Dell XPS 13 – The Best Windows 10 Laptop on the market?

The Dell XPS 13 is everything a modern ultrabook should be. Impressive performance and an InfinityEdge display combine to make this Windows 10 ultrabook simply perfect.
By Ben Jackson   October 22, 2016 8:02 am UTC

Dell XPS 13 v1

If by this time, you haven’t upgraded to Windows 10 on your personal PC, what are you waiting for? Everything about it is better. From an improved interface, better AI support, and overall speed and performance, Windows 10 has proven to be a pretty solid release for Microsoft (whose stock just hit an all-time record today, in fact).

Of course, an improved operating system is just one piece of the puzzle. You also need a PC that’s modern and capable – ideally something running a newer version of Intel’s latest processor, and a solid state hard drive always helps too.

It’s 2016 after all – why wait more than a minute for your computer to boot up? Opening and running multiple applications, quickly and without delay, is an expectation that you absolutely should have of your computer. Granted, some people are “just fine” with their 2005 Dell Latitude running Windows XP, but we all know they’re not.




There’s definitely more than a few solid choices out there for new PC’s, and you don’t need to spend a fortune to come away with a high-performing machine. As a non-Apple/Macbook guy, and someone who was recently in the market for a personal PC upgrade, I spent quite a bit of time researching and comparing new Windows 10 PC’s. After hundreds of articles and video reviews, I finally admitted to myself, “Dude.. you’re getting a Dell.” More specifically, a touchscreen Dell XPS 13”, with a 256GB SSD running Windows 10.

Before you rush to judge, keep in mind that this PC is unlike anything I’ve ever seen from Dell before. The overwhelmingly positive reception heaped on Dell’s impressive machine sealed the deal for me. Actually, it was probably the InfinityEdge Display that did me in, in reality. With a nearly borderless bevel, the screen is pretty much a game changer, and aligned with my vision of display perfection.

InfinityEdge Technology – a Display Worth Getting Excited About

Take a quick look at your computer right now. It’s probably sporting at least a centimeter of frame around the entire display screen. While most newer ultrabooks boast a pretty thin overall computer, none that I considered had anything that could compete with Dell’s InfinityEdge. It’s the most distinctive feature of this laptop, you’ve probably realized by now – and for good reason. And no, it doesn’t feel fragile, or make me nervous about breaking it when traveling or even carrying it around the house. It’s just awesome.

dell-xps-infinity-edge-displayHOWEVER, in the interest of fairness, I’ll give you something that I don’t like about the display. Since I opted for the touchscreen version of the XPS, I knew I’d at least be touching my screen a little bit. Granted, I don’t use it nearly enough to justify the extra cost (you can save a few hundred in some cases, if you don’t go for the touchscreen). But the main point, as you might expect with a touchscreen, is that the display will definitely show signs of screen smudge from time to time. As someone who obsesses over technology, I clean my display as frequently as I feel it necessary. Of course, you won’t really notice any smudging when the screen is on, but the second it goes to sleep – you’ll see finger marks very clearly. Probably not too unlike how the navigation/entertainment screen in your vehicle might look like at times.

All in all though, the display is definitely a big part of what makes this laptop incredible. Every new ultrabook out there is going to offer ridiculous battery life and amazing performance, but none have the InfinityEdge display. The Dell XPS 13 takes the cake in that regard.

Lightweight and Portable

I remember saying to myself when I removed the shrinkwrap and pulled the PC out of its pristine packaging, “Wow.. this thing is actually really, really small.” But after I opened the lid, I realized how insanely well-designed this laptop actually is. It’s definitely smaller than what I envisioned it would be, but of course I should have expected that when I purchased a 13-inch ultrabook. But wow, they really do know how to build amazing laptops nowadays.

If you’re worried about this ultrabook not being big enough, trust me.. I was right there with you. But as per the aforementioned InfinityEdge display, the screen actually ends up feeling a lot bigger than 13” when you start using it. Overall though, it’s just a beautifully designed package, and it hardly weighs anything. You definitely want to get a sleeve for it if you’re toting it around in a backpack, and okay fine.. at times it does feel slightly more breakable than a normal brick laptop. Ultrabooks are known for their thin design – and while the XPS isn’t the absolute thinnest (HP takes the crown with their new Spectre ultrabook), it still feels razor thin when you’re using it. The thing weighs 2.6 pounds in case you were wondering; that’s ridiculous to even consider.

Do keep in mind that to make a PC this thin, they had to do without the CD drive. For most people, that won’t be an issue. You can always purchase an external drive and connect it via USB if that’s your thing.. but most applications are capable of being installed/run digitally anyways.  Most people will think about the CD’s that came with their router, and possibly printer.. but trust me –if those devices are relatively recent, you’ll be able to find a digital download for the driver. To summarize – not having a disc drive isn’t a big deal.  Oh one other thing worth noting here that isn’t all that surprising: the XPS does have the propensity to get a little warm on your lap at times, but not ever uncomfortably so.

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Powerful Performance

Ultimately, it’s what’s under the hood that matters. On that front, the Dell XPS 13 is one of the most capable ultrabooks out there. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can spec the XPS out to perfection. For myself, I knew regardless of what I ended up with, it was going to be a night and day improvement from what I was working with before. In the end, I ended up with the following for my particular XPS:

  • 256GB SSD
  • Windows 10 Home
  • Intel Core i5 6200U 2.3 GHZ Processor
  • 8 GB LPDDR3 RAM

I primarily use my XPS for Photoshop, GoPro video editing, Steam gaming, and normal things like video streaming and internet browsing. For someone like me who wanted something that looked incredible and was also blazing fast, I’m convinced I made the right choice. It’s not a supercomputer, but for someone that wants a reliable, high-performing ultrabook, it definitely exceeds everything I’d ever need.

Hands down though, one of my favorite things about the Dell XPS 13.. and solid state drives for that matter: boot speed. From a completely powered down state, you can log on and have your full desktop readily loaded in probably 30 seconds. Personally, I hate waiting for my computer to start.. and God forbid having to restart. The 5-10 minutes I used to have to wait for my old PC to boot up seems unimaginable at this point. It’s the biggest difference between running Windows 7 on an older PC – quite simply, the Dell XPS 13 is just straight up, always ready to go.

Battery Life on the Dell XPS 13

You’re hopefully familiar with ultrabooks by this point – if not, they’re basically what you should be looking for if you’re wanting a new laptop. One of the signature features of the modern ultrabook is a ridiculous improvement in battery life. Most 15.4” laptops usually last maybe 2.5, 3 hours off the charger with continuous use (if you’re lucky). For comparison – I took my XPS on a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii, which is actually only about a 5 hour flight. After 4 hours of continuous use, my battery remained at 47% when I had to power down before we landed. Granted, I wasn’t watching movies or asking a lot out of my video processor, but still.. at that rate I’m good to use my laptop for 8+ hours after a full charge.

Keep in mind though, that the battery life will vary significantly depending on what type of applications you’re running. Streaming Netflix for example, or playing Brawlhalla on Steam will definitely run your battery down a lot quicker than if you were simply working in Microsoft Word or casually browsing the internet. Still, it makes using a computer significantly more enjoyable if you don’t have to worry about where your charger is all the time. Ultrabooks are fun like that.

Gaming on the Dell XPS 13

For the record, I’m by no means a regular PC gamer. I actually sort of stumbled into the world of Steam recently, and found a few games I occasionally rock out on for a few hours. Nothing hardcore, and I don’t play every day. But part of me also wanted to take the training wheels off the XPS and see if it could really deliver top-tier gaming performance. Again, I really have no idea what top-tier gaming performance looks like, but as a technology buff I figured it wouldn’t be hard to tell what the XPS could handle. Every game I’ve ever played on it has looked incredible, and the video card is more than capable for your average gamer. Is this ultrabook designed for gaming? I definitely wouldn’t make that claim.. but it’s certainly the best gaming experience this novice has ever seen. XPS stands for Xtreme Performance System after all.. so you’d expect it to be pretty damn good all-around. And it is.

Accessories + External Displays

Because the Dell XPS 13 comes with a couple of USB-C 3.0 ports, I knew what I’d end up looking for in terms of a docking station. When I bought mine earlier this year, the Thunderbolt dock was coming out right around the same time. I wanted flexibility with external displays; for me, that means docking the XPS up to the Thunderbolt, and running two 24” Dell Ultra HD monitors. I probably spend about 25% of my time at home sitting at my desk, with the XPS pushing two displays. It’s a beautiful thing, and if you want a true office setup.. I’d recommend getting at least one additional monitor. I’m sure there are those out there who will laugh at my Dell-everything approach, but the Ultra HD monitors are great and perform well. They’re definitely not the cheapest, but they’re also not outrageously priced. You can get one for around $200 new.. and of course less if you went used or refurbished.

dell-xps-13-accessories

To round out my accessories, I went with a Dell Premier Sleeve. It’s not the best looking one out there, but it gets the job done. I feel a lot better about throwing it in a backpack when it’s in the sleeve which offers more protection than the flimsy ones.. and because of the size it’s still super compact and hardly takes up any room at all.

Final Thoughts

It’s probably pretty clear at this point. I’m a huge fan of the XPS ultrabook; Dell did Windows (and the world) a favor with this PC. Relatively speaking, it’s fairly affordable. The model I ended up getting runs right around $1000. I didn’t splurge on the i7 processor; for me, the i5 was already light years ahead of where I was. I don’t regret that decision one bit.

Sure, you can get a Windows 10 PC for $500.. but the Dell XPS 13 is a step above. At that price point, you’re still well below anything Apple has out there. For your had investment, you’ll end up with the high performing (and sharp looking) laptop you’ve always wanted.

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