A stylish-looking ultrabook, let down by poor screen quality
Dell has taken its time in bringing out its own Ultrabook but the results are undoubtedly stylish. The XPS 13 Ultrabook has a tapered shape and metal lid reminiscent of the Apple Macbook Air, but there are plenty of design touches that set it apart. There’s the matte-black rubber wrist rest, the silver trim around the edges and the chequered look of the carbon-fibre underside. The latter looks especially lovely and we just wish the lid had this design rather than the all-too-familiar metal look. It isn’t just pretty, though – the XPS 13 also feels very sturdy.
While some Ultrabooks have screens with high resolutions such as 1,440x900 or even 1,600x900 pixels, this laptop is stuck with just 1,366x768 pixels. This is a shame as a higher-resolution screen is more comfortable when using multiple applications. The screen itself is bright but image quality isn’t great.
The look of colours onscreen can change drastically if you’re not sitting directly front and centre of the screen and this is noticeable if you’re using the XPS 13 on your lap. The screen doesn’t tilt back far, which not only makes for uncomfortable viewing in some circumstances but the restricted angles also starkly highlight the screen’s highly variable colour accuracy.
One downside of the compact, tapered design is the limited number of ports. Besides the single combination jack for speakers and microphones, there’s just one USB2 port, a single USB3 port and a mini Displayport socket. There is no built-in memory card reader or Ethernet port, which is unusual for a 13in Ultrabook, although a USB-to-Ethernet adapter is available for £20.
There are no surprises when it comes to performance though. As with most other similarly priced ultrabooks, the XPS 13 comes equipped with a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 2467M processor and 4GB of memory so it’s fast enough for everyday tasks. Unlike the HP Folio 13, the XPS 13 doesn’t have an annoyingly loud cooling fan. Unfortunately, the underside can become warm – usually during strenuous tasks such as editing videos but sometimes during mundane work such as playing videos and web browsing.
The XPS 13 has a respectably long battery life of just over seven hours but other Ultrabooks can last even longer. The backlit keyboard is very comfortable thanks to its responsive keys that give just the right amount of feedback when pressed, although the cursor and Function keys are smaller than usual. Though the touchpad is large and accurate, it’s easy to accidentally brush against it when typing and inadvertently move the cursor and type text in to a random place in a document.
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We wanted to like the XPS 13 Ultrabook and, while it has plenty going for it, there are better ultraportables with none of its flaws
Attractive and sturdy; Comfortable keyboard; Bright screen
Over-sensitive touchpad; Warm underside; Screen could be better
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