Dell XPS 13 Plus Review: Looks Great, 4K Display, Decent Sound


The Dell XPS 13 has led the way in high-end Windows productivity laptops for many years, but its lead has slowly waned as rivals like Asus, HP and Lenovo close the gap with improved value and features. The MacBook Air (9/10, Wired Recommends), with Apple Silicon, provided a seismic shift in efficiency that the XPS 13 couldn’t match. However, Dell’s device has remained one of the best laptops around.

The field is strong, but a higher-priced MacBook Air M2 (7/10, Wired Recommended) hasn’t lived up to its predecessor, which means Dell has a chance. The XPS 13’s design is one key area where it has previously been unable to keep pace, but that’s about to change. The new Plus model aims to reclaim the crown of the range with a modernized look, supported by Intel’s new twelfth generation P series processors.

Through the Mirror

The XPS 13 Plus is all about design. Performance has been improved, but it’s the styling change that will draw attention. When the look was first revealed earlier this year, it did. No visible trackpad, a touch bar and a glass surface – it looked like a concept device. Dell may be trying out some new ideas before whittling it down to the regular XPS 13, but we do know that the XPS 13 2022 will only be available with the lower-powered Intel U-series chips, while the XPS 13 Plus has more performance . P-series processors The Plus model isn’t just a vehicle for ideas, a far cry from something like Microsoft’s interesting but flawed Surface Pro X (5/10, WIRED Recommends), but a real, true evolution of the XPS 13.

For some, this reality can be disappointing. It is not a radical change. These new features feel perfect and carefully push against the edge where the trick lies. The new glass design is a welcome change from the old carbon fiber look that the XPS 13 has been wearing for some time. I’m using the Platinum model, which, inside the shell, has white keys to go with the glass. The glass elements house the trackpad and the row of capacitive touch functions – Dell’s name for its Touch Bar.

It was surprising not to see a visible trackpad when this device was first shown off, but it doesn’t require much adjustment. I used it quickly as I would any other, with muscle memory doing the trick and a loud capacitive click backing it up. If you are a regular laptop user, you won’t have any problem.

Photography: Dell

Despite its attractive appearance, the Touch Bar doesn’t try to do too much; it just does the job. The keys are fixed, beyond the need to switch between function keys and media keys (brightness, volume, etc.) by pressing “fn”, and there are far fewer of them than with the Apple equivalent. The lack of functionality means it feels much less intrusive. It’s a worthy addition, if only for the sake of minimalist styling. Its only craziness is that entering a shortcut like “alt+f4” next to holding “fn” is a bit of a challenge, especially with smaller hands.

Surprisingly, it’s the rest of the keyboard, rather than the invisible touchpad, that takes getting used to. There are no gaps, with the keys extending from end to end. They may be a decent size, but I found myself hitting other keys when I typed, interrupting my flow but stopping before I hit an ironic key. Fortunately, the distraction goes away after a few days of use.

The keyboard, however, has a bigger problem. It’s not the travel or the feedback: the key press is suitably deep for such a thin device and the response is satisfying; this is a great essay writing device – the problem is the backlight. The problem can be reduced to the darker graphite model, offering more contrast between the white light and the rest of the laptop. However, the keyboard backlighting on the Platinum model I’m testing, with its whiter colors, is poor. It’s patchy in its coverage across the keys and just doesn’t get bright enough. It’s an odd oversight, but it dampens this laptop’s appeal to those who might work in less-than-ideal lighting conditions, such as students in classrooms. The XPS 13 Plus has a rejuvenated style, but that detracts from its clean look.

Power, packed

This machine will eat up any productivity tasks you can throw at it, with our model featuring the top-of-the-line 12th Gen Intel Core i7-1260P, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage. Even with lower specs, based on other 12th generation devices I’ve tested, the relative performance of the XPS 13 Plus and previous XPS 13 models, those looking for an ideal device for productivity in high demand will not be disappointed. 12th Gen Intel chips see a big boost in multi-core performance from the last generation, allowing for comfortable photo editing and some light video work (although it will be the life of the dongle for creatives who want to use memory cards or headphone jacks). Here you will only find two Thunderbolt 4 ports and nothing else. However, it is at least convenient to have one on each side.

The XPS 13 Plus stays very cool with low-demand workloads – think five to ten tabs and light multitasking. However, when you turn things up a notch, much of the device heats up on the top and bottom. The power Dell has managed to pack into this device is impressive, and so are the unique design choices it has made to achieve it. But it’s still not there when it comes to competing with Apple’s M2 or M1 chips in efficiency and sustained performance. Acceleration comes with laptop heat when you push the XPS 13 Plus and it starts stuttering. Less powerful power modes prevent this, such as a silent setting that works well but limits capabilities.



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