Dell is very late to the Ultrabook game, with every major rival already having one or more models on the market. So is the XPS 13 good enough to make up for its tardy appearance, and has Dell learned from the mistakes made with its XPS 14z? At first glance, the answer is a resounding “yes”. With a 13in screen crammed into the equivalent of a 12in chassis, classy metal and carbon fibre build, gorgeous design, good connectivity and specs, and a backlit keyboard, the XPS 13 Ultrabook appears to have it all.
Dell’s Ultrabook succeeds straight away when it comes to design. With the possible exceptions of the Samsung Series 9 900X3B and MacBook Air, it’s the most attractive ultraportable we’ve yet seen. With its curved and gently tapering corners, the Dell’s smooth aluminium lid looks superb, and is nicely complemented by an aluminium strip around the laptop’s otherwise black base.
Opening the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook up, this shiny metal trim is beautifully contrasted with the black interior. The display sports a glossy black screen that runs all the way to the screen's edge, giving it the impression of having no bezel. Meanwhile the keyboard surround has a lovely matt, soft-touch finish. Similar to the finish used on HP’s premium Envy line, like the HP Envy Beats Edition 14, it’s very comfortable for your hands to rest on during typing and doesn’t really show up grease marks.
Dell has also coated the laptop’s base with the same soft-touch feel, making the XPS 13 pleasant to hold and easy to carry. The base is actually a carbon-fibre composite, while the palm-rest is magnesium-alloy underneath. So yes, pretty much every premium material you can imagine is present. Build quality throughout is truly superb, easily living up to its premium billing, and matching the class-leading Samsung Series 9 and MacBook Air.
What’s most impressive about the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook though is its small footprint. It may not be the lightest 13in Ultrabook around, weighing a hefty 1.37kg compared to the 1.19kg Toshiba Satellite Z830, but it takes up a lot less space. Of course, Dell is hardly the only manufacturer to manage this, and the similarly diminutive Samsung Series 9 900X3B is both thinner and lighter.