The Dell XPS 13 has been long regarded as one of, if not the best ultra portable laptop for a long time. Dell seems to have the problem solved so much so that each year seems to be only a spec bump each time. That spec bump with this year’s 9310 model though has helped it to maintain its position atop the ultraportable pile.
This year they have included the new Intel 11th generation Tiger Lake Processors, Thunderbolt 4, faster RAM and Iris Xe graphics in the XPS 13 9310 2-in-1 along with a WLED display. Once again it appears they have a hit on their hands. I was sent one by Dell to put it through its paces and I was left so impressed that tears will be shed when I have to send it back. Read on to find out why I thought it was so good.
Hardware and design
First look at the XPS 13 9310 2-in-1 and it looks just like the XPS 13 laptops have looked like for several years. I have a 3-year-old XPS 13 that I use as my laptop that looks nearly identical (aside from the 2-in-1 hinges) although Dell tells us that the new model is even smaller. The Dell XPS 13 9310 2-in-1 comes in at just 1.32kg and measures out at 14.35mm high, 297mm wide and 207mm deep.
The XPS 13 9310 2-in-1 we received is the Platinum Silver variant with the black keyboard and palm rest. Around the sides are a headphone jack and Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) with Power Delivery port on the right hand side and on the left another Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) with Power Delivery port next to the microSD slot. Where’s the USB-A you say? Dell haven’t included them in the XPS 13 for a while now and instead provide you with a USB-C to USB-A dongle for those who still need to plug in a USB-A device.
I used the dongle when I was sitting at my desk and it worked as it should when plugged into a USB-C to ethernet adapter. The Thunderbolt 4 port on the left simultaneously was used to connect to my LG 32-inch 4K monitor, extending the display without missing a beat.
Open up the laptop and you are greeted with the UHD+ WLED display with a new 16:10 display ratio. The 13.4-inch WLED touch display with a resolution of 3456 x 2160 pixels — UHD+ display — excels in every way, especially with its once again minimal bezels. The display is incredibly touch responsive and the colours bright and punchy but it is not because the display is an OLED display. WLED is Dell’s way of lighting their LCD displays. It apparently stands for White LED backlights for LCD displays. A bit sneaky in their naming scheme there — it you want the true OLED display you’ll have to forego the 2-in-1 and purchase a clamshell instead.
Above the display, somehow within the tiny bezel, sits the 720P webcam, dual array digital microphones and the infrared camera for unlocking the device via Windows Hello. The infrared camera worked as well as any other Windows Hello cameras I have used, including that on a Surface device. The webcam itself though is not something you are going to use to make a high-quality YouTube video but was perfectly fine for standard Zoom calls — much better than the bottom bezel, up the nose camera my XPS has.
For those who prefer the fingerprint scanner there is one of those situated on the power button. It worked consistently but if you have Windows Hello set up as well it will most likely unlock the device before you have a chance to hit the fingerprint sensor anyway.
The backlit keyboard functions well and feels comfortable enough to me, but then I’m used to Dell keyboards. The keys have little travel to them, 0.7mm in fact, so if you prefer a larger travel it may be worth checking one of these out in-store before purchasing. Unfortunately, if you prefer the larger travel that is, going for a laptop as portable and thin as this one something has to give. In saying that I felt fine doing any amount of typing without any issues — I am currently typing this review on it of course.
The touchpad is larger than my older version and was incredibly responsive –although there were times when I tried to move my cursor and it instead highlighted the full word. The right click on the touchpad was inconsistent with its location and instead I used the two-finger tap to right click instead. The more I used it the more I got used to its different touches required but there was certainly a learning curve.
One last mention on the design and hardware is the 360-degree hinge. The hinge allows the laptop to be used at any angle, whether as traditional laptop style, a tent with it resting “upside-down” on the bench or as a tablet. Combined with the included stylus pen the tent and tablet modes were very handy when marking assignments or reading articles and marking them up. The hinge is sturdy and felt like it would hold the laptop at all positions without any problems — which it did.
Performance & Internals
The internal specs are what you would expect from Dell’s XPS range. Featuring an 11th Generation Intel® Core™ i7-1165G7 Processor, 16GB of 4267MHz LPDDR4x RAM and a 512GB PCIe NVMe x4 SSD onboard you are going to get top end performance. All of these are standard in this model — it is the UHD+ WLED display which is the top end option (you can opt for a 13.4” 16:10 FHD+ WLED Touch Display (1920 x 1200) instead if you prefer the option of a white exterior and interior.
Performance-wise, the Dell XPS 13 9310 performed as well as any other similarly specced device on the market in nearly every category. On a day to day level I was able to use it from basic things such as writing this review while also having the display extended to a 4K 32-inch monitor. The laptop was easily able to switch from basic tasks such as these to more intensive tasks such as gaming without missing a beat.
We tested it out on NBA 2K21, Control, Fortnite and Minecraft (yes, my 12y.o. son helped me test out the gaming capabilities). Although I suck at games the laptop did not, even while pushing them on the 4K monitor. The XPS series of laptops has always been good at gaming and this one is no exception.
The battery is a 4-Cell Battery, 51Whr (Integrated) battery and it performs amazingly. All you want from a laptop is all day use and I was able to get that quite easily with mixed usage. 10-11 hours of battery life from a single charge with the mixed usage — some YouTube, video watching, surfing and general work such as word processing.
The charger included is a 65W USB-C charger which was able to charge the device quickly — other, similarly specced USB-C chargers, including my Dell portable charger worked perfectly as well.
Most software inclusions by companies are bloatware plain and simple. I prefer to use my own antivirus and firewall (not a fan at all of McAfee) and the rest of their software is usually entirely useless. Dell has learned from users though and most of their software actually has a lot of major uses in not only keeping the laptop up to date but running smoothly, no matter its age.
- Dell CinemaColor: has four quick, adjustable presets that allow you to quickly change the colour settings of the display with a quick click. Being editable you can change the colour saturation, temperature and contrast of the display for each preset and save that as the new preset. As you would expect this only applies to the laptop and not the extended display.
- Dell Digital Delivery: is the service Dell uses to deliver and manage the software purchases you made at the time you purchased the laptop.
- Dell Mobile Connect: is their Wireless PC-Smartphone integration software for iOS and Android. You will need to install the Dell Mobile Connect app but once you have done it you can then send texts, make calls, transfer files, get notifications and mirror the display of your phone, all wirelessly. Handy if you are working on your laptop all day.
- Dell Power Manager: this not only allows you to optimise your battery usage but also your battery charging to extend the battery’s lifespan.
- Dell Update: as you would expect this app checks online for the latest BIOS, driver, firmware and Dell application updates for your system. It downloads and installs the updates as well. I’ve used this a lot with my own personal XPS and it is especially handy when reinstalling Windows (which I had to do recently after replacing the hard drive).
Should you buy it?
Let’s face it, the UHD+ version of the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 9310 laptop is not cheap. Currently at $2,958 it is a fair chunk of change but considering what you get for that tick under $3k it is great value. You get so much for that price though considering the price of other 2-in-1 laptops with similar specs.
The laptop is powerful enough to drive a 4K monitor in full gaming mode and not miss a beat. It works amazingly as a tablet in tent or tablet mode and the included pen comes in very handy for marking up and correction. The size of it is small, slim and light but at the same time packs in great specs in a body that feels sturdy and solid. The hinges, which can often be an issue with 2-in-1 laptops are solid and give the feeling that they will last a long time.
As I said earlier, it will be a very sad day when I have to send this laptop back to Dell. When my current XPS gives up the ghost I will most likely be purchasing the latest (at the time) XPS 13 2-in-1 laptop. That says it all. If I am happy to put my money down on one (especially this UHD+ one) says that I am extremely comfortable recommending this to anyone who wants a versatile, high end, ultraportable, powerful laptop.
You can spec yours over at Dell with it currently on sale and in stock.