Dell's XPS 13 Ultrabook and Me

Dell's XPS 13 Ultrabook and MeToday was an interesting day. It began with the full release of Ubuntu 12.04 which I installed on my desktop. Then, the XPS 13 arrived from Dell.

I didn't pay for the XPS 13. Dell just gave it to me, so I'm going to review it and compare it to my work-issued MacBook. They sure look similar.

If you're still with me, you should probably read Windows vs. Mac vs. Linux, something I wrote last month. You'll see there that I spend the bulk of my day working on the Ubuntu desktop. When I need to be mobile, or when I need Photoshop, I'm on the MacBook. I have a bulky old Windows laptop for when I absolutely need Windows and when my kids want to play Windows-only games. Otherwise, I avoid that Acer like the plague.

But here I am with a shiny new XPS 13. It's super thin.

Here's the XPS 13 unboxed. It's really thin. #XPS13

Because it looks an awful lot like my MacBook, the first thing I did was compare the thickness, weight and size. The Mac is a little bigger, a little heavier and a little thicker. Oh, and more expensive.

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So far I've simply pugged her in, set up my Windows profile and downloaded Chrome. It's fast, and super thin and light (did I mention how thin it is?), but I'll need some time with it to see how it compares to the other machines lying around.

This will be fun... Is anyone else using the XPS 13 yet?

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What are the specs?

April 26, 2012 @ 4:21 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike


2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i5-2467M processor (1.60 GHz with Turbo Boost 2.0 up to 2.30 GHz)

Operating System:

Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium, 64bit, English


Silver Anodized Aluminum and 13.3" HD (720p) Truelife WLED Display with 1.3MP HD Webcam


4GB3 Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz

Hard Drive:

128GB Solid State Drive

Video Card:

Intel® HD Graphics 3000

Case Color:

Silver Anodized Aluminum and 13.3" HD (720p) Truelife WLED Display with 1.3MP HD Webcam


Intel© Centrino© Advanced-N 6230 & Bluetooth 3.0

Primary Battery:

6-Cell (47 WHr) Battery


2.99 lbs

April 26, 2012 @ 4:25 PM


A new 2012 laptop called XP? With a 128Gb hard drive? Slow down there Trailblazer! Um, by all means - you can have this freebie.

April 26, 2012 @ 7:34 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike


I'm pretty sure the name XPS has nothing to do with Windows XP. It came with Windows 7.

April 26, 2012 @ 7:36 PM


Hey CQ, gifthorse mouth and all that.

April 26, 2012 @ 8:06 PM


Calling it XP anything is cracker-jack brand marketing in my books. Aces!

April 26, 2012 @ 8:33 PM


Engadget Review
From the moment it comes out of the box the XPS 13 looks and feels like a truly premium product and, with a nice keyboard and respectable performance, it's a nice machine to use, too. But, the display suffers the same complaints we've seen with other Ultrabooks in this price range -- middling resolution, poor off-angle contrast -- and the trackpad only works well when it feels like it.

It is, then, another solid choice at the sub-$1,000 price point, but put aesthetics aside and we wouldn't say it's universally better than HP's Folio 13, which is about $100 cheaper. It is, however, better looking.

CNET Review
The good: The Dell XPS 13 fits a glass-covered 13-inch screen into a smaller-than-expected body. The sophisticated design is eye-catching and sturdy, without driving up the price.

The bad: The limited port selection doesn't include HDMI or an SD card slot; the display should be better; and battery life falls behind other slim laptops'.

The bottom line: Dell packs a 13-inch display into a very small footprint in the XPS 13 ultrabook, making it one of the few slim laptops that actually top the MacBook Air in some areas.

AnandTech Review

None of the issues with the XPS 13 are fundamental flaws or uncorrectable. This is a good product at a reasonable price point that basically just needs a refresh. If you're in the market for an ultrabook I wouldn't dissuade you from going with the XPS 13, but I might advise you to really examine how you're going to use it and do some shopping around first. That's just good advice for any computer purchase, but it's definitely relevant here.

my comment:
if you want an ultrabook wait for something better maybe from HP Envy 14 Spectre, Asus Zenbook UX31, Lenovo IdeaPad U300S, Samsung Series 9

April 26, 2012 @ 8:41 PM


I wanted to withhold my impressions of the Dell XPS 13 until I had used it for a while in the field, but since everyone seems so hurried to review it, I want to throw in my two cents before it becomes old news. You see, I am the type of road warrior who seriously uses such an ultrabook when I travel.

I do not use these machines for everyday computing. For that, I prefer a big, powerful machine with many monitors and all sorts of capabilities. Naturally, those are impractical for the road. When traveling, power users want the lightest, most powerful Windows machine they can find—bonus points if it is attractive and can play movies well. The new $999 Dell ultrabook easily falls into the category.

Let me mention several things I personally like about it. First of all, it boots up faster than anything I've ever used. The difference between a cold boot and a return from sleep or hibernation is minimal; it is that fast. This is part of a winning new boot architecture.

Secondly, the backlit keyboard is impressive. In many situations, namely a darkened airplane, users simply cannot see the keyboard on most inexpensive laptops. This one automatically lights up the letters on the keys because they are not printed on the keys, but are actually molded into the key—a big deal for enthusiastic typers who quickly wear off the letters. The sub-three pound factor is also important in today's world of travel, where airlines have strict weight restrictions on bags, especially on overseas flights.

If the machine has any flaws—and all ultrabooks and MacBook Airs suffer from this—it is that there is no direct video connector that attaches to the hotel video projector for use in a PowerPoint presentation. A VGA dongle can, however, be attached to the machine's mini DisplayPort connector. I have not tested it to see if the projectors are amenable. I assume they are or else this would be a deal breaker in most circumstances. The machine also has a USB-2 port and a USB-3 port. A dongle is also needed for an Ethernet connection. This is lame, but keeps the machine more stylish until you attach the clunky dongle.

Everything else seems to be in order. The Wi-Fi works at long range; I cannot seem to kill the battery after hours of connected use. The 16-by-9 high-gloss screen, which requires some adjustment to kill the glare, is very readable. It's made from the remarkable Corning Gorilla Glass, which means it will not scratch or break. I am a huge fan of this substance. The machine does not overheat and it's rugged. The trim aluminum shell for the screen seems susceptible to getting smudged.
As pretty as it looks in its virgin form, I'd skin it with some decorative laminate.

Put the unit side-by side with a MacBook Air and you can see the family resemblance. I would assume they were made at the exact same factory in China using many common design elements, including the hinges. That said, it's got a much better-looking screen than the Air. By that, I mean there is no oversized bezel. This machine is only slightly larger than the 11-inch MacBook Air but sports a 13-inch screen, rather than an 11-inch. I would get this machine over the current Apple if given a choice. But I'm also a Windows user.

These new ultrabooks all have SSDs, which is very snappy and contributes to overall performance. This machine comes in three models, with the high-end version utilizing an i7 and a bigger SSD. Most people probably only need the $999 Core i5 basic machine.
Dell is extremely proud of this unit since it is probably the slickest laptop/notebook the company has ever produced. It could easily become the road warrior's machine of choice for the next two or three years.

April 26, 2012 @ 9:51 PM

Ryan G

Jesus Christ you guys are serious about computers.

April 27, 2012 @ 7:18 AM


@Ryan G

When your work-life depends on them, yes. We are.

April 27, 2012 @ 7:49 AM


What's the point of an ultra book in a tablet world?

April 27, 2012 @ 8:20 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike


At one point, I had three tablets next to the bed, sometimes four. I still grabbed the laptop 90% of the time.

To me, it's about input. If I'm just reading, the tablet is fine, but so much of what I do on the web requires typing. I'm so much faster on a laptop.

I'm thinking the target market here has to be the person who needs to go mobile and prefers Windows over Mac. And by making it look so much like a Mac, they might be allowed to bring it into their local Starbucks if they cover the Dell logo with a sticker.

April 27, 2012 @ 8:53 AM


Techno-snobs...all of you.

April 27, 2012 @ 10:56 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike


Techno-snob? I'm the guy working on his $250 desktop running Ubuntu Linux!

April 27, 2012 @ 10:59 AM


Mike, you should test drive the HP follio 13, Great device!

April 30, 2012 @ 10:39 AM

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