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Dell XPS 13 (2020) Review: Makes Everyday Tasks An Absolute Breeze

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The Dell XPS range has been the bar for premium windows laptops and ultrabooks for quite some time now, and I honestly think the new 2020 Dell XPS 13 has raised that bar even higher. It’s my favourite all-rounder laptop that I’ve used so far this year.

Everyone who has ever used a Dell XPS 13 laptop in the past will tell you the exact same thing. ‘It feels so so good to use’. The new XPS 13 keeps up that long-held tradition. Everything about this laptop just feels so premium. It’s hard to put it all into words because there isn’t just one thing you can point to that elevates the experience of using the XPS 13 above all other laptops of a similar size and price. A lot of little touches add up to make one big experience. The materials Dell uses to make the XPS 13 all feel super high quality, from the metal exterior to the carbon fibre interior. Everything feels very sturdy and well thought out. 

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On this year’s XPS 13 the lid has been designed so you can open it with just one hand, but that’s not because it’s light or flimsy feeling, it still somehow manages to feel just that right amount of heavy and gives just the right amount of feedback. The laptop itself is almost impossibly thin and portable. It is very light and easy to hold and move around, but it’s not so light that it feels poorly made. The visual design of the machine itself is also excellent. It’s a solid shell of metal that looks great when it catches the light. On the inside, the carbon fibre looks and feels amazing. From a material and exterior design perspective, the XPS 13 is pretty much perfect.

When you switch it on and start using the device this flawless experience miraculously doesn’t show any signs of stopping. Thanks to Windows 10, setup is quick, easy, and painless. You can use either Windows Hello or a fingerprint scanner built into the power button to unlock the device and you’re away. 

The laptop screen is excellent. The model I reviewed had a 4k, 16:10 aspect ratio, touch screen that was crisp, vivid, colour accurate, and got extremely bright. Even though it’s only a 13-inch screen it feels much bigger because there are pretty much no bezels, which really draws you into the screen. And despite this virtual lack of bezels, they still somehow fit a webcam above the screen in the proper place. If I was buying an XPS 13 with my own money I’d probably go for the slightly cheaper 1920×1200 non-touch option as I don’t feel the high-res or touchscreen add that much to the experience, but that’s not a complaint, the 4k does still look great. Backing up this fabulous screen is a phenomenal battery life. During light tasks like web browsing and word processing the XPS 13 lasts a surprisingly long time, easily long enough to finish an entire 8-hour working day and have 3 or 4 hours left to spare. When performing more intensive tasks this goes down of course, but it’s still impressive.

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This mega battery life isn’t to the detriment of performance either. In the base XPS 13, costing £1,299, you’re getting a more than capable Intel i5-1035G1, 8GB of speedy RAM and a 512GB SSD. The model I reviewed was slightly more powerful, sporting an i7-1065G7 and 16GB of RAM, and if money permits, this is the model I’d go for. Everyday tasks like browsing the internet were an absolute breeze, and with the powerful CPU, a bit of light photo or video editing isn’t out of the question. Writing is also a joy, which is partly down to the speedy performance, and mostly down to a fantastic keyboard.

The keyboard feels just as premium and expertly made as the rest of the device. It’s been stretched out all the way to each side of the device so the keys are surprisingly big for such a small device. Each key press has the perfect amount of travel and feedback, it invites you to type more and more. The layout is also brilliant. With such a small and seemingly cramped keyboard, you’d think you’d be struggling to type accurately and efficiently, but the XPS 13 layout somehow meant that didn’t happen once. I felt extremely confident typing on its keyboard. The trackpad is just as good. It uses Windows Precision Drivers so it has a lot of features that are all easy to use. And every single click feels and sounds so, so good.

The webcam, microphone and speaker quality are all fine. They’re not the best I’ve ever heard on a laptop, but for a laptop of its size they’re good. I have no complaints about any of them. In fact, I’m extremely thankful that Dell managed to get the webcam to be at the top of the screen, not in that horrible position under it.

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The I/O of this device is the only thing I have any complaints about, and even still it’s a very small complaint. On the XPS 13, you get two USB-C ports, a headphone jack, and a microSD card reader. On a device so small and thin this slim selection doesn’t come as a surprise, but I just wish Dell could have fit a USB-A port on there somewhere as well. To be fair the box does come with a USB-C to USB-A dongle, but as the device charges through the USB-C ports, when it’s charging that means only one port is available at any time. This issue can be easily solved using USB dongles and docks, so that’s why it’s not a massive complaint. I also wish Dell kept the little battery charge status indicator on the side of the device which you could read while it was closed, but that’s not a massive omission.

As I’m sure you can tell from reading this review, I like the Dell XPS 13 an awful lot. When I said it was my favourite laptop of the year I really meant it. It’s so well small, portable, and easy to use, and Dell haven’t had to compromise on anything meaningful to make that happen. It’s still the absolute bar of laptop build quality as far as I’m concerned, the screen is A+ quality, and the keyboard is so good you don’t want to stop typing on it. I’m writing this review on it and I’m seriously thinking about extending this review by a couple of hundred words so I don’t have to stop. I admit, the lack of I/O is a bit annoying, but you can buy a dongle dock that fixes that entire problem off Amazon for £20, so it’s hard to knock marks off for that. Some people would also say it’s too expensive, but I disagree. It is expensive, that is true, but after using it every day for a few weeks I think it’s worth every penny. If you’re looking for a new ultrabook that isn’t a Mac, the Dell XPS 13 is the one you should buy.

Topics: Technology, Review

Jonny Lee
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