Dell XPS 13 9350 review: The Windows ultraportable, perfected

Price when reviewed

Dell XPS 13 (late 2015) review: Display

Upfront, the XPS 13’s display options remain as they were. You get the choice of a matte anti-glare Full HD panel, or a high-DPI 3,200 x 1,800 touchscreen on the pricier models. Whichever takes your fancy, one thing remains constant: the display bezel is absolutely miniscule. It’s enough to make other laptops look positively prehistoric by comparison.

I had the high-DPI model to play with, and it’s gorgeous. Windows 10 does a far, far better job than Windows 8 at scaling the OS and applications sensibly across its 5.7 million pixels, and the result is that most apps look stunning. If this was the only display you’d ever clapped eyes on, you wouldn’t even know what a pixel was.

Dell XPS 13 review: Three-quarter angle

Text is as crisp as you could ask for, and images look great thanks to the panel’s huge contrast ratio and wide colour palette. The XPS 13’s display reproduces 95% of the sRGB colour gamut and racks up a contrast ratio of 1,052:1, which are – take my word for it – very respectable numbers.

Oh, and if the uneven backlighting of the previous model was enough to make you very, very angry – or just mildly aggravated – Dell seems to have improved the situation dramatically here. There is a faint halo of brightness around the screen’s edges, but it’s nowhere near as obvious as it was. For a top-flight Ultrabook, these kind of details matter a great deal.

The only blot on the XPS 13’s copybook is Dell’s decision to retain the dynamic contrast feature from last year’s model. Maximise an Explorer window against a dark desktop background, and you can see the brightness dial slowly upwards. Shrink the window back down again, and the intensity dims. That might not sound like a bad thing, but it’s far too intrusive.

Dell XPS 13 review: Left side

Why is this worth moaning about? Well, when you want your display to remain legible – in bright sunlight, for instance – then you can’t take full advantage of the display’s maximum brightness. With a full white screen, the display reaches an impressive brightness of 418cd/m2. With 50% of the screen displaying black, and 50% white, the brightness dims to 242cd/m2 – which is a big, big drop.

Thankfully, though, Dell has finally come through with a fix. Or at least it has for owners of the QHD model that I have here. If you want to be able to toggle dynamic contrast on and off you can head over to Dell’s support site here and download a required firmware update.

Looking at buying the Full HD model instead? Then there’s some bad news: Dell hasn’t yet provided a firmware update for that model, and it doesn’t look it will be doing so anytime soon. If dynamic contrast is a deal-breaker then you’re left with one option: spend the extra on the QHD model. 

Next page: Performance, gaming and battery life

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