Reviews

Dell XPS 13 2020 — Review

The Dell XPS 13 has been a mainstay of the ultra-portable laptop world since they were introduced in 2012 and over the years they’ve become an attractive little powerhouse that sets a standard. Not one to rest on their laurels though, Dell have redesigned the XPS 13 for 2020 with a smaller, thinner profile and a larger 13.4-inch, 1920 x 1200 touch enabled InfinityEdge display with a 16:10 aspect ratio.

The screen bezel on the Infinity Edge display is minimal all round immersing you in the content on the screen. There’s a tiny 720P webcam at the top which has been getting a work out in a load of Zoom meetings. The camera setup also includes an IR emitter for unlocking with Windows Hello and there’s an indicator to show when the camera is active – no Zoom fails! I would like to see a higher resolution camera on a new model but it works.

The touch display is really good, connected to the body with a firm hinge which you can re-position nicely with just one hand, but remains in place once you set it.

The switch from 16:9 aspect ratio on the 2019 XPS 13 – which I purchased and use daily – to a 16:10 on the display on the XPS 13 2020 is a little more comfortable for viewing the web. It’s not quite the 3:2 ratio I’ve grown used to on Google Chromebooks and even now the Surfacebook from Microsoft, but it’s also better for viewing media, so it’s a more versatile screen in that respect.

The quality of the 4K display that Dell supplies on the XPS 13 2020 is phenomenal. I’ve streamed a few 4K movies, thrown the usual YouTube 4K demos at it and it’s just beautiful.

To go with the great screen, Dell included some pretty decent ‘2.5W x 2 = 4W’ speakers. They’re surprisingly good, with some grunt to them, though it was a bit lacking in bass and got a bit distorted at full volume, but they were really good at most videos. You can also use a pair of headphoness with the headphone jack if you want better sound.

Dell has used high end materials including machined aluminum, carbon fiber, woven glass fiber and hardened Corning Gorilla Glass in the making of the XPS 13 9300 and it feels absolutely premium all round – it also looks fantastic in Platinum Silver. 

The soft touch feel of the carbon fiber on the base is comfortable with the black, but with the Platinum Silver you get a nice woven glass fiber which has a bit of a texture to it, it’s also a lot nicer to type on than the aluminium bases I’ve used in the cold climate here around Canberra.

The keyboard is spacious and backlit and it’s comfortable to type on. As well as the Windows Hello camera, there’s also a compatible fingerprint scanner embedded in the power button in the top left which is delightfully fast and accurate.

The trackpad is a joy to use, it’s responsive and tracks well. I’ve been using a number of laptops this year and while they’ve been good, the Dell XPS 13 trackpad is just great. 

There are only four real ‘ports’ on the XPS 13, dual USB-C ports either side which you can plug the 45-watt power brick into, and a microSD card slot on the left with a 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo jack on the right. Getting used to dongle life with the XPS 13 is a curve, but accessories are getting out there, and they’re getting cheaper too – even Kmart has a range of USB-C adapters now.

Power is important, because the 4-Cell, 52Whr Battery gets you through about 6.5 – 7 hours of life – so not quite a full day of on the go computing, but close. That is with the laptop pushing 4K resolution graphics, at about 50% screen brightness. The 45W charger is fast at getting you back up to speed though, and it’s also compact so you can take it with you and top up through the day if you get the opportunity.

Just on the charger, it’s colour co-ordinated with the USB-C to USB-A adapter in the box. Nice one Dell.

The Dell XPS 13 is a great looking laptop, but there’s some serious grunt available in this compact little unit. Dell is offering the XPS 13 with a number of hardware options depending on your budget, with options for 10th gen Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, 8GB – 32GB of RAM and 512GB – 2TB of storage. The review model includes an i7 with 16GB of storage and a 512GB SSD.

The laptop handles well with everything I tried on it, I’ve begun PC gaming a little with some Tomb Raider, Command and Conquer Remastered and there was a little video work for my son’s YouTube channel in Premiere. There’s a little fan noise when you really push the boundaries, and the base heats up a little, but it’s not too much or at least you don’t notice it too much.

Dell has hidden vents all over the XPS 13, on the base, and even in the hinge mechanism. It’s a pretty phenomenal engineering job overall, with the amount of power in this thing it’s surprising how little heat there is.

There is of course a wish for more gaming capability on the laptop, the included Intel Iris Plus Graphics is enough for most stuff, and I can play some games on it but if you really want to push the boundaries on gaming the XPS 13 isn’t quite there.

Windows 10 is of course included with options for either Home or Pro available. You get a Microsoft Office trial and 12 month subscription to McAfee LiveSafe – but if you want to clear out the bloat it shouldn’t take too long.

Should you buy it?
In a nutshell yes. The Dell XPS 13 2020 is a great looking machine, it’s light but powerful, and though you’re not going to be gaming at the high end you can still do it.

I’d love to see a USB-A port, and a higher end webcam, especially with the premium you’ll pay for the Dell XPS 13, but weighing up what the laptop offers and what the competition is, it’s easy to do the sums and see that the XPS 13 is simply worth it.

The Dell XPS 13 has become a standard in the ultrabook category for a reason, and with the Dell XPS 13 2020 they’ve again defined that role for their competitors. If you want an ultrabook, then this is the best one you can buy at the moment.

Dell XPS 13 2020 — Review
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