Dell XPS 13 (9360) Laptop Review
The best Windows ultrabook retains its crown
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Dell's XPS 13 has become our perennial favorite laptop since debuting in 2015. For 2017, not much has changed, but there's no denying that the two-year-old formula still works. The latest iteration, the Dell XPS 13 (9360) (MSRP $799, $1,199 as reviewed) adds a new rose gold finish and Intel's latest chips to keep it fresh. As in the two previous generations, performance, battery life, and creature comforts continue to be top-notch.
However, it's important to note that the competition is better than ever. Challengers like Lenovo's new Yoga 910 and the redesigned HP Spectre X360 both are hot on the heels of the XPS. These laptops offer tablet functionality and other extra features like facial recognition cameras and fingerprint readers to try and one-up the Dell. Your decision might be tougher than in previous years, but rest assured that Dell's tried-and-true XPS 13 still hangs with the best.
About the Dell XPS 13 (9360)
Dell makes the XPS 13 in about as many different configurations as any sane person would want to choose between. Starting at $799 and topping out at just short of $2,300, this Dell can
•Intel i5-7200U dual-core processor
•8 GB LPDDR3 RAM
•256 GB PCIe M.2 solid state drive
•FHD non-touch (1920 x 1080) IGZO InfinityEdge LCD
•Intel HD Graphics 620
•Killer WiFi AC/Bluetooth 4.1
•60 WHr internal battery
At $1,100, this is the exact configuration I'd pick if I were buying an XPS 13 today. 8 GB RAM is about the bare minimum you'll want these days, the i5 is plenty fast for most tasks, and the full HD display will help the battery last longer.
The only oddball option on the unit I used was the $50 add-on Rose Gold finish. This delicate light pink color (with color-matched screws on the bottom, no less) is attractive, but you're gonna want to see it in person before pulling the trigger. Like previous XPS 13 laptops, you can't upgrade the RAM but the SSD uses the M.2 standard and can be upped later if you're handy with a screwdriver.
What We Like
One high-quality laptop from the case to the screen
Dell still has some of the prettiest displays around thanks to its bezel-free InfinityEdge design. This screen still has the skinniest three edges of any laptop, but what loses out is the webcam, which gets relegated to the lower left corner. This flaw could be considered the product's only Achilles' heel, depending on your needs. In either the QHD touch version or the matte, non-touch HD spec the XPS 13 still has a vibrant, gorgeous display.
The InfinityEdge screen might be the first thing you notice, but it's hard not to get drawn in by the rest of its striking design. It's less striking now than when it debuted, but if you're switching from an older PC, it'll really wow you. Featuring aluminum and carbon fiber, the XPS 13 feels as premium as it looks, with no creaks or groans in sight.
The keyboard gives a good, if slightly shallow, typing experience. I personally prefer the new Spectre X360 keyboard, Dell's keyboard is a sight better than the new super flat Mac keyboards, that's for sure. It also packs a smooth glass trackpad with nice Windows Precision drivers built-in. It's still among the best Windows trackpads available today, perhaps only bested by the Surface Book.
Battery life is still solid, at least with the basic HD screen
Dell increased the XPS 13's battery capacity just a pinch for 2017, giving it 6 extra watt-hours. That, plus the energy-sipping improvements Intel made for the 7th generation of its Core chips gave the XPS 13 nearly 6 hours in our intensive PC Mark 8 home battery life rundown. Ultrabooks of this type typically score around 3-4 hours, giving the Dell a huge edge over the competition.
Of course, if you max out your XPS 13 with the QHD screen and i7 chip, you could be looking at a bit of a penalty. Seriously, though, if you want to be able to wring out the most runtime, opt for the matte HD display instead of the shiny, high-res touch one.
The ports you want today, with Thunderbolt 3 for the future
One bone of contention that many have to pick with the new MacBook Pros is that Apple went all-in on Thunderbolt 3, leaving useful "legacy" ports to the side. Dell's opted to stick with a blend of USB ports, along with one Thunderbolt 3, so you really get the best of both worlds.
Two O.G. USB 3.0 ports are joined by a headphone jack, and a full-sized SD card slot. For most users, this is going to be a much more convenient, useful selection of ports than the new MacBook Pro or even the three-port Spectre X360 offers. Dell continues the proud tradition of including a handy-dandy external battery gauge.
What We Don't Like
Low-end configuration wimpy as ever
Let's get one thing straight: the $799 entry-level price for the XPS 13 probably isn't the price you should plan to pay. In fact, I'd say that the one you want to buy is the exact same one we tested, with an i5, 8 GB RAM, and 256 GB SSD. The base configuration you can get from Dell packs a slower i3, measly 4 GB of RAM, and a slower, smaller 128 GB SSD. The lower price looks super tempting, but hold on there, tiger.
If you want something that's gonna last for the long-term, the $1,099 version I used for this review is the one to buy instead. Save your pennies, take up another paper route, do whatever it takes to afford the extra $300. It's worth it.
A webcam that makes you look unflattering
Okay so this is the tradeoff you have to consider when looking at Dell's super-futuristic barely-there gorgeous InfinityEdge screen. Dell had to shove the webcam into the lower left hand corner, which is bad news. If you're a frequent Skyper or selfie addict, it's about the least flattering place you could put the webcam.
Dell risks falling behind on modern ameneties
When it debuted in 2015, the XPS 13 had a leg up on the competition thanks to its beautiful displays, long-lasting batteries, and intuitive, responsive trackpads. In 2017, we'll undoubtedly see more top-tier laptops that offer cooler features like Windows Hello login via facial recognition or fingerprint scanning. Dell's upcoming XPS 13 2-in-1 will deliver what's missing here thanks to trick 2-in-1 hinges, Windows Hello, and even stylus support, but you shouldn't shop for the standard XPS expecting stuff like this.
Should You Buy It?
Yes! Tried and true, the XPS 13 is still a solid buy.
It took a couple of years, but the laptop world finally caught up to Dell's cutting-edge XPS 13. HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft are falling over each other to one-up Dell and putting out remarkably nice computers. Truth be told, if you want a laptop that's thinner or a 2-in-1 design, there's an unprecedented amount of superb choices. Dell itself will be addressing these new competitors with the XPS 13 2-in-1. It's worth noting that the 2-in-1 version loses ports and power (Dell's opted for slightly slower Y-series Intel chips).
But, if you want a laptop that's a supremely competent all-rounder, then, by all means, grab this Dell. It eschews gimmicks to focus on the essentials, and it gets the essentials really right.
Granted, the unflattering, off-angle webcam is sure to irritate some, and the lack of Windows Hello login makes it look a little less impressive than the awesome new HP Spectre X360. For me it's a toss-up between the Spectre and the Dell, but the more responsive trackpad, along with the wider array of configurations, tips things in the Dell's favor. Its compact footprint and useful assortment of ports make it tough to beat.
It might not be the laptop with all of the bells and whistles in 2017, but the XPS 13 still has the right blend of performance and portability to make it worth your money.
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