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72 hours with the new Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13
Dell XPS 13 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Having been excited by it since that Tuesday announcement at CES in January, this past week saw me finally take possession of my very own, 2015 Dell XPS 13. It's getting a lot of attention, both press and consumer, and the minute you lay your eyes on it it's easy to see why. At the time of ordering, UK buyers were pretty restricted to which models were available, we had a choice of different spec Intel Core i7 versions and nothing more. It's got a little better, since, with the addition of an i5 model, but it's the i7 that I've got here.

Buy the Dell XPS 13, starting at $799.99 (opens in new tab)

Our own Daniel Rubino has already talked about and used the non-touch, i5 model, but now we're moving on to the range topper. We'll have more coverage in the weeks to come, but before all of that, here's a few quick thoughts after 72 hours using it.

  • The QHD+ screen is gorgeous. Nothing else really needs to be said. It's sharp, it's bright, it's colourful, it's a joy to look at. There is some slight light bleed in places, though most of the time it's not really noticeable. And in truth, with bezels that slim, I was expecting to see a little.
  • Oh yeah, those bezels. Or lack of them. It's an unusual experience looking at a laptop screen without a giant border around it. But you soon get used to it.
  • The form factor is even better than I remember from our brief CES hands-on. Dell wasn't lying at all with the 13-inch notebook in an 11-inch form factor line.
  • And yet I think it's still more comfortable to use than a true 11-inch notebook. Obviously the display is bigger, which is a big part of it, but it just doesn't feel as small as it actually is.
  • The precision trackpad is excellent. I've long preferred Apple's trackpads, but this is damn close to that.
  • The webcam is awkward to use. Personally, I always use an external webcam, but being down there on the bottom left does produce some pretty unflattering angles.
  • Battery life is much better without running Google Chrome. We were never expecting the i7 model to get close to the lower spec models in this regard, but running Google Chrome took hours (plural) from it. Without it, using IE 11, I've been hovering around the 7 hour mark off charger with a fair bit of music playing and Photoshop usage thrown in there. Honestly, I'm happy enough with 7 hours. Compared to the 4 or less I've had from a previous, fruity laptop, it's great.
  • People will inevitably ask whether or not they should get this or a Surface Pro 3, and I'm not sure I can answer that just yet. But we'll certainly look at it closer in the coming weeks.
  • While I had little choice (at the time) but to choose the i7 model, for most people, I think the i5 will probably be the one to get. But I'd still recommend the QHD+ touchscreen if you can stretch to it. It's glorious.

So, that's just a few of my quick thoughts. I've not really been using it long enough to get into everything, but even after three days I'm very happy. Dell has produced a stand out design in a crowded market, and (so far at least) it looks like the product behind the design is worth owning. Both Daniel Rubino and myself have one of these models in our hands, so expect to see much more over the coming weeks.

In the meantime, if you've picked one up, are thinking about picking one up or just plain drooling, drop into the comments below and give us your thoughts!

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

127 Comments
  • 7 hours? That's it??
  • How much are you realistically expecting from a Core i7 with a QHD+ display? I have a Retina MacBook Pro with an i5 CPU that can't go over 4.
  • Is that running Windows or OSX?Mine gets around 6 on OSX easily
  • OS X.
  • It is all about workload and usage. My laptop (XPS12) is rated at 9 hours and most people who have reviewed it seem to get a solid 7-8 hours of use from it unplugged from the wall. But for me, I am lucky to get 5 hours because my school work has me using lots of emulators and flash-based software that just sucks down battery. The difference between getting 4 hours vs 8 hours on the same box does not take a lot. That is the difference between different browsers, different video compression during playback, different WiFi connectivity, different background programs/services... honestly it does not take much to get very different battery results. This is especially true of i7 processors as their idle power is just as good as an i3 or i5, but if you push them, even a little, then they can suck down power very quickly.
  • Thank you, Richard! Thank you for THIS^^^ comment! Lol. 7 hours of battery life is AMAZING for a laptop with these types of specs!
  • Actually, I was expecting at least 10. Never knew i7 could drain so much battery
  • Its the screen killing it more than the CPU.  High pixel density hurts way more than you expect as it requires a considerably stronger backlight to achieve reasonable brightness.
  • You actually use the built in mail app?! I guess it must have been improved dramatically since I last used it!
  • I got to check this out as a Microsoft store a few weeks ago. I can't speak to the build quality as I only messed with it for a few minutes, but it truly is an amazing design.
  • 7 hrs is actually pretty darn good for a device such as this.
  • Seems longer
  • Even if this thing didn't have such high specs 7 hours is not bad for a laptop really.  Most people only use them unplugged when they're in transit between desks or couches IE: travelling on the train, etc.
  • My monitor has same bezel width
  • Same here. Just got a Dell U2515H and its the same story. Ridiculously slim. So nice.
  • Hi Richard. This week I'll make an order for the same monitor model. Are you happy with it so far?
  • Absolutely. Is a really nice monitor.
  • But not your laptop.
  • I am jealous.  I love my XPS12 for its size and flexability, but not only does it have a thick bezel and large 'chin', but then it has the flip frame around that making it even bigger.
  • This isn't innovation. This isn't style. This. Is. Sparta!!! Jk. This. Is. 5th generation
  • "Battery life is much better without running Google Chrome. We were never expecting the i7 model to get close to the lower spec models in this regard, but running Google Chrome took hours (plural) from it. " That's an interesting note and thanks for the discovery.  On the story itself, I am really keyed on the trackpad. This is good news to say the least.
  • It's been known for quite a while Chrome eats more power than IE11 does
  • I quit using chrome a few years ago and put it out of my mind so I never got to soak up the stories like these. Intersting stuff.
  • Chrome is evil...it does the exact same thing to my computer, so I don't let it run in the background, like it suggests. Very annoying web browser; IE is all I need. :)
  • Actualy the name attached to it makes it evil!! Google is the real evil!!
  • Everybody should open up their Task Manager once when Chrome is running and check out the details. It eats up an incredible amount of memory. For me, with 4 tabs open right now, it is using over 900MB. I have the memory for it and it's the browser I always use, so I'm okay with it, but it could stand to be a lot lighter in my opinion. 
  • There were reports that Google was addressing that and making Chrome lighter. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • That and extensions. I use Firefox btw but I like themes. So no ie here.
  • Its funny because when chrome first was available it was touted to be fast and light.... Jokes on you Google.
  • Not much of what that company says is to be believed as it turns out.
  • Not much of what that company says is to be believed as it turns out.
  • It was fast and light, now its bloated but I still use it for some reason.
  • I am just about done with Chrome, as these optimization problems are over a year old. Google continues to cripple it's windows software, or not offer most of it at all, outside of using a browser. This is part of their plan to push people to chrome OS, it's just pushing me to use IE until spartan is available.
  • Exactly right. Which is probably way chrome is so weighty these days. It wants to be an OS within an OS, namely the Windows OS.  I hope that in WIndows X, Microsoft does something to limit what the chrome browser is able to do or make it pay a heavy tariff to run on Windows.
  • Is there a comparison somewhere that compares the battery life between a QHD-Touch and a FHD-non-Touch model (with the same specs otherwise)? I'd be really interested in that.
  • Dan has both so he's better placed to discuss than I.
  • I thought the Chrome battery usage problem was "fixed" on Windows.
  • Dunno about that. My "ten hour battery" only lasts for about 4 running chrome. That being said, it is the astoundingly weak ASUS T100.
  • What do you get running IE instead of Chrome?
  • 8-9. But more than ten when the screen's down to the lowest, bluetooth is off and I've ended all unnessecary procces and apps.
  • You must have a shoddy battery in your T100. I've never been below 5 hours, & will often get near to 10 with 40% backlight & using IE instead of Chrome.
    Funnily enough, I can actually see the impact on power consumption when using Chrome on my T100. I output mine to a 22" 1080P monitor, and connect it to a powered 4 port hub (which has an external HDD, pen stick and mouse plugged in).
    When I run Chrome with that setup, my power indicator constantly jumps from AC to battery - showing the charger just can't keep up with the power drain. When that happens, I switch to IE. Voila - the battery drain drops & the battery remains fully charged and on AC power.
    Unfortunately, I still prefer Chrome. It just does things in a more elegant way (print page dialogue, CamelCamelCamel extension, inline/auto translation, & modern looking settings menu etc!).
    IE Spartan should bring me back to the Microsoft browser fold.
  • Yah too reliant on Chrome. On my desktop I use Chrome mainly for it's extensions. Otherwise I would gladly switch to IE. Using Chrome on my desktop means I would rather use Chrome on my laptops, though if the battery drain is real, that's a big turn off.
  • I just use it for "Inbox By Gmail". I can access it on IE, but it won't send me verification codes.
  • It;s not shoddy. I just forget to kill stuff.
  • The only thing that keeps me away from buying this is the logo. I still prefer the Surface Pro 3.
  • The logo? That's just sad...
  • He probably had a bad experience with Dell.
  • I would hope so, but he just said logo so I'm assuming he just doesn't like the way the logo looks...haha.
  • I love the logo
  • I have a QHD Dell M3800 that I can't say enough great things about, but I agree that Dell's logo is ugly. It screams 1993, it needs to be redesigned to fit the sleek look of their new PCs. In a similar vein, Apple needs to kill the "i" prefix, it also screams 1993. I love that the "hippest" brand sounds like a freaking knockoff from China.
  • I would be interested in how well it does waking and sleeping. I have last year's XPS 11 and I tweaked the power settings a bit and somehow it ran out of power and corrupted the Hard Drive. It seems like the challenge is to take the full Windows OS and make it boot up instantly on a tablet that was previously asleep. Then to deal with erratic power situations that affect the Mobile user, like running the battery empty. I have not used a Surface but I expect their mobile power management options to be better. Does the new XPS 13 sleep and boot OK even when traveling?
  • No offence to Dell but I can't stop looking at the L830! It's so damn gorgeous!!
  • I know, right?! It's a beauty.
  • I have it in black and it's truly a beautiful piece of kit. It runs really well too!
  • This^^^
  • Waiting on macbook air 2015 and will choose between dell and apple.
  • How good is the touchpad. Is it of MacBook level.
  • I mention that in the post.
  • Oops missed it.. Sorry.. Feeling stupid.
  • It's better
  • What do you think about the build quality?
  • No complaints so far. Solid, metal, carbon fiber, really nice
  • Awesome. Stuff like this makes me wish I had money. haha
  • Ask you need is a mask dude
  • I'll leave that up to you. :P
     
  • That sentence actually threw me for a couple of seconds.
  • I think we need a Hands-On video comparing non-touch(i5) and touch(i7 QHD+) .. I hope Richard will talk to Daniel about it :)
  • Gorgeous machine indeed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP6oTd_OhoA&sns=em
  • Thank you :)
  • My opinion is its alot of hype for a screen. If you need it buy it. I don't need it. Got a great PC.
  • You can't move your PC
  • How is having a gorgeous display hype?? It's kind of an important part of laptops unless you're using a dock with external monitors. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • The QHD+ display, is it the same pentile display like the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro?
  • I read somewhere that it is an IPS LCD. Apparently even the YP3 as moved away from the crap display on the YP2. I so wished I had done more research before I bought my YP2. The display while sharp does yellow a terrible disservice especially at lower brightness settings.
  • This display is from sharp. I don't know who Lenovo uses but there's nothing much wrong with this one.
  • But it's not a tablet ? The reason I traded in my iPad and MacBook Air for an SP3 was because it is both. So on that level their is no comparison.
  • My friend has a SP3, and I have the XPS12.  Both are different takes on the idea of a convertable device.  I can't stand the SP3, and she cannot stand the XPS12.  Hardware wise they are almost identical (minus the display), but for very different use cases.  These days there are plenty of options, you just need to look around for what suits your needs.  But outside of the XPS12 (which did not get a refresh) all the rest of the XPS lineup is a traditional form factor.
  • Microsoft should also sell the SP3 with a decent metal casing keyboard. I am sure this will raise SP sales by millions. I would love to buy a Surface 'laptop' and your friend probably too. There is more reasons for Microsoft to do so: people tend to have and work with multiple devices. This fits Microsoft's strategy to be on every platform software and services wise. But on the hardware side (especially the Surface) they choose the 'one device fits all strategy'. That's not consistent.           
  • I don't see how a metal keyboard would help the S3?  The keyboard cover is very good to type on and the track pad is also excellant.  Better than most.  I can type faster on my S3 than i can on my damn desktop keyboard.  I get it doesn't have the same sense of tactile feel at first but, once you start using it it's so damn good!  It's very light typing.  You barely have to press the keys and one thing i never have happen is that annoying mouse jumping around from accidentaly hitting the touchpad like on most other laptops i've used.
  • I thought about this but a Dell Venue 8 Pro is a very capable tablet and very cheap too. I think this is a good compromise since the Surface Pro 3 is not as good as true laptop but its very convenient and capable. To some people the trade offs are easy to overcome but to me a stand alone laptop and a small-cheap tablet is the best combination.
  • Can this laptop run high end games(eg. Hitman, COD, Battlefield,etc.) in 60fps without lag? Heating issues?
  • How could he say that by just using it for 72 hours? Relax buddy..
  • I don't PC game either. I prefer having my feet up in front of the Xbox. However...i might see what I have available in my Steam account.
  • I'm relaxing. My question is open to anyone who has used it thoroughly for PC gaming. Thanks for replying guys.
  • No it cannot.
  • Should I get an Alienware instead of this, or this machine will do the job? I'm not a hardcore gamer but do not like lag, heat and shutdowns on gaming for a couple of hours. Moderate battery life(~5hrs)+Lightweight+Moderate-Heavy gaming+Photoshop is my choice.
  • If you game, then Alienware is a better option from Dell.
  • Chrome sucks! Úsing IE11 &Maxthon
  • Only ie
  • Same here, dude. ONLY IE. Want to try Spartan, though. I'll only use it in the final version. Don't like previews, sick of bugs.
  • I think I was the only one using Maxthon :D  
  • Nice
  • My wife went to get the XPS 15 from the Microsoft Store for $399 but the were sold out.
  • B.S. xps 15 for just $400.
  • thw ppl who saying win 10 apps ui are droid copy cannot find difference between a classic and and a materialistic design. although i feel that it should be more metro.
  • The Verge rates the battery a disappointment and the trackpad as hit or miss http://www.theverge.com/2015/2/13/8030821/dell-xps-13-laptop-ultrabook-r...
  • Each to their own. Battery is a step up for me from previous machines so I'm happy. And I like the trackpad. Apples is maybe still a little better, but this is very close.
  • The verges review system isnawful. For starter's, they test the battery life at 65% (even though the reviewer stated 25% or so was enough for him). This is a huge penalty to high brightness displays, as 65% of 400 nits is way higher than 65% of 300 for example.    Additionally, I'm not really sure that their reviewer is very partial. Chrome is also known to be pretty rough with things like scrolling and such, so that might be why they think the trackpad sucks. While Windows central isn't the most scientific website, they don't try to be. A lot of the reviews here are from the subjective view of the author, which is fine because they don't try and pass it off as a purely scientific review.    If you want a decent review, check out arstechnica. They just had am excellent review of this laptop. 
  • Yeah we try to look at things from a real world usage perspective. Science is great, but science doesn't use these things day in and day out.
  • Waiting on Lenovo carbon X1 with 5th Gen. I7 to come out to decide on Dell XPS 13.
  • The price difference will be pretty big. Over here you can spend nearly 2 grand on the Carbon.
  • Bought XPS... i7. Back to dell after 10 years.
  • If it truly is better than fruity laptops then please get Mark one so he can retire that MacBook too. We need you guys showing off the best of Windows when on the road, not showing that only Apple is good enough for journalists.
  • Mark also uses a Surface Pro 3. But he does a lot of good video work and he's spent a fair bit on Final Cut Pro X. Those kind of apps are tough to move from.
  • Hackintosh time
  • I have really been considering a Dell XPS 15 since I need a powerful laptop that can manage my Photoshop and AfterEffects work, but I just couldn't convince myeslf to get a Dell. I know the XPS 15 is very nice, but I have experienced way too many issues with Dells to justify spending that much for one.
  • Hey Richard, how well does PhotoShop perform on it? I'm in the market for a new laptop and have had my eye on this since CES. I'm looking into the i7 version
  • No drama so far. Have to enable 200% scaling in experimental settings but other than that it's doing just fine.
  • Is the QHD screen still like the Lenovo Yoga Pro 3 where everything is so ridiculously damn small you have to go into display settings and calibrate text and the like to 150%+? Cause then everything else looks ridiculous and it stretches to fit the screen and of course doesn't look naturalish. /:
  • In places, yes. Modern apps work fine, desktop is still a PITA sometimes.
  • i'm either getting a xps 12 or xps 13 it probably will be xps 13 new i7 5th generation processor
  • google chrome suckes! get rid of it as soon as possible... IE 11 is amazing and maybe FF but not chrome!
  • Anyone else reckon google chrome deliberately ups the power usage on windows to push sales of chromebooks? Interesting thought.
  • I got my XPS 13 (i7 5600U) from one week now. My previous laptop was a Mac Pro pro 13 (late 2011). I have a mixed feeling. Pro: Impressive construction and display. Touch Rocks (Sorry Steve but You was wrong, for me touch display on laptop simply works). Cons: 1. I can't update drivers, Dell avoid me to install drivers (Intell 5500 for instance) without a specific Dell certification. Why???? 2. I cant believe that  PC computers are not able to provide a consistent trackpad experience like it was on my 4 Years old mac.
  • You can install the Intel drivers. Download the zip file instead of the exec. Uninstall the current driver and install the Intel driver from Device Manager. That's what I did and it worked.
  • What's the hard drive on it like?
  • Varies. There are options for 256GB or 512GB SSD drives. I went for the 256GB since I've never come close to needing more than that on a laptop.
  • Well that's good to know. I haven't really trusted HDDs since last week when my friend's HDD failed. It bluescreened, and then failed to log in multiple times. The we rebooted it. One failure, then we found that his desktop and Start menu had cleared themselves including all programs. We had to get to the control panel by opening the recycle bin. Then we reverted it to November last year.
  • Will the new dell xps 13(2015) be released in India?
  • That's a nice pic Richard, that is if you took it.
  • Is it running a ULV processor? i've seen comflicting information.  And what is the performance like? Thanks
  • I the maxed out version of the XPS 13 and it is the best laptop that I've ever owned, including Mac. It looks like a high level laptop and performs the same. Trackpad has greatly improved. I didn't know if I would like the all aluminum body over the previous version but I do. The OS works very well with it and I get more than 7 hours with the battery. It is also incredibly fast! I would recommend it to anyone interested in a high-end notebook.
  • I dont get the whole question about this or a SP3. That one seems simple to me. Do you want tablet functionality, or do you want a pure laptop. The dell is a better pure laptop, better touchpad, etc. The SP3 is a great tablet that can be a nice laptop too. If you dont see a need for tablety stuff, save the money and get the non-touch version of the dell. If you value the mobilty of a slate form factor, its hard to be the SP3.
  • does the touchscreen version also have the matte screen similar to the non touch?
  • excellent question and I have yet to find someone answer it here
  • I've had the XPS13 2015 edition for a week now. I used a Mac book air before that for a few days to make the decision. No comparison really. This laptop has great hardware and the only problem I have faced so far is the scaling which is a little messed up but it's livable. i5, 128GB, 4GB
  • the location of webcam placement is the dealbreaker; i don't want hands to be on seen every time I try to use laptop keyboard (e.g., collaborating on a project with others) while skyping.