Last week I reviewed the Dell XPS 13 9310 2-in-1 and was enamoured with it but unfortunately that amount of premium completeness comes at a price. For the version we tested, that price is just under $3,000. For those who do not have that much money to drop on a laptop there are other excellent, more affordable options.
One of those options is the Dell XPS 13 9305 laptop. We were also sent one of these by Dell to check out and although it may not have the higher end specs, nor the flexibility of the 2-in-1 it is still a great piece of kit. Is that good enough for what you need it to do? Read on and use our opinions to figure that out for yourself.
The version we tested arrived with an 11th Gen Intel i5-1135G7 chipset onboard combined with 16GB of RAM, Intel Iris Xe Graphics, a 13.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) non-touch display and 512GB of storage (m.2 SSD). You can spec the laptop down a tad with the RAM, dropping it down dropping the price $540 to $1358 but that also drops the SSD down to a 256GB hard drive.
Hardware & Design
The Dell XPS 9305 is slightly larger in its height and width than the 2-in-1 (1-2mm in each direction so not a hell of a lot) but is shorter by almost a centimetre. The 9305 also shows that the 2-in-1 platform comes at a weight premium too with the 9305 weighing a couple of hundred grams less — which can be important when carrying around a laptop for large amounts of time and distance.
The Platinum Silver CNC aluminium chassis with Black carbon fibre palm rest laptop also has more ports than the 2-in-1. It has the two Thunderbolt 4 ports with Power Delivery, headphone jack and a microSD slot but also has a USB-C Gen 2 Type-C port with Power Delivery/Display Port on the right-hand side.
I set up the 9305 the same way I set up the 9310 2-in-1 with the left-hand Thunderbolt 4 port extending the display to a 4K 32-inch monitor (as well as powering the laptop) and the right-hand USB-C port using the USB-C to USB-A adapter from the 9310 box and providing the laptop with Internet access using a USB-A to Ethernet port adapter. If you want this USB-C to USB-A adapter with the 9305 you are out of luck and will have to purchase one separately. Once again though, the setup worked seamlessly.
This time there are no Windows Hello cameras in the top bezel, just the 720P webcam. Once again it worked fine but don’t expect it to provide cinema-quality video. The power button is also a fingerprint sensor as it is in the 9310 2-in-1 — just a circular shape this time.
Dell XPS laptops have been highly regarded for a long time and one of the reasons is the Infinity Display. Once again the Infinity Display is used with the bezels just a few millimetres around the top and the sides. The bottom bezel is a lot thicker than that on the 2-in-1 giving the display a slightly different display ratio — it is 16:9 as opposed to the 16:10 in the 2-in-1.
The display is a non-touch 1080P display which is still quite good with decent colour reproduction and good resolution. Compared to the more expensive UHD+ WLED in the 2-in-1 it is certainly different — but you pay for that difference. Unless you absolutely need that ultra-high-definition display that is also touch sensitive this one will do you just fine. The differences can only be seen when the two displays are side by side.
The keyboard is similar to that in the 2-in-1 — same size and is backlit which is essential for me in a laptop — but certainly has a different feel to it. The keys in the 9305 are softer, seem to have less travel, be less “clicky” and are a pleasure to type on. It is certainly quieter typing on this keyboard than that in the 2-in-1.
The touchpad was a lot more consistent with this laptop than the 9310 with it having a defined left and right click area, delineated by the central line. This resulted in more accurate clicking and with the feedback from the touchpad you knew exactly when and where you had clicked. This is the touchpad I have been used to on my older XPS 13 laptop (possibly why I found it easier to use).
As mentioned above the XPS 9305 we tested arrived with an 11th Gen Intel i5 chipset which is set up by Dell to have its full capabilities taken advantage of — theoretically. In everyday use, including gaming, there was not a heap, if any, noticeable difference in performance between the i5 in the 9305 and the i7 in the 9310 — remember the 9310 chipset is pushing a UHD+ resolution along with a WLED display compared to an IPS FHD display.
The 16GB of RAM may well have something to do with that and it is an expensive upgrade to go from the 8GB/256GB to the 16GB/512GB version but if you are the king of multitasking or do a lot of intensive tasks such as video editing then you may need that 16GB of RAM — and possibly the i7 chipset as well.
Gaming was surprisingly decent on the 9305. I wouldn’t be using it for high end gaming but with the basic options that I tested (NBA 2K21, Control, Fortnite and Minecraft) it worked well enough although it wasn’t as snappy as the 9310. If you are heavily into your games, then it is unlikely you are going to be buying an i5 mid-range laptop to specifically game on. It’ll do in a pinch but don’t rely on it as your main gaming machine.
The battery in the 9305 is slightly different to that in the 9310 in that it is still a 4-cell battery but is 52WHr instead of the 51WHr in the 9310 — that could well be a typo and the difference is inconsequential at that small amount anyway.
Battery life from a single charge sat at just over 8 hours although in that time I did not push the laptop all that hard. Basic movies/YouTube for a bit but mostly surfing the web using Wi-Fi. Dell has some decent battery usage options including ExpressCharge for the battery but that isn’t great for long term battery life battery life. Of course, battery life depends on a lot of factors including the brightness of the display, how long you have the backlight on the keyboard stay on for when not used etc.
Should you buy this??
I like XPS laptops. Why? Because they look decent, are thin and light. They make great use of the display section with their Infinity Display. I like the keyboard but that could well be because I’m used to it.
The best reason is that you get decent value for money. Similarly-specced machines from other manufacturers will cost more than $500 more in most cases. This spec laptop, with the i5 chipset will cost you $1,614 at the moment — an upgrade to the i7-1165G7 will cost you just $1,784.
I have no qualms recommending this laptop, even if you go for the i5, 8GB/256GB version for just $1,359. Of course the 9310 2-in-1 has many more advantages but is around twice the price — this laptop is the budget version of that, and I’d certainly be ok with that. If you need a laptop that is lightweight, a decent display which can cope with most everyday stuff you can throw at it without breaking the bank then this XPS 9305 is for you.