Dell XPS 13 (2019) Evaluate: A Close to-Good Laptop computer

"The 2019 XPS 13 fixed its only problem and perfected its formula."

  • Sleek design

  • New colors are great

  • Repositioned webcam

  • The newly designed hinge is easy to open

  • Fast ultrabook performance

Editor's Note: Dell has updated the XPS 13 with the optional availability of the latest 10th generation Intel Core processors, including a six-core option. We had practical time with the new Dell XPS 13 7390.

Our unreserved recommendation for the XPS 13 was always associated with a small but important limitation. The position of the webcam. Dell was basically a pioneer of the problematic nasal camera that is under the display. Now the company has fixed the problem.

The new XPS 13 moved the webcam across the screen without stretching the frame. In addition, the already great laptop has a few tricks up its sleeve to sweeten the deal. Starting at $ 900, the basic version of the new XPS is equipped with a Core i5 Whiskey Lake processor, 4 GB RAM and a 128 GB SSD. However, our 4K model extends this to a Core i7, 8 GB RAM and a terabyte of solid state memory.

It is almost perfect.

A frosty shimmer

The XPS 13 has always been one of our favorite designs. Thanks to the super-fast bezels and the 16: 9 aspect ratio, it is extremely small compared to many similar laptops. This mobility is not only great for getting work on a flight, it is also extremely attractive. This time, this design was upgraded even further.

Color options are the first noticeable change. Last year's model presented the rose gold shell, paired with a strong, white interior – a combination that we enjoyed. This year, Dell added a color scheme called "Frost" for the outer case. It's just silver, but it's a lighter shade than what we normally see. It really pops when combined with the white interior. You still have the option of rose gold or the traditional black and silver combination, but this is our favorite.

Dell XPS 13 2019 Review (9380)Riley Young / Digital Trends

If you choose one of the two white models, the woven glass fiber material on the keyboard deck and palm rests are lightened for a stronger and brighter white. We know that the use of plastic – and even the white color – is not for everyone. However, if you're tired of the sea of ​​silver aluminum laptops, the XPS 13 is a breath of fresh air. In addition, Dell's choice of textures and materials isn't as prone to fingerprint picking, which is much appreciated. It's a problem that laptops like the Razer Blade Stealth still suffer from.

Dell has also improved the hinge of the 2019 XPS 13. Earlier versions of the laptop used a fixed hinge that required two hands to open. The new hinge, called the “variable torque hinge,” requires less effort so you can open it with just one finger.

Almost. There's still no lip your finger can grip, and it's not perfectly balanced, like the MacBook Air or the Razer Blade Stealth. The lid needs help from your other hand in the last 25 percent of its arc. Still, it's a significant improvement over previous models.

Dell XPS 13 2019 Review (9380)Riley Young / Digital Trends

The XPS 13 doesn't claim to be the thinnest or lightest notebook in the world, but it's anything but chunky. At 0.46 inches (largest) and 2.7 pounds, it's slightly thicker and heavier than the HP Specter 13, but undercuts the Razer Blade Stealth and MacBook Air.

Nothing has changed this time around the port. You get two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a standard USB-C port, a microSD card slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack. A year or two ago, we may have forced the XPS 13 to its knees due to a lack of USB-A ports. Today? It is a good choice for a lightweight, portable laptop.

After InfinityEdge and beyond

Dell has been working to bring the webcam back to the top of the display since the legendary InfinityEdge bezels were introduced in 2015. However, the webcam persisted under the screen.

Fixing the problem wasn't easy, but Dell cracked it. By reducing the size of the sensor and cutting off every part of the wasted space, the bezel has grown by less than a millimeter and the webcam is back up.

The XPS 13 looks fantastic even with the naked eye and easily overwhelms the reflections from hard office light.

The result? Video calls look normal again. However, there is a compromise. An infrared camera is no longer included, which means that the XPS 13 will continue to support Windows Hello for login via face recognition. To compensate for this, Dell added a fingerprint reader built into the power switch.

Outside of the webcam, there are some noteworthy input changes. First, the keyboard was redesigned with the key technology used in the newer XPS 15 2-in-1. The key travel is not as low as the XPS 15 2-in-1, but the keys have more spring. Thanks to a new texture, the caps are also less slippery than before. These improvements don't affect the typing experience, and the Dell XPS 13 is still great to use.

Dell XPS 13 2019 Review (9380)Riley Young / Digital Trends

Under the keys is the usual backlighting of the keyboard, which is bright but only offers two levels of brightness. This is somewhat behind laptops like the Apple MacBook Pro or Razer Blade Stealth.

The only thing that hasn't changed is the touchpad, which is fantastic. The click is a bit louder than we are used to, but the tracking is precise and multi-touch gestures are registered as they should. Some competitors, especially the Apple Macbook Pro, offer a larger surface, but the touchpad on the Dell XPS 13 is fun and feels more than big enough. Competitors like the Asus Zenbook UX333 offer slightly smaller, more cumbersome touchpads.

A display that is worthy of its bezel

The XPS 13 has three display options: Non-Touch 1080p, Touch-enabled 1080p and Touch-enabled 4K. The new option here is touch-enabled 1080p, although we've received the higher-resolution model for review. No matter which one you choose, the included panel is one of the best you can buy.

The numbers on the screen are impressive, but the XPS 13 looks fantastic even with the naked eye. Overcoming the reflections from hard office light is not a problem. It can be cranked up to 472 nits with retinal burns, only in third place after the Huawei MateBook X Pro and MacBook Pro. The colors are vivid and look natural.

The contrast ratio of 980: 1 does not correspond to the high performers like the Asus ZenBook UX333UN or the HP Specter Folio, but the gamma measurement is perfect at 2.2. That means images look as bright as they should. The MacBook Pro and some high-end 15-inch laptops exceed the color gamut and register more Adobe RGB color space. But with 99 percent of sRGB, you probably have no reason to complain.

Dell XPS 13 2019 Review (9380)Riley Young / Digital Trends

Our review unit's 4K screen looked sharp, but like other 13-inch laptops, we recommend staying at 1080p. 4K is an expensive upgrade that shortens battery life. For this reason, 1080p configuration is the option model that most users should use. We haven't tested it yet, but it uses the same panel as last year and it did well when we last tested it.

The speakers on both sides of the case are fine. They are loud, but they get a bit shrill at higher volumes. Laptops with forward-facing speakers like MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Razer Blade Stealth or Pixel Slate perform better, although none of them are exceptional.

Quad-core performance with additional memory

The 2018 Dell XPS 13 was one of the fastest 13-inch laptops. This was thanks to the company's redesigned heating solution, which used two fans, two heat pipes and even strips of Gore-Tex fabric.

The same system is available for the new model. This time, however, it offers the added benefit of the latest Intel Core processors from "Whiskey Lake". You can choose between the Core i5-8555U and the Core i7-8565U. Both are quad-core and a lot fast. Our device also has 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage, resulting in a powerful, well-rounded laptop.

Dell XPS 13 2019 Review (9380)Riley Young / Digital Trends

In Geekbench, we saw modest increases in performance over the previous year. The 2019 model exceeded the previous year by around eight percent in both single and multi-core performance. This is not the difference you will notice in everyday use. In some tests, such as our benchmark, which encodes a short 4K video in Handbrake, the XPS 13 2019 did not make any profit at all.

Nevertheless, the XPS 13 remains a top option. Other laptops with the latest "Whiskey Lake" processors from Intel have shown their own modest improvements and generally don't beat the XPS 13.

The storage options have changed slightly. All drives are now NVMe drives with read and write speeds of well over a thousand megabytes per second and capacities from 128 GB to 2 TB. While 128GB isn't much, we like that Dell offers a smaller version for those who want to buy at a great price. Most premium laptops offer at least 256 GB and therefore have a higher base price.

Not for playing

The XPS 13 is not intended for serious games. Again, it is difficult to blame Dell for this. The integrated UHD 620 graphics from Intel does not offer much gaming strength.

Laptops like the MateBook X Pro, the Asus ZenBook 13 UX331UN and the Razer Blade Stealth all have an Nvidia MX150 and therefore offer slightly more gaming and video playback performance. If you need this feature, the XPS 13 is not for you. We hope that this will change with the upcoming switch from Intel to integrated Gen11 graphics, which will not arrive until the end of 2019.

A decrease in battery life

The XPS 13 has always been a leader in battery life. However, this is the 1080p version. The battery life of a 4K display is independent of which laptop it is. The drop in the 2019 XPS 13 is larger than normal.

The 2019 XPS 13 relies on benchmarks that test the use of lighter tasks over long periods. We noticed a 25 to 30 percent decrease in light web surfing and local video loop playback compared to the previous year. This is strange when you consider that the same display and the same battery are used here. Dell claims the Whiskey Lake CPU uses a little more power, but we haven't seen the effect replicated in other systems. It's still better than the Razer Blade Stealth, though it has a higher resolution screen.

Dell XPS 13 2019 Review (9380)Riley Young / Digital Trends

The good news is that the XPS 13 2019 performs better at higher loads than the previous year. We see an increase of 33 percent over the previous year, which lasts over five hours in Basemark, an online benchmark that puts a greater strain on the system. That said, if your workload involves intensive use, multiple monitors, or just dozens of browser tabs, the XPS 13 will not die out immediately. We were still able to survive most of a working day with our moderate workload without looking for a point of sale.

Still, the 1080p version is the one that needs to be selected for portability. Last year's 1080p model had a battery life of more than ten and a half hours on the Internet and more than thirteen and a half hours in video lop. According to Dell, the 2019 version will decrease somewhat from these numbers, but you can expect at least a few hours more than the 4K model.

We're not excited about shortening battery life, especially when options like Chromebooks, thin and light Y-series laptops, and 2-in-1 devices with Qualcomm technology are making some progress. The battery life of the Dell XPS 13 is still solid, but no longer ahead.

Our opinion

The new Dell XPS 13 answers many of the problems we had with the original. It shows that the company is ready to take feedback and then actually do something about it. It is commendable. In addition, the new XPS 13 doesn't interfere with the things it did well in previous iterations. It may not be perfect, but it is as close as we have seen it so far.

Are there alternatives?

The 13-inch category is full of competitors – we're checking a lot of laptops at Digital Trends – but most make more compromises than the XPS 13.

The Specter 13 is HP's alternative, but doesn't have the performance or design to challenge the XPS 13. Microsoft has its own Surface Laptop 2 with a larger 3: 2 screen, but this is hampered by an outdated port selection. The Razer Blade Stealth is fantastic, but costs a few hundred dollars more. The screen of the Lenovo Yoga C630 cannot touch the XPS 13.

Apple fans will most likely choose the MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, but the longer battery life, better performance, thinner bezel, and more tactile keyboard of the XPS 13 make it a better choice than both fruity laptops.

How long it will take?

The XPS 13 is a well-built, future-oriented laptop. This applies to the various top-of-the-line components included here and the port selection. With normal wear and tear it should take longer than a few years.

The XPS 13 comes with a standard one year warranty. This is typical of a new laptop.

Should you buy it

Yes. It's the best 13-inch laptop you can buy and is no longer held back by a cumbersome webcam.

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