Dell surprises with a redesigned XPS 13 that's thinner, faster and a little controversial

Dell's completely redesigned XPS 13 is said to be the fastest 13 inch laptop in town and comes with a stunningly elegant white option.

Credit: Dan Masaoka

Dell's XPS 13 is stepping out for 2018 with a major makeover. Maybe the company heard the cries of professional hardware reviewers about the XPS 13's two-year-old look (even though some companies have used the same basic design for nearly eight years)? Right. More likely, it was just time for this laptop to set some new trends in the areas of thin, light, and fast. 

It's not easy to change a flagship—honoring tradition while moving into the future. But this time, it seems no part of the XPS 13 has been left untouched. The price is expected to start at $999 and be available immediately. Here are the details. 

The slimmed-down specs and features

Already known for having a tiny footprint, Dell has managed to shrink the entire volume of the laptop by 24 percent. Dell shaved 3.4mm from the thickness compared to the previous model, for instance; its new dimensions are a jockey-thin 11.9 x 7.8 x 0.46 inches

Dell 2018 XPS 13 Dan Masaoka

Dell's XPS 13 gets a complete redesign to make it faster, thinner, lighter and more beautiful.

The next-generation InfinityEdge bezel is 23 percent thinner than the previous version, which was already very thin. Dell obviously has no more room at the top for the webcam than it ever did, but at least it's moved from the lower left corner to the lower center of the display.

That new webcam is also now an infrared camera that supports Windows Hello face authentication. If you’d rather not use your head to unlock your laptop, Dell has cleverly integrated a fingerprint reader into the power button that sits just above the keyboard. 

The XPS 13's display options now include an optional 4K UltraHD resolution screen with a 100 percent sRGB color rating and a maximum brightness of 400 nits. Those are dazzling specs, but unless you enjoy watching your battery drain you'll probably opt for the standard 1080p display.

Inside the XPS 13 is the same basic 8th-generation Core i7 quad-core that Dell refreshed with the previous XPS 13 that debuted a few months ago. Performance on the newest XPS 13 is beefed up by an upgraded cooling system that goes from a single heat-pipe and fan design to a dual-fan and dual-heat pipe.

dsc07502 Dan Masaoka

Here you can see the two fans and heatpipes Dell as put in the redesigned 2018 XPS 13. You can also spot the M.2 slot too.

The performance

The result, Dell claims, is the “most powerful 13-inch laptop in its class.” Dell’s own tests against competing laptops shows the new XPS 13 kicking dust over such recognizable competitors as the HP Spectre x360 13t, Microsoft Surface Book 2, and MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.

We’ll have to wait to test one before rendering a verdict, but our review of the 8th-gen Intel Core i7 tells us that the new quad-core CPU is a game-changer, so there may be some truth to the claims.

new xps 13 performance Dell

Dell says its redesigned XPS 13 cooling system gives it a major performance advantage over current 8th generation Core i7 laptops as well as ones using even older chips *cough* Apple.


Battery life, Dell said, is still pretty awesome, with the new laptop rated at about 11 hours on the most power-hungry configuration: Core i7, 16GB LPDDR3, 1TB SSD and 4K panel. The power-sipping version with a Core i5, 4GB of LPDDR3, 128GB SSD and 1080p screen, will hit 19 hours and 46 minutes, according to Dell. Note, however, that the measuring stick is MobileMark 2014, which is pretty light-duty. Expect far less battery life on more typical browsing chores, with probably half the rated battery life in certain video tasks. Overall, it’s not bad for a somewhat smaller battery of 52 watt-hours.

The elegance

Dell didn’t just splurge on the insides, though, because it knows today’s laptop buyer is all about what’s on the outside too. Besides the standard aluminum and carbon-fiber model, Dell said more than a dozen people burned more than 11,520 hours figuring out a new rose gold and white model of the XPS 13.

And nope, it’s not just paint, Dell said: The white palm rests, for example, are woven from nine layers of crystalline silica glass fiber. It’s enough fibers, Dell says, that if you laid them end-to-end, they would stretch halfway from the Earth to the moon.

See, hardware and software isn’t hard. It’s the fashion engineers who are the true heroes.

The controversy

Change doesn’t come without controversy, though, and we saved that for last to prevent you from mashing your fist into your screen.

The good news: Dell now includes two Thunderbolt 3 ports, plus a USB-C port. You even get a 45 watt USB-C charger too. There’s also a microSD card reader and a Noble lock port.

The bad news: We’re pretty done listing the expansion ports on the XPS 13. Yup, Dell left the truly universal USB Type-A behind to “save space.”

Are you triggered, or are you already used to seeing companies remove popular ports while you weren’t paying attention? Well, at least Dell gives you a USB-A dongle in the box. Oh, and it did have the courage to retain an analog combo headphone jack. For now.

Dell’s XPS 13 has arguably led the way for other Windows thin-and-lights in the past. Now that the company's made a huge redesign investment, we'll be interested to see who follows. We also hope to get a unit in for review so we can figure out whether less will really give you more. 

dell xps 13 alpine white rose gold 4 Dell

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Dell

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gordon Mah Ung

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?