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Dell XPS 13 (2024) review: Great laptop. Wrong chip?

by xyonent
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Dell Xps 13 2024 Featured 859e4c E1717630510727.jpg

Dell XPS 13 2024

MSRP $1,599.00

DT Recommended Product

“Ready or not, the Dell XPS 13 feels like it comes from the future.”

Pros

  • Ultramodern appearance
  • Excellent build quality
  • Fast performance
  • Good keyboard and touchpad
  • Great OLED display

Cons

  • LED touch function keys unhelpful
  • Hidden touchpad doesn’t add value
  • Expensive

It’s a weird time to review a laptop — or to buy one, for that matter. Microsoft’s new Copilot+ PC initiative is underway, with a variety of new machines set to arrive with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X chipsets that promise good performance and the best efficiency yet from Windows laptops. At the same time, not everyone wants Windows on Arm, and there’s still plenty of room for current laptops running Intel’s Meteor Lake chipset — which itself won’t be outdated for at least a few months.

The latest Dell XPS 13 falls into the “old” crop of Windows laptops that will nevertheless be attractive to many buyers. It’s among the best 13-inch laptops you can buy today, but when will that change? It’s an excellent little machine with good performance and a great display. If that’s what you need today, then it’s a solid option. I just can’t guarantee you won’t regret your decision after the reviews of the Copilot+ model start to roll in later this month.

Specs and configurations

  Dell XPS 13 (2024)
Dimensions 11.62 inches x 7.84 inches x 0.58 inches
Weight 2.6 pounds
Processor Intel Core Ultra 5 125H
Intel Core Ultra 7 155H
Intel Core Ultra 7 165H
Graphics Intel Arc
RAM 8GB
16GB
32GB
64GB
Display 13.4-inch 16:10 FHD+ (1920 x 1200) IPS non-touch, 120Hz
13.4-inch 16:10 QHD+ (2560 x 1600) IPS touch, 120Hz
13.4-inch 16:10 3K (2880 x 1800) OLED touch, 60Hz
Storage 512GB SSD
1TB SSD
2TB SSD
Touch Optional
Ports 2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
Wireless Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.4
Webcam 1080p with infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello
Operating system Windows 11
Battery 55 watt-hour
Price
$1,099+

Configuring the XPS 13 can be tricky. Some options, like an upgrade from the base FHD+ IPS display to the QHD+ IPS display, require other changes (in that case, from 8GB to 16GB of RAM). The base model with an Intel Core Ultra 7 155H chipset, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and the 13.4-inch IPS display costs $1,099. My review unit had 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a 13.4-inch OLED panel for $1,599. At the high end, you’ll spend $2,299 for 64GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and the OLED display.

That makes the XPS 13 reasonably affordable at the low end, at least for a very premium laptop, and then quite expensive at the high end. But some of its competition is equally costly. I wouldn’t call the XPS 13 inexpensive, but it’s not inordinately expensive, either. I’ll also note that while Dell includes more chipset options in its specs, those aren’t currently available for purchase.

Design

Dell XPS 13 2024 front angled view showing display and keyboard.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

Although many laptop makers, including Dell, have focused on 14-inch laptops, that doesn’t mean they no longer care about the smaller form factor. And the XPS 13 is the most modern 13-inch laptop around. It’s essentially the same as the XPS 13 Plus that kicked off Dell’s new XPS design philosophy that’s been carried across to the XPS 14 and XPS 16 as well.

The standout features are most apparent on the inside. On the outside, the all-aluminum chassis retains the sleek angles and platinum and graphite color scheme of previous XPS laptops. Open the lid, though, and the new machines are a completely different thing. The zero-lattice keyboard, all-glass palm rest with hidden haptic touchpad, and LED touch function keys lend the XPS 13 a futuristic air. Combine that with the thinnest bezel on a laptop, and the Dell is as contemporary as it gets.

Dell XPS 13 2024 top down view showing LED function keys.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

Those are controversial features, and their utility varies based on the size of the XPS laptop. The keyboard and LED function keys are largely to save on thickness, which is most important with the XPS 13. But the hidden haptic touchpad is harder to use on the XPS 13 because it’s smaller and therefore you’re more likely to run off the edge when swiping. So, I’m more accepting of the first two features but less so of the latter one — which seems to exist solely for the aesthetics and without a real use benefit.

That said, the XPS 13 really is a fun laptop to look at. It’s also very small and reasonably thin, while having a weight that’s light enough, but lends a density that makes it feel like a quality laptop. That’s also true of the MacBook Air 13, which is insanely thin at 0.44 inches (compared to the XPS 13’s 0.58 inches), but around the same weight. It’s dense as well and gives off the same quality feel. The XPS 13, like the MacBook Air, is solid as a rock in its chassis and its lid is more rigid than the MacBook’s. The XPS 13 is worthy of its premium price, at least in terms of its build quality.

Keyboard and touchpad

Dell XPS 13 2024 top down view showing keyboard and touchpad.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

I mentioned the zero-lattice keyboard already, and what makes it different are the extremely large keycaps with zero key spacing. The switches are fairly shallow, around the same those on as the MacBook Air’s excellent Magic Keyboard, and they’re very snappy and precise. It took me a little while to get used to the layout, but once I did, I found myself liking the feel and getting up to speed. It wasn’t at all fatiguing when I was writing this review.

The most controversial and arguably hardest to justify feature are the LED touch function keys. While they likely afford some savings in thickness, they’re a challenge because you can’t locate them by feel and it’s impossible to know when you’ve activated a key. That means you can inadvertently activate a function and might find it more difficult than it should be to activate a function when you actually need it. Dell could have made it so much better by including haptic feedback. But, most likely, just sticking with real function keys would have been better.

The haptic touchpad is a very good example of the technology, and I found it to be precise as well — once I learned to keep within its hidden dimensions. Dell should have added LED lights to indicate the edges, because even after using it for a while, I found myself swiping off the edge. The HP Spectre x360 14 has an equally good haptic touchpad, and the MacBook Air’s Force Touch version is even better. So, I’m going to count the XPS 13’s touchpad as something of a miss.

You can get a touch display with the XPS 13, and that’s a good thing. You have to choose one of the two more expensive and power-hungry displays to get it, though.

Connectivity and webcam

The fact that the XPS 13 has just two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 isn’t such a surprise today. The MacBook Air also has just two ports.

However, the MacBook Air makes it easier to swallow by offering a MagSafe 3 power connection that keeps both ports available, as well as a 3.5mm audio jack. Those are two things the XPS 13 doesn’t have. The omission will be a deal breaker for some. Its absence is likely due to the edge-to-edge keyboard, even though there’s seemingly plenty of thickness to make room for an audio jack. For what it’s worth, the XPS 14 and 16 both have one.

At least the wireless connectivity is great with the bleeding-edge Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.4.

Dell XPS 14 2024 front view showing webcam.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The webcam is 1080p with an infrared camera for Windows 11 facial recognition, which is an accomplishment given the incredibly thin bezels. Apple had to resort to a notch to fit in roughly equivalent electronics, and the MacBook Air’s bezels aren’t nearly as thin. There’s also a fingerprint reader embedded in the power button of the XPS 13 that works quite well.

The XPS 13 has a neural processing unit (NPU) that supports some on-device AI features like Microsoft’s Studio Effects software that provides hardware-assisted background blurring and other features. Notably, the Intel Meteor Lake NPU runs at about 10 TOPS, not the 40 trillion operations per second (TOPS) that’s the minimum required for Microsoft’s Copilot+ functionality. That puts the XPS 13 a fair bit behind the curve when it comes to AI — at least, it will be in just a couple of weeks when those laptops come out.

Performance

Dell XPS 13 2024 rear view showing edge and vents.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

Right now, the XPS 13 can only be purchased with the 28-watt Intel Core Ultra 7 155H chipset, with 16 cores (six Performance, eight Efficient, and two Low Power Efficient) and 22 threads. It’s a fast chipset for demanding productivity tasks ,while its Intel Arc integrated graphics are faster than previous generations, but not fast enough for creators or gamers.

According to our benchmark suite, the XPS 13 is plenty fast and well within specs for the chipset. It’s a speedy little laptop, although its score in the PCMark 10 Complete benchmark was a bit behind. You need to crank up performance mode, which does ramp up the very quiet fans, but that’s not unreasonable. It’s fast enough in balanced mode for most work that you’ll end up doing on it. And it doesn’t run as hot as the XPS 13 Plus, likely thanks to the Core Ultra chipset’s better efficiency. The XPS 13 Plus chassis got very warm during sustained use, something I haven’t noticed as much with the XPS 13.

Geekbench 6
(single/multi)
Handbrake
(seconds)
Cinebench R23
(single/multi)
PCMark 10 Complete
Dell XPS 13
(Core Ultra 7 155H)
Bal: 2,109 / 11,134
Perf: 2,132 / 10,866
Bal: 1,649 / 9,311
Perf: 1,666 / 12,005
5,928
Acer Swift Go 14
(Core Ultra 7 155H)
Bal: 2,269 / 12,007
Perf: 2,269 / 12,119
Bal: 72
Perf: 69
Bal: 1,760 / 13,315
Perf: 1,773 / 14,948
6,767
Asus Zenbook 14 Q425
(Core Ultra 7 155H)
Bal: 2,257 / 11,820
Perf: 2,279 / 11,806
Bal: 94
Perf: 82
Bal: 1,706 / 8,684
Perf: 1,758 / 10,899
6,086
Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 9
(Core Ultra 7 155H)
Bal: 2,396 / 14,270
Perf: 2,426 / 14,406
Bal: 98
Perf: 81
Bal: 1,802 / 10,576
Perf: 1,792 / 12,558
6,640
HP Spectre x360 14
(Core Ultra 7 155H)
Bal: 2,185 / 11,123
Perf: 2,176 / 11,980
Bal: 138
Perf: 83
Bal: 1,750 / 9,832
Perf: N/A
6,316
Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 8 (Core i7-1360P) Bal: 2,509 / 10,746
Perf: 2,553 / 11,324
N/A Bal: 1,846 / 8,779
Perf: 1,906 / 9,849
6,102
Asus Zenbook 14X OLED (Core i7-13700H) Bal: 2,501 / 11,991
Perf: 2,512 / 11,862
N/A Bal: 1,819 / 11,066 Perf: 1,826 / 12,795 6,020
Apple MacBook Air
(M3)
Bal: 3,102 / 12,078
Perf: N/A
Bal: 109
Perf: N/A
N/A N/A

Battery life

Dell XPS 13 2024 side view showing lid and port.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

One area where the upcoming CoPilot+ version of the XPS 13 running the Qualcomm Snapdragon X chipset will offer the most distinct benefit is in battery life. The Core Ultra 7 155H hasn’t proven to be an exceptionally efficient chipset, in spite of Intel’s intentions, and I’ve not run into many laptops running it that offer great battery life.

The XPS 13 is a good, but not a great performer in this regard. It managed 7.25 hours in our web-browsing test, which is pretty good, but just eight hours in our video -looping test, which isn’t great. Note that my review unit had a high-res OLED display, the most power-hungry option that likely stressed the 55 watt-hour battery. Either of the IPS displays are likely to offer much better battery life.

If really long battery life is your biggest concern, then you’ll want to wait for the CoPilot+ model. But if getting through a good part of a day — but not all the way — is good enough for you, then there’s no need to wait.

Display and audio

Dell XPS 13 2024 front view showing display and keyboard.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

As mentioned, Dell offers two IPS display options: 13.4-inch XPS 13FHD+ (1920 x 1200) and QHD+ (2560 x 1600) panels, both running at 120Hz. The higher-resolution display is touch-enabled. I reviewed it with the 3K (2880 x 1800) OLED display, which runs at just 60Hz. It’s sharper, has great colors and inky blacks, and looks great out of the box.

According to my colorimeter, the OLED panel is excellent. It has wide colors at 100% of sRGB, 95% of AdobeRGB, and 100% of DCI-P3, and they’re accurate at a DeltaE of 0.92 (less than 1.0 is indistinguishable to the human eye). Contrast is deep at 16,500:1, and blacks are perfect. And the display is bright at 482 nits, which is great for HDR.

That gives the XPS 13 a real advantage over the MacBook Air 13, which has a good IPS display, but one that doesn’t compare to that of the XPS 13. The OLED display might burn some battery life, but its great for every possible use including media consumption, where it’s excellent.

Audio is provided by a four-speaker system, with two upward-firing tweeters and two side-firing woofers. There was a surprising amount of volume, with a little distortion when turned all the way up. That disappeared at around 80%, which was still plenty loud. Mids and highs were clear, but bass was lacking. I found the sound pretty good for a 13-inch laptop, but I would still use headphones for action content and music.

The best of the 13-inch laptops, but the clock is ticking

This XPS 13 remains for sale because it’s the one that runs the standard version of Windows 11 on Intel’s current chipset. That makes it the most compatible option, and the fastest, at least until Intel releases its Lunar Lake chipset with a faster NPU.

But it’s not the one that’s going to offer the best battery life, as is promised by the upcoming Qualcomm model. Even if you lean toward Intel, you may want to wait until the Copilot+ version comes out to see how reviews pan out and if prices change. Despite its quirks, the XPS 13 remains a great laptop even in its current form

Editors’ Recommendations






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