Review: Dell’s XPS 13 Plus pulls high performance from a frustrating design

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Enlarge / Dell’s XPS 13 Plus clamshell laptop computer.

Sharon Harding

Specs at a look: Dell XPS 13 Plus (9320)
Worst Best As reviewed
Screen 13.4-inch 1920×1200 IPS non-touch display screen 13.4-inch 3840×2400 IPS touchscreen or 13.4-inch 3456×2160 OLED touchscreen 13.4-inch 3456×2160 OLED touchscreen
OS Windows 11 Home Windows 11 Pro Windows 11 Home
CPU Intel Core i5-1240P Intel Core i7-1280P
RAM 8GB LPDDR5-5200 32GB LPDDR5-5200 16GB LPDDR5-5200
Storage 512GB PCIe 4.0 x4 SSD 2TB PCIe 4.0 x4 SSD 512GB PCIe 4.0 x4 SSD
GPU Intel Iris Xe
Networking Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2
Ports 2x Thunderbolt 4
Size 11.63 x 7.84 x 0.6 inches
295.30 x 199.04 x 15.28 mm
Weight 2.71 kilos (1.23 kg) IPS: 2.71 kilos 1.23 kg)
OLED: 2.78 kilos (1.26 kg)
2.78 kilos (1.26 kg)
Battery 55 Wh
Warranty 1 12 months
Price (MSRP) $1,300 $2,360 $2,000
Other USB-C to three.5 mm and USB-C to USB-A 3.0 adapters included, Ubuntu-based Developer Edition accessible

Dell’s XPS 13 laptop computer has been a staple amongst Windows ultralights, usually providing first rate performance for the value, excessive portability, and beauty.

Apparently, that wasn’t sufficient for Dell, so it launched the Dell XPS 13 Plus. Introduced this 12 months (alongside a extra conventional 2022 XPS 13), it is a revamped model of the XPS 13 that places performance above all the things else.

Wild design decisions permit the system to help a 28 W CPU. With the 2021 XPS 13 carrying a 15 W chip and the 2022 XPS 13 supporting as much as a 12 W one, that is a notable achievement. But it is also a case of operate over kind. To put it merely, utilizing the XPS 13 Plus felt bizarre. From its tightly spaced keys and capacitive contact operate row to its minimal port choice, questionable construct high quality, and intensely high temperatures, this machine may be frustrating to make use of for each day duties.

As a performer, the XPS 13 Plus has its benefits. But as a go-to laptop computer, some design decisions could push you in direction of different highly effective thin-and-light laptops.

Touch Bar-esque operate row

The most interesting function row in ages.
Enlarge / The most fascinating operate row in ages.

Sharon Harding

Dell has not given up on soft-touch enter above its laptop computer keyboards. You can discover a comparable setup on the 13-inch MacBook Pro, though each different MacBook has gone again to actual keys. Dell’s tackle the capacitive contact row is extra restricted than Apple’s Touch Bar, although.

It’s not programmable, for one. It can show Esc, media keys (together with a helpful mic mute button that lights up), brightness controls, the Windows Project button, and a few navigational keys. Alternatively, urgent Fn makes the operate row show Esc and F1–F12, and you may lock that format in place by holding down Fn + Esc.

Dell did not introduce a Touch Bar-like high row simply to be completely different. Because the keys use capacitive contact, they’re 1.4 mm thick as an alternative of the three.2 mm of vertical area that may be required with conventional buttons. This resolution saves area and allowed Dell to maneuver the hinges to wider factors for improved system cooling, the corporate mentioned. But when pushing the laptop computer to max performance for sustained durations, the operate row received so heat that it was uncomfortable to the touch.

The operate row is not an space that sees frequent improvements, and I admire that Dell redesigned it within the identify of performance slightly than simply as a gimmick. But as somebody who prefers mechanical keyboards, it is arduous to like capacitive contact enter. During my weeks with the laptop computer, I sometimes mispressed keys within the high row once I most likely would not have if it had customary buttons. Rarely, I unintentionally brushed the row calmly, registering an enter or two, once I was making an attempt to make use of the quantity row.

Since the operate row has set controls, there isn’t any must customise it. But it nonetheless appears like there’s room for extra capabilities. For occasion, there aren’t any rewind or fast-forward media controls, and in contrast to many current ultralights I’ve examined, there is no button or gentle on the keyboard to inform you that the webcam is off. There’s additionally no gentle indicator for when the amount is muted.

I discovered the operate row’s brilliant illumination distracting at instances, but it surely’s inconceivable to show it off. An ambient sensor close to the webcam routinely adjusts the row’s brightness based mostly on the lighting within the room.

That mentioned, there are far worse issues than a ho-hum operate row, particularly if the remainder of the keyboard is unbelievable. Unfortunately, it is not.

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