The king of 2-in-1 laptops is back. Dell’s new XPS 13 2-in-1 boasts a powerful Intel 10th Gen Core i7 processor, a superbright 16:10 display and double-digit battery life, all wrapped in an ultraportable 2-in-1 design and selling for $1,597 (starting at $979). However, the laptop’s slim design comes at the cost of a shallow keyboard and scant ports. But overall, that doesn’t stop the XPS 13 2-in-1 from earning its place as one of the best laptops out there.article continued below
Price and configuration options
The XPS 13 2-in-1 that I tested costs $1,597 and is outfitted with an Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, a 1920 x 1200 display and an Arctic White interior.
You can pick up the base model for $979, and it’ll come with a Core i3-1005G1 CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a Black interior.
If you want to customize this baby to the max, you’re going to get the same CPU and storage in our unit, but upgrade to 32GB of RAM and a 3840 x 2400 display.
We’ve seen the traditional Platinum Silver design a number of times on the XPS line, and while it’s not as lovely as Rose Gold, it still looks premium on the new XPS 13 2-in-1. Unfortunately, Rose Gold isn’t actually available in the 2-in-1 (only in the standard XPS 13). The XPS 13 2-in-1 still has a glossy, silver Dell logo on its aluminum hood, but what lures me in is how the lid is just slightly slanted with the deck, moving away from the flat design on most laptops.
I got blasted with a storm of Arctic White when I opened the XPS 13. Thanks to the variable torque within the laptop’s hinge, I was able to open the machine up with just one finger, while the laptop stayed still (this made my co-worker giddy). The woven glass-fiber interior looked as slick as it did on the XPS 13, and the Platinum Silver, 360-degree hinges added a nice contrast to the blinding-white design. The bezels on the 16:10 display are pleasantly slim, and like the new standard XPS 13, the 2-in-1 sports a webcam on the top bezel. There’s also a Windows Hello-enabled fingerprint reader that doubles as the power button.
Folding this machine into tablet mode felt smooth, and thanks to the magnets that can stick the lid to the underside, the XPS 13 2-in-1 was sturdy in my hands.
Thanks to the variable torque within the laptop’s hinge, I was able to open the machine up using just one finger, while the laptop stayed still.
At 2.9 pounds and 11.7 x 8.2 x 0.3~0.5 inches, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is not only the slimmest 13-inch laptop among its competition, but it will also fit into any laptop bag. However, it is still around the same weight as the HP Spectre x360 (2.8 pounds, 12.2 x 8.6 x 0.6 inches), Apple MacBook Pro (3 pounds, 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches) and Razer Blade Stealth (2.9 pounds, 12 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches).
On the left side, there’s one Thunderbolt 3 port and a microSD card slot, while the right side holds room for the headphone jack and another Thunderbolt 3 port. The system does come with an included USB Type-C-to-Type-A adapter.
In the trailer for Zombieland: Double Tap, Woody Harrelson’s presidential Santa outfit glowed a proper crimson red that contrasted well with his fluffy, bright white beard. When fireworks popped off over a building in the dead of night, I could clearly see each and every zombie in the shot as well as the trees around them. The stitching in Harrelson’s jacket popped on the XPS 13 2-in-1’s sharp screen.
Despite what I saw during real-world testing, the XPS 13 2-in-1’s panel isn’t as colorful as I expected. According to our colorimeter, the screen covers 113% of the sRGB color gamut, which is good, but it doesn’t match up with the premium laptop average (131%). The XPS 13 can’t compete with the Spectre x360 (150%), MacBook Pro (163%) or Razer Blade Stealth (120%), either.
The XPS 13 2-in-1’s display is just colorful enough to put you in a trance.
However, what it lacks in color, the XPS 13 makes up for in screen brightness. This baby’s display averaged 516 nits of brightness, crushing the category average (348 nits) as well as the results from the Spectre x360 (287 nits), MacBook Pro (441 nits) and Razer Blade Stealth (346 nits).
Keyboard, touchpad and pen
I have a sort of love-hate relationship with the XPS 13 2-in-1’s keyboard. It’s incredibly shallow, and while it offers some click, it feels a little sticky. It is reminiscent to the MacBook Pro’s keyboard, but the typing experience is much more comfortable. If you’re a fan of the recent MacBooks, then you’ll love this keyboard. If not, your fingers face a learning curve.
I ran my fingers through the 10fastfingers.com typing test and scored 70 words per minute, matching my exact average. To make a more portable product, Dell had to sacrifice key travel, but this didn’t affect my typing much.
The XPS 2-in-1’s keyboard does have white backlighting, but it looks barely lit at maximum brightness, and the lighting doesn’t fully bold the letters.
For $99 extra, you can get the XPS 13 2-in-1 with Dell’s Premium Active Pen (PN579X), which offers 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, a 240-Hz report rate and tilt support. This stylus features three buttons that are customizable via Windows Ink Workspace. The pen is powered by a AAAA battery. When I put the device to the test, it kept up with me as I speedily drew a wooden dock on a beach with a rickety boat next to it.
The 4.4 x 2.6-inch touchpad felt premium, like being greeted by velvety-smooth bed sheets after a long day at work. The embedded clickers were a little shallow, but I didn’t feel like I bottomed out, and Windows 10 gestures like two-finger scrolling and three-finger tabbing worked swimmingly. Still, a productivity mouse will improve your workflow over a touchpad anyday.
At maximum volume, the XPS 13 2-in-1’s bottom-firing speakers weren’t as loud as I’d like, but overall, they sounded decent. In Arctic Monkeys’ “R U Mine?” the slick guitar riffs in the intro were bright. The percussion that lands in between the riffs could’ve had a little more depth. However, the vocals were crisp and shined throughout the song.
The XPS 13 2-in-1 comes with the Waves MaxxAudio Pro audio software. Unfortunately, there aren’t any presents apart from the default one. But you can customize the sound yourself via an EQ and simpler dials for bass, details and width. As much as I tried to mess with the sound, I found that the default preset sounded the best.
Packed with an Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor and 16GB of RAM, the XPS 13 2-in-1 had no problem tearing through 40 Google Chrome tabs and five 1080p YouTube videos while I blasted Spotify in the background.
On the Geekbench 4.3 overall-performance benchmark, the XPS 13 2-in-1 nailed 19,225, dominating the premium laptop average (16,234). The Core i7-8565U CPUs in the Spectre x360 (14,935) and the Razer Blade Stealth (16,934) couldn’t get near the XPS 13, although the MacBook Pro’s Core i5 CPU (17,366) came close.
The XPS 13 2-in-1 transcoded a 4K video to 1080p in 24 minutes and 49 seconds, which is a little sluggish compared to the category average (22:05). This machine was slower than the Spectre x360 (22:30), MacBook Pro (14:42) and Razer Blade Stealth (20:34). We did notice some wonky results upon retesting, however. In the second test, that time came down to 16 minutes. When we tested the machine again, it reverted back to its original score.
Dell’s 512GB SSD copied 4.97GB of data in just 11 seconds, translating to 463 megabytes per second, which isn’t far from the category average (510 MBps). The 256GB in the Spectre x360 (391 MBps) and the Razer Blade Stealth (254 MBps) didn’t do so well, while the MacBook Pro’s 256GB SSD excelled, with a rate of 1,220 MBps.
With an Intel Iris Plus GPU, the XPS 13 2-in-1 hit 47 frames per second on the Dirt 3 benchmark (Medium, 1080p), which is playable but below the premium laptop average (63 fps). The XPS 13 fell far behind the Razer Blade Stealth (164 fps), thanks to that machine’s Nvidia MX250 GPU, but Dell’s laptop also fell to the Spectre x360’s Intel 620 UHD GPU (56 fps). The XPS 13 2-in-1 did, however, surpass the MacBook Pro’s Intel Iris Plus 645 GPU (31 fps). At 1200p, the XPS 13 hit 45 fps.
Even with a taller screen ratio on a higher-resolution display, the XPS 13 2-in-1’s battery life kicks butt. When continuously surfing the web over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness, the XPS 13’s battery survived 10 hours and 57 minutes, flying by the average premium laptop (8:08). The XPS 13 outlasted the MacBook Pro (10:48) and the Razer Blade Stealth (8:05), but it has nothing on the Spectre x360 (12:07).
As you might imagine, the XPS 13 2-in-1’s 720p shooter isn’t the biggest highlight, apart from its placement.
While my test shots didn’t look as blotchy as they do on most webcams, my face was rather soft, so it was difficult to suss out any detail in my beard or hair. The color on my blue-and-gray shirt actually looked decent, but the lights above my head completely blew out the ceiling, so it didn’t manage the contrast of the real scene well. As with most laptops, you should probably invest in a good external webcam and a privacy cover.
This baby is a stone-cold killer.
After the laptop streamed a 15-minute 1080p video, the underside measured 93 degrees Fahrenheit, putting the temp safely below our 95-degree comfort threshold. The center of the keyboard and touchpad hit 93 and 86 degrees, respectively. The hottest the machine got actually wasn’t on the underside, but rather just above the keyboard’s F8 key, an area that reached 99 degrees.
Software and warranty
Dell includes a seemingly endless amount of branded software in the XPS 13 2-in-1.
There’s Dell Mobile Connect (used to make calls, send texts and mirror-screen from your phone), Dell Customer Connect (an entire app dedicated to give you surveys), Dell Digital Delivery (a library of your software purchases from Dell), Dell Power Manager (monitors battery health and thermal management) and Dell Update (updates Dell applications and BIOS).
You also get the Killer Control Center, which you can use to manage your bandwidth. There’s also some Windows 10 bloatware, like Farm Heroes Saga, Candy Crush Friends Saga and Microsoft Solitaire Collection.
The XPS 13 2-in-1 is a monster in a small package. Its slim design is jampacked with powerful performance, a superbright 16:10 display and an excellent battery life. Unfortunately, you might find it difficult to get used to the shallow keyboard and the less-than-desirable number of ports.
If you’re looking for a laptop with a better keyboard and more ports, than the Razer Blade Stealth is perfect for you. For $1,599, you’ll also get strong graphics performance and better audio than on the Dell.