make the XPS 13 Plus as skinny as it could actually presumably be. The touchpad is haptic and absolutely built-in into the palm relaxation. There are barely any ports. The keyboard has been flattened and the perform row changed with a row of touchable LEDs. And the Plus begins $300 costlier than its non-Plus counterpart. These are all compromises, Dell’s case is, as a way to obtain the thinnest and strongest laptop computer attainable.
Sadly, the XPS 13 Plus shouldn’t be that. It’s costlier and far hotter than laptops of its identical measurement and weight that ship comparable or higher energy, considerably higher battery life, higher webcams, and extra usable port alternatives — and that’s with out even entering into the assorted finicky issues with the keyboard deck. I can’t be the one one getting deja vu right here. This entire scenario is giving 2016 vibes when Apple made every kind of adjustments to the MacBook within the identify of thinness that ended up… not fairly panning out.
Like that 2016 MacBook, this XPS 13 Plus is a nice-looking pc with an important display screen. However even amongst of us who actually should have the Dell branding and the Home windows working system, I don’t see it as the selection.
To start on a optimistic be aware, the XPS 13 Plus is exquisitely crafted from aluminum and glass. The lid is as sturdy as will be. Hold it closed, and also you received’t see a lot distinction between it and the old-school XPS. Sturdiness can generally fall by the wayside as gadgets get thinner, however Dell hasn’t compromised on that right here. You received’t discover a sturdier laptop computer within the 13-inch area. It’s additionally fairly a nice-looking machine, with the flat keyboard deck making a seamless aesthetic that seems decidedly futuristic. My one criticism in regards to the chassis on my graphite coloration overview unit is that it’s a fingerprint magnet. If this is a matter for you, a platinum coloration can be out there.
The opposite spotlight is the show. I examined the OLED mannequin with 3456 x 2160 decision and a 16:10 side ratio. It’s a viewing delight with shiny and vivid colours and little or no glare. With tiny (91.9 % screen-to-body ratio) bezels, the panel greater than earns Dell’s well-known “InfinityEdge” title. Notice that it’s solely 60Hz, which not everybody will care about however some folks actually will. (I did run into an issue on my first overview unit the place the display screen stopped working after getting knocked off a sofa onto carpet regardless of there being no seen exterior injury. Dell is sending a substitute unit, and I’ll replace the article if the issue recurs on that one.)
I used to be additionally pleasantly stunned by the speaker array, which incorporates two upfiring tweeters beneath the keyboard and two downward-firing audio system within the base. The percussion was a bit tinny, however sound high quality was in any other case nice with a noticeable enchancment over final yr’s XPS 13 (and no distortion at max quantity, which was a difficulty I had with the predecessor). I’d say it’s on par with the audio from the M2 MacBook Air, which is kind of good for the class and much forward of what’s typical with Home windows laptops. Equalizer settings will be adjusted within the preinstalled MaxxAudio program.
However elsewhere, the sacrifices Dell has made within the identify of thinness are evident. Earlier than I get into them, I wish to put this machine’s measurement in context. It’s 0.6 inches thick and a couple of.77 kilos. (The non-OLED mannequin is 2.71.) It’s fairly transportable, certain, however there are loads of thinner and lighter Home windows laptops within the 13-inch area, together with OLED choices and merchandise which can be less expensive than this one. The M2 MacBook Air can be noticeably thinner and lighter than this configuration.
First compromise: the one ports listed below are two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports. There’s not even a headphone jack. A kind of USB-C is required to cost the laptop computer. That’s an element right here as a result of the included 60W adapter doesn’t cost the machine significantly quick. Alongside mild Chrome use, my unit took an hour and 14 minutes to achieve 60 %. It is best to issue the worth of a USB dock or hub into the worth of this machine.
Second: the contact bar. This isn’t truly a contact bar like Apple’s customizable (and now successfully deserted) Contact Bar — it’s a “capacitive contact perform row.” However like that touchscreen strip, it replaces the bodily perform row that different keyboards have. It’s a row of LEDs that embrace issues like brightness, quantity, microphone muting, escape, insert, and so forth. Holding down Fn on the keyboard adjustments the LEDs to the common perform keys.
My first difficulty with this, just like many complaints about Apple’s Contact Bar, is that there’s no haptic suggestions, so I’m typically not completely certain if I’ve truly pressed the important thing. Second, if one thing ever acquired on the row (mud, hair, no matter), I may by no means brush it off with out urgent a bunch of buttons within the course of and messing up no matter I used to be within the center doing. Third, I wasn’t ready for the way disconcerting it will be for keyboard shortcuts involving issues like Delete and Escape to require a mixture of actual keys and faux keys. Perhaps that is one thing you get used to, however in the intervening time, it feels very bizarre.
Third: the trackpad. Once you open up the XPS 13 Plus, the very first thing you’ll probably discover is that there doesn’t seem like a touchpad — there’s only a seamless strip of glass under the keyboard deck. Now, there’s truly a capacitive contact trackpad within the space the place you’d count on it to be; it’s simply not delineated in any approach, and also you’re counting on muscle reminiscence to make sure you click on in the precise spot.
I didn’t have hassle with day by day navigation right here; my proper hand did instinctively know the place to click on. Sadly, my left hand hasn’t developed that muscle reminiscence and that turned an issue on events after I wanted it to sub in. This was particularly cumbersome after I wanted to click on and drag issues or spotlight textual content, which normally requires two fingers for me. I fairly often missed the unseeable zone with my left hand’s first shot.
Individually, the trackpad’s click on feels shallow. Dell truly inspired reviewers to have their households take a look at the machine. (They wouldn’t consider it was a strong piece of glass, we had been informed.) So I had my mom give it a click on. “It feels bizarre,” she remarked. I defined that it was a haptic touchpad. “Oh, that is sensible,” she mentioned.
I additionally gave the unit to my youthful brother, telling him it was haptic beforehand. “Aren’t Apple’s like that?” he requested. I confirmed that they had been. “The Apple one’s higher,” he mentioned as he clicked round with the XPS. Guess it depends upon the household.
Last item with the trackpad — it went haywire when my fingers had been even barely moist, typically considering it was depressed after I wasn’t miserable it (which made it principally unusable). I requested Dell about this, and so they mentioned that this can be a widespread prevalence with all capacitive trackpads (which incorporates most trendy trackpads) and advisable that I dry my fingers earlier than utilizing the laptop computer. Honest sufficient, however I take advantage of a number of laptop computer fashions each week and infrequently, if ever, expertise points to this diploma.
I don’t have as a lot of an issue with the brand new “zero-lattice” keyboard, which has been utterly flattened. It’s actually edge to edge now, with nearly no area between the keys. If footage make you are concerned that we’ve acquired the second coming of the butterfly keyboard on our fingers, don’t fear — it’s not fairly that dangerous. There’s solely 1mm of journey, however the keys truly really feel fairly bouncy whereas staying pretty quiet. The caps are broad sufficient that I had no drawback typing shortly and precisely, although the general really feel took some getting used to. There are a pair finicky structure issues that can trouble some folks: the arrow keys are half-height, and the ability button is squeezed in subsequent to the backspace key.
Lastly, the webcam is an enchancment over final era (which is a low bar) however nonetheless not wonderful. Moderately than go the Apple route and have a digicam notch stick out of an in any other case tiny bezel, Dell has saved that tiny bezel however separated the infrared digicam (for facial recognition) out from the common 720p webcam. My co-workers had been in a position to see particulars like strands of hair whereas I used to be on video calls, and I wasn’t darkish or washed out, however the picture was nonetheless pretty grainy and noisy.
Underlying all of that is the most important promise of the XPS 13 Plus: the twelfth Gen Core P-Sequence chip. Most laptops of this measurement use the U-Sequence, which is designed for the skinny and lightweight type issue, however the Plus isn’t messing round with these. The $1,299 base mannequin contains an i5-1240P, 8GB of RAM, 512GB of storage (an M.2 Gen 4 PCIe SSD), and a 1920 x 1200 non-touch show. The unit I used to be despatched is considerably swankier, with a Core i7-1280P, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and the higher-resolution OLED display screen. That unit with a non-OLED 1920 x 1200 display screen is $1,749. The SSD is upgradeable, however all the pieces else is soldered.
This mannequin prices $1,949 — which, evidently, makes this an costly pc. An M2 MacBook Air (once more, thinner and lighter, with extra ports, a greater webcam, a bodily perform row, and a extra usable trackpad) with comparable specs may very well be as a lot as $350 cheaper than the mannequin I’ve — the mannequin we reviewed with a 10-core CPU is $250 cheaper. (Each are cheaper than XPS Plus’s non-OLED non-touch mannequin). A Core-i7, U-series XPS 13 (which solely comes with a 1920 x 1200 show) can be $600 cheaper.
On the subject of efficiency, this machine is actually an enchancment over the eleventh Gen XPS 13, and it’s actually extra highly effective than any twelfth Gen U-Sequence machine you should buy. I didn’t expertise any efficiency points in most of my workplace work, and photograph enhancing was nice. Premiere Professional was by no means enjoyable — a number of variations of this system took ceaselessly to open and had been gradual to run, freezing on occasion — however that’s not unusual on this phase of the market.
In benchmark testing, the 13 Plus is thrashing Apple’s M2 MacBook Air in multicore benchmark exams. Nevertheless, it’s not approaching the M2 within the single-core or graphic use circumstances we ran. The opposite distinct benefit the XPS 13 Plus has over the Air is its fan, which is able to theoretically assist it higher maintain long-term masses. However the XPS 13 Plus’ fan was actually struggling right here, as a result of, boy oh boy, did this factor get sizzling.
After just a few hours of standard use (which, in my case, is a dozen or so Chrome tabs with Slack operating over prime), this laptop computer was boiling. I used to be getting uncomfortable protecting my fingers on the palm rests and typing on the keyboard. Placing it on my lap was off the desk.
I normally work in Quiet mode, however I attempted all the assorted fan profiles and nothing made an excessive amount of distinction. In Optimized, the chassis was a bit cooler however nonetheless toasty. The Cool mode actually made the followers annoyingly loud however didn’t actually make the chassis comfortably chilly. I used Extremely Efficiency throughout benchmark testing (which made the followers loud loud, like Intel MacBook Professional ranges of loud), and the CPU was nonetheless regularly hitting (and generally hanging out round) 100 levels Celsius. Regardless of its spectacular energy, this machine nonetheless appears to take advantage of sense for short-term actions when you don’t wish to fry your chassis and CPU — and lowering scores in back-to-back Cinebench runs again me up on that.
Dell XPS 13 Plus benchmarks
|Geekbench 5.3 CPU Single||1665|
|Geekbench 5.3 CPU Multi||10708|
|Geekbench 5.3 Open CL / Compute||20483|
|Cinebench R23 Single||1404|
|Cinebench R23 Multi||8817|
|Cinebench R23 Multi 30 min loop||8509|
|PugetBench for Premiere Professional||393|
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider (1920 x 1200, highest)||19fps|
|4K Export (Adobe Premiere Professional 15)||6:54|
After which there’s the battery life. I used to be solely averaging 5 hours and two minutes of steady use with the display screen round 200 nits. The high-resolution display screen is little question an element right here, as we frequently see disappointing longevity from OLED XPS fashions (though OLED know-how ought to, theoretically, be serving to with battery life). Nonetheless, I all the time overview the configuration I’ve, and this one didn’t final lengthy sufficient to justify a $2,000 value level.
This exacerbates the connectivity drawback, as a result of this factor goes to want to spend so much of time plugged in — so that you’re actually kissing 50 % of your port choice goodbye. I do know I sound like a damaged report right here, however I simply wish to emphasize — the MacBook Air lasts me over twice as lengthy.
The XPS 13 Plus is spectacular in its willingness to problem the established order. You don’t typically see a laptop computer that’s attempting to do what only a few merchandise have achieved. I respect Dell’s purpose of placing a P-series processor in such a skinny and exquisite chassis.
However all of the innovation on the earth hasn’t modified what this laptop computer essentially is. It’s an OLED XPS. And I’m in the end telling the identical story right here that I’ve been telling about OLED XPS fashions for years on finish. It’s lovely, it’s highly effective, but it surely’s too sizzling, and the high-resolution display screen is murdering the battery life.
I nonetheless use a 2019 MacBook Professional for work, and I’m stunned how comparable utilizing the XPS 13 Plus feels to that have. Like that MacBook, the Plus is skinny and lightweight — but it surely’s additionally all the time sizzling, starved for ports, and doesn’t have a sensible battery lifespan. Apple made these unpopular adjustments within the identify of thinness, and it’s maybe telling that it’s determined to reverse a lot of them up to now few years. Dell’s adjustments have been much less excessive in some areas (the keyboard) and extra excessive in others (the ports), however I fear that the general narrative is trending in the identical route.
I haven’t reviewed the common XPS 13 but, however my sense is that Dell intends for that to stay most individuals’s possibility, and for the Plus to be the “energy person” laptop computer. However with its restricted connectivity and questionable capability to carry its personal beneath “energy person” masses, I’d hesitate to advocate this mannequin to that group. I think that folk who want the complete energy of a Core i7-1280P might want one thing with USB-A, on the very least.
Pictures by Monica Chin / The Verge