Of course, if trying to compete with the MacBook, an obvious tactic is to offer better value and the Studio XPS 13 definitely does that. Every machine comes with a backlit keyboard and the entry-level configuration, which costs just £799 all-in, nets you a 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400, 3GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM and a fast 7,200rpm 250GB hard drive. A brighter and thinner LED backlit screen, as sported in our version, brings this total up to £849.99, while other options include a £19.99 upgrade to a 7,200rpm, 320GB, free-fall protected hard drive.
You can also choose a 128GB SSD or, if you need as much storage as possible, a 500GB hard drive. To get the discrete graphics option, an nVidia 9500m with 256MB of memory, you must pay an extra £60, but more advanced configurations add many of these features and this being Dell can often be had at a significant discount. Whichever way you look at it, the Studio XPS offers far superior value to a MacBook.
This much we expect and we also expect a greater variety of connectivity, something the Studio XPS 13 duly delivers. You're positively spoilt for video connections, with VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort on hand. There's also a 54mm ExpressCard slot, one regular USB port, one USB and eSATA dual-format port and a four-pin FireWire port. Yeah, that's a FireWire port! Whatever did happen to that on the MacBook, eh?
In addition to these you get a trio of audio ports, two headphone sockets and a microphone jack, as well as an IR port for a remote. Annoyingly, though, Dell doesn't include an ExpressCard remote in the box as it did on the M1330, while the included slip case is an attractive but flimsy cloth affair compared to the thick, woven and padded one offered with the older model.
Still, in the greater scheme of things, these are small complaints and the Studio XPS 13 contains all the little touches that Dell has made prevalent throughout its notebook range. This means, above the keyboard, a nice selection of touch sensitive shortcut buttons comprising playback and volume controls, an eject button for the slot-loading DVD drive and a wireless radio switch. Dell has even managed to decrease the size of the 65W power supply significantly, creating a slim and easily portable unit, while the power indicator light has been moved to the plug so it's easy to see if the mains are turned on - a nice touch.
Further nice touches include the lighting. Both hinges feature funky circular lighting, while the status indicators on the front edge, backlit in white like everything else, are very clear and easily visible. As is, of course, the backlit keyboard, which can be set to two different brightness levels as well as being turned off completely. As noted earlier it's good that it comes as standard, but because the keyboard isn't a genuine isolated style one - keys are flat but are not moulded individually into the chassis - there is a predictable amount of light bleed when viewed from anything other than directly above. This can be quite annoying and given the choice we'd sooner had seen an isolated keyboard used to eliminate this issue.