Dell XPS 13 9350 review: The Windows ultraportable, perfected

Price when reviewed

There’s more to building a great laptop than you might imagine. You can combine cutting-edge materials and the fastest hardware, but it all means nothing if those elements don’t gel together just so. That, ultimately, was the undoing of the original XPS 13. Undeterred, Dell has made some subtle tweaks to the formula, and it’s these incremental improvements which have recast the XPS 13 as the best Windows ultraportable yet.

Dell XPS 13 (late 2015) review: Design

When you’re spending a four-figure sum on a laptop, you want to feel you’re getting something special. You want a device that looks and feels like it’s been exactingly crafted; designed specifically to be the best in class. From the moment you lay hands on it, it’s quite clear the XPS 13 is all those things.

Dell XPS 13 review: Lead image

“The design of the XPS 13 is understated, modern and elegant.”

Cool, gently curved slices of metal span the lid and underside, neatly sandwiching the soft-touch expanse of carbon fibre that pools around the backlit keyboard. The design of the XPS 13 is understated, modern and elegant in all the right ways.

It’s solid, too, with not a hint of flex in its body, and it’s also surprisingly small for a 13.3in laptop. In fact, it’s a touch more compact even than HP’s 12.5in EliteBook Folio 1020, which is already pretty tiny as Ultrabooks go, and dramatically more slender and portable than Microsoft’s exotic Surface Book. 

It’s not the very lightest ultraportable out there. At 1.2kg in its non-touch incarnation, and 1.29kg with the touchscreen, the XPS 13 isn’t as light as the Apple MacBook. However, those extra couple of hundred grams have been put to good use, and it’s safe to say that it knocks the MacBook and the Folio 1020 – and much of the competition, for that matter – flat in almost every other area.

Dell XPS 13 review: Keyboard and power button

Dell has given the XPS 13’s engine a thorough overhaul. Intel’s Skylake processors are now in the driving seat, bringing with them the promise of longer battery life and much improved graphics performance. More exciting still, the SSDs on all but the very cheapest XPS 13 now use the dramatically faster NVMe interface technology. This finally threatens Apple’s fast flash storage for speed. And one final magic touch: Thunderbolt 3 has arrived. Superfast connectivity is now just a USB Type-C cable away.

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