Dell XPS 13 Review: Better Than a MacBook?
So you’re wondering about the new Skylake Dell XPS 13 ultrabook. As a primary Mac user I replaced my MacBook Pro with the Dell XPS 13 for the past month, and I’m here to share my experience and full review with you right now. Dell did send this to me for free, but as you can tell if you stick around to the end of the video these are all my honest opinions. Now when I was asked to review a Dell laptop this is kind of what I envisioned. But no, this new Dell XPS 13 is an amazing piece of hardware. It was released in late 2015 and starts at $799. The model I have is the 9350 with Windows 10, Intel’s 6th Generation Core i7 6500U 2.5Ghz processor, 16GB of RAM, 1TB PCIe solid state drive, Intel HD 520 Graphics, and a 13.3″ Quad HD Infinity Edge touch display.
This model costs around $1500. The Dell XPS 13 is currently the world’s smallest 13″ laptop, fitting a 13.3″ display into a typical 11″ laptop frame thanks to the nearly bezel-less display. The outside is made of dark silver aluminum that definitely shows off it’s simple yet durable design. The inside of the laptop has a smooth carbon fiber finish which looks nice but feels even nicer.
The left side has the charging port, a new USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port, a USB port, a headphone jack, a battery guage button, and the left speaker grill. The right side has a lock slot, a USB port, an SD card reader, and the right speaker grill. When I first saw the Dell XPS 13 I immediately thought “Yep this is Dell’s attempt at a MacBook killer.” But it’s hard to determine exactly which MacBook is closest in similarity to the Dell XPS 13. It has the stunning display like the Retina MacBook. It has the portability and slimness of the MacBook Air, and it has the power and ports comparable to the 13″ MacBook Pro. Obviously my 2009 15″ MacBook Pro is slower and bulkier than the Dell XPS 13, but I did install an SSD and more RAM in my MacBook Pro a few years ago so that’s why it has lasted me this long and still works perfectly. So let’s see how the Dell XPS 13 performed for me during the past month. Let’s start with the InfinityEdge touch display because it’s one of my favorite features.
The 3200×1800 Quad HD screen is absolutely gorgeous. It’s boasting million pixels. That’s 276 pixels per inch compared to the Retina MacBook’s 226 pixels per inch. The colors are rich with just the right amount of contrast, and since it is an IPS panel it has good viewing angles. It can get really bright too. As a YouTuber I love watching HD videos on full screen mode, and I’m sure photographers and graphic designers would love this display. The only downsides are that some apps haven’t updated to accommodate such a high resolution screen so those apps can appear as lower quality, and since the display has such a thin border Dell had to put the webcam in the bottom left which is kind of awkward.
But hey, at least it’s an HD webcam unlike some other laptops that we know of. The touch screen is a glossy finish with scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass, but they do have a matte finish option for their non-QHD model if that’s what you prefer. Speaking of the touch screen capability, it’s definitely not necessary but it is fun to use and actually convenient to have. It’s very responsive. You’re probably thinking “Andy, there is now way I would ever need a touch screen on my laptop.” But hear me out. Let’s talk about one of the best yet most frustrating features of the Dell XPS 13: the touchpad.
I’ll start by saying this is the best touchpad I’ve ever used on a Windows laptop. One of the reasons I immediately fell in love with my MacBook Pro when I first got it was the trackpad and mainly the two finger scrolling. Apple really mastered their trackpad, not just with the physical smoothness of touching it but with the smooth buttery 2 finger scrolling and multi-gestures. I’ve never had any problems with the Apple trackpad. For the most part, the Dell XPS 13 touchpad does a good job at implementing these features. I’ve especially enjoyed the three finger tap and swipe gestures, and the touchpad is comfortable to use.
However it does have big problems in certain apps, most importantly Google Chrome. This may be a Chrome issue or a Windows 10 driver issue because the touchpad works great in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer. In those apps the two finger scrolling is almost always smooth. But in Google Chrome the touchpad is nearly unusable. It constantly causes the page to jump up and down when trying to 2 finger scroll. I tried changing any relevant touchpad setting in Windows and nothing seemed to fix this problem. It’s extremely frustrating because I need precise smooth scrolling when responding to my YouTube comments one by one. Now I thought it was just me but it seems others are experiencing the same problem. So hopefully this gets fixed soon with an update. But that’s why the touch screen is convenient to have because I can scroll on the display instead on the touchpad when needed. On the other hand, I love the keyboard. It has backlit chiclet style keys which I got accustomed to on my Mac and I seem to be able to type super fast like Bruce Almighty on this thing.
Now let’s talk about where the Dell XPS 13 really shines: mobility and performance. It weighs less than 3 pounds and is super thin, making it one of the most portable laptops out right now. It’s much easier to carry around compared to my 15″ MacBook Pro. It has a 56 watt hour battery that lasts a decent amount of time. I’m getting around 6 to 12 hours of battery life on a single charge, closer to 6 hours when I’m streaming Spotify and watching YouTube videos the whole time and closer to 12 hours when I have the brightness down and I’m just browsing the web or typing notes.
It takes about 2 and a half hours to fully charge the battery while using the laptop. In addition, you can purchase the separate Dell Power Companion which is a portable battery that can charge your XPS 13 and other devices in case you need some extra power for a special trip. On the performance side of things, with Intel’s 6th generation Core i7 Skylake processor and 16GB of DDR3 RAM, the XPS 13 is a speedy machine and can handle nearly any day-to-day task. The 1TB PCIe solid state drive has considerably fast read and write speeds which you will notice when the laptop starts up from a cold boot in about 10 seconds flat. I was able to copy GB of video files from my SD card onto the Dell’s SSD in 3 minutes and 31 seconds. Like with any solid state drive, apps load very quickly and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten stuck with the spinning circle of death. I tend to have a ton of browser tabs open at the same time (that’s just the way I work) and the Dell XPS 13 did a great job at handling that, no freezing, no stuttering, nothing like that.
And the XPS 13 got a respectable score on the GeekBench benchmark tests. So even though this ultrabook was designed primarily with mobility in mind, it is still fast and powerful. Don’t expect to edit 4K videos or render 3D graphics, but it can handle some casual HD video editing and other multimedia work. Another exciting feature is the new USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port, which has transfer speeds up to 8x faster than USB and is twice as fast as Thunderbolt 2. If you need more ports, you can purchase the Dell Adapter which can turn the USB-C port into a single hub for Ethernet, USB, HDMI, and VGA ports. As you can see I really do enjoy the Dell XPS 13 even with its minor flaws like having to uninstall bloatware and McAfee right out of the box, or having to manually update the BIOS and drivers to fix some screen flickering and battery problems, or the speakers making a slight popping sound every now and then.
So is the Dell XPS 13 better than a MacBook or MacBook Air? That totally depends on what you’re specifically looking for out of a laptop. For me personally, I own an iPhone and I edit all my videos with Apple’s Final Cut Pro X software and as a video producer it just makes sense for me to stick with a Mac unless I want to learn a completely new video editing software. So a Mac would be best for you if you’re like me and you’re already invested into the Apple ecosystem, maybe you own an iPhone or iPad and you want to experience the additional benefits of having a Mac because of the tight integration between iOS and OS X.
One of the features I really missed when I was using the Dell XPS 13 was the ability to send texts from my laptop. You can do that with a Mac if you own an iPhone. So that’s just one example. The biggest thing holding me back is Final Cut Pro. As long as I’m exclusively using that I can’t permanently move to a Windows laptop. However if you’re not already invested into the Apple ecosystem and you’re looking for a small, compact, yet fast and powerful laptop that looks good, that feels solid then you should definitely consider the Dell XPS 13 9350 laptop.
Other than it being the best Windows ultrabook of 2016, if I had to pick one word to describe it, it would be: productivity. This is perfect for the people who are always on the go but still need a strong machine to help them get things done quickly. That’s why I’m keeping mine and I will continue to use it and it will be my go-to laptop when I’m traveling when I don’t need to do any video editing.
So the Dell XPS 13 gets a thumbs-up from me. What do you think? Leave a comment below and let me know. Be sure to subscribe to this channel if you aren’t already and if you enjoyed this video and want to see more videos like this make sure you give this a thumbs up. Thank you for watching and thanks to Dell for letting me check out the XPS 13. My name is Andy and I will talk to you in the next video.