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Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook review

Ardjuna Seghers



Our Score



  • 13in screen in 12in chassis
  • Premium feel throughout
  • Great typing experience
  • Better than average battery life


  • Poor quality screen
  • Limited connectivity
  • A bit expensive

Review Price £949.00

Key Features: 13.3in screen in 12in chassis (TN glossy 1,366 x 768); Up to Core i7, 4GB RAM and 256GB SSD; Beautifully built, durable chassis; Aluminium, magnesium-alloy, carbon-fibre and soft-touch; Backlit keyboard, LED battery indicator

Manufacturer: Dell

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.

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January 12, 2012, 4:42 pm

When will manufacturers stop making laptops with grease absorbing palmrests?

It's small details like this why you choose the Macbook Air. Apple focuses on these small details.

Jon Williamson

April 23, 2012, 8:58 pm

Still no 3G data card option. Harumph.

Martin Daler

April 24, 2012, 1:31 am

Would it be churlish to point out that, whilst they may have a "13.3in screen crammed into a 12in-equivalent body" they have only managed to 'cram in' the screen resolution commonly found on an 11.6" screen. Two steps forward, and two steps back again.


April 24, 2012, 2:02 pm

After seeing the TV commercials I thought I'd check it out, looked at the specs on the Dell website, thought 'so far so good'. Then saw screen res of 1,366 x 768 and thought 'Next!'.

Think I'll wait for the Ivy Bridge refreshes of the Macbook Air and the Samsung Series 9.


April 24, 2012, 3:11 pm

It's not too bad on this model actually, and the soft-touch finish is worth a few minor visual blemishes for its enhanced comfort when typing.
Either way this is far preferable to glossy plastic/metal.


April 24, 2012, 3:14 pm

Indeed. We think the option should be there on the majority of high-end laptops, rather than the minority. Hopefully with increasing tablet convergence this will become the standard.


April 24, 2012, 3:16 pm

Not churlish at all but perhaps a little unfair, as it's also the screen resolution commonly found on most 13in, 14in and 15in laptops.

So maybe two steps forward and a little shuffle back? :)


April 25, 2012, 7:46 pm

Indeed, though panel type is at least as important.
Have you heard of the new 1080p IPS Zenbooks?:


April 26, 2013, 2:58 pm

I think you mean MINI Displayport not microDisplayPort, in the age where there is mini and micro USB, mini and micro HDMI, etc, etc, etc, you need to get your facts straight "Trusted" (laughable) reviews.

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