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Putting aside, for the moment at least, our thoughts on the build quality of the Studio XPS 13, it certainly ticks all the right boxes in terms of performance. Its combination of superior integrated graphics and the fast 7,200 rpm hard drive saw it excel in PCMark Vantage, besting both the Sony VAIO Z Series (see: Sony VAIO VGN-Z11WN/B review) and the Samsung Q310 - particularly in the Productivity and HDD segments, where it held a 20+ per cent advantage.
And, as touched upon earlier, it's no slouch in gaming either and should you opt for discrete graphics as well, it's unlikely you'll find better gaming performance from a notebook in a similar form factor.
Battery life is also very impressive. In the Productivity test it died just five minutes short of four hours, while the lower intensity Reader test produced a runtime of four hours and 49 minutes - better than both the Sony and the Samsung Q310. These results are just with the six-cell 56 Watt-hour supplied, so the optional nine-cell could net you all-day use, while even with the screen set to its maximum brightness the Dell managed comfortably over two hours of DVD playback.
All of which means the Studio XPS 13 has all the basic ingredients for a truly excellent portable notebook for the power user. At 2.1kg it could do with being a few grams lighter, but it remains perfectly portable and delivers both excellent raw performance and very good battery life.
Regrettably this is tempered, of course, by the issues surrounding quality control and build and these ultimately preclude Studio XPS 13 from a Recommended Award at this time. If you're willing to take your chance, knowing an RMA might be necessary if you encounter the same issues we did, you will be getting a very good machine, one that would under different conditions be getting an award, but there are a few too many 'ifs' than we're willing to live with.
In the Studio XPS 13, Dell marries many of the right characteristics to make an excellent MacBook alternative that offers excellent value for a premium product. Unfortunately, it's let down by poor quality control and build, as well as a mediocre keyboard. It's worth thinking seriously about these issues before handing over your card details.