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Dell XPS 13: Do I get the QHD+ or Full HD display?

XPS 13
XPS 13

It's a question that's asked quite a lot: Should I get the QHD+ touch screen (opens in new tab) on my new Dell XPS 13 or will I be 'OK' with the Full HD non-touch (opens in new tab)? It's a valid one, too, since the display is the thing you do all of your personal computing on.

You want to enjoy looking at it, right?

But there are factors beyond what it looks like to consider before hitting the buy button. So let's see if we can help.

Price

XPS 13 prices

See at Dell (opens in new tab)

Better specs mean a higher asking price. It's been that way forever and it's no different with the Dell XPS 13. So, if you're sticking to a strict budget or just want the most you can get for the least outlay, then maybe scrub the fancy display from your shopping list.

Based on Dell's current prices in the U.S, here's what you'll be looking at spending for a QHD+ model versus the full HD version.

  • Non-touch prices - $799-$999
  • Touch prices - $1,499-$1,999

The big difference here is the absolute bottom line. The cheapest current option with the QHD+ touch display (opens in new tab) is $1,399. The cheapest option with the full HD non-touch display is $799. A $600 difference. It's not quite as simple as that, as there are other things tied to the models with the touch display, which we'll get to below.

But if budget is number one on your list, then you can stop here. If you don't want to pay upwards of $1,400, then go for the Full HD.

The specs that go with the display

Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13

The QHD+ display not being a standard feature means that to get it you're also getting more under the hood. In this case you're up to an Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM as well. Contrast that with the stock $799 model, which has a Core i3, 4GB of RAM, and an HD screen.

The best-specced version of the full HD non-touch display XPS 13 (opens in new tab) comes with an Intel Core i5 processor, 128GB of SSD storage and 8GB of RAM. That'll set you back $1,000, and only the SSD capacity is really disappointing given what you're paying. You can, however, upgrade it yourself with a little know-how and a screwdriver.

Battery life

Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13

More pixels means more power consumption. I have the QHD+ display on my own XPS 13 (opens in new tab) with an Intel Core i7 processor and get around 6 hours before I'm hunting for a power outlet.

Dell claims up to 18 hours from the 1080p-equipped models. While I don't have one around to test, consider that it'll last longer. In most cases several hours longer.

The battery inside the XPS 13 is physically the same size no matter how else you spec it out, so more demanding hardware will reduce the amount of time you can work away from the charger.

However, whichever model you go for, Dell sells a nifty Power Companion (opens in new tab) which adds up to 10 hours more life on the full HD versions of the XPS 13. It's basically an external battery pack for your laptop. You substitute it for the regular power brick so it's charging itself while you're charging the laptop. Then when you head out, take this portion with you and you've got extra assurance if it's going to be a long, busy day.

But...the QHD+ display looks AMAZING!

Dell XPS 13

Indeed it does. And if you're a content creator, spending a ton of time inside something like Photoshop, you may well appreciate it a whole lot more. The 1080p display is good, but you cannot deny the sheer brilliance of the higher resolution option.

Text looks as sharp as a knife, colors look great, and of course, you can touch everything on it.

Touch isn't as much of a thing in Windows 10 as it was on Windows 8, but there are still plenty of reasons you might want to touch the screen. You need this one to be able to do that.

The bottom line

Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13

It comes down to personal preference, and we can't definitively tell you which you should choose. But we can at least advise based on some general cases.

If budget is the killer decision maker, then go for the non-touch option. Even with the most expensive option you're still saving $400 over the cheapest touch version. And that's a lot of money.

Likewise if you're going to find yourself away from a power outlet for extended periods a lot, going for the lesser spec will help you out a lot. Even if you spend the extra on a power companion, it'll be less thirsty and just last longer.

But, if you're someone who could genuinely benefit from having that higher resolution screen, don't be put off. Speaking from personal experience, it is beautiful. Looking at it never gets old. Just be prepared to pay more to get it. A fair bit more.

See at Dell (opens in new tab)

There's no real right or wrong answer. Whichever you go for you're getting one of the best laptops money can buy. But consider it carefully before pulling the trigger.

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.

32 Comments
  • I wrestle with this all the time. It's kind of simple, though: if you need battery go Full HD. Makes a huge difference. If you're plugged in a lot, QHD+ is amazing. It's also relative. Full HD looks great in and of itself. It's only when you put it next to QHD+ do you go 'wow'. Also, Full HD is matte, better on the eyes for reading whereas QHD+ is glossy. Frankly, for myself, the touch thing is a non-issue. It matters on a Surface, but not so much a laptop, but that's my usage. Having said that I'm currently rocking the Gold XPS 13 with Iris graphics cause it's da bomb. Hopefully we can do more on it soon.
  • Battery life used to drive my decisions more than they do today. It still matters, of course, but todays battery technology is now so amazing that we complain about 4 hours, or 6, or even 9. I'm amazed that that XPS QHD is able to function in all its glory for HOURS unplugged. It's crazy. It seems too svelte to accomplish that. (Same with the SP4) And these days, I live with a "mobility culture", so I likely have cables and adapters and electrical sources within a few feet most of the time.
  • Yup, and the new charging bricks are so tiny that it's less of an issue (unless you literally have no outlets to jack into).
  • With ask the spec hogs out there, I'd like to see a comparison between 1520 and 950(XL) screens. I loved the one on 1520 and I doubt QHD makes a noticeable difference but merely drains your battery faster. I wish they had an FHD IPS version of 950(XL) Posted from WC 920, 1520, 920, 635, 640 950XL
  • Going really off-topic there, sorry Posted from WC 920, 1520, 920, 635, 640 950XL
  • I wonder this. My new Lumia 950 battery totally sucks compared to my older lumias. The 1520 was amazing with battery. As was my 735, 830, and 1020. I'm lucky to get a full day now on the 950. And the battery saver stats say it's the display that is drawing all the power. So I wouldn't be surprised if it was the qHD resolution.
  • I'd like the next flagship to come in fullHD 5" and quadHD 6", this Lumia 950 screen I have in front of me looks great but I'd prefer fullHD and even more battery.
  • Its funny but rarely(if ever) do they do a configuration that lets their amd discrete option shine much less intels onboard
  • Do you know what the battery life is like on the XPS 15 compared to the XPS 13? And do you know if the XPS 15 is available in gold? :)
  • Full HD for longer battery lifeee. Also, take a look at the Razer Blade Stealth too!! :D
  • Any news on the release of the all Black version showcased at CES? its texture is so much nicer than the ones with alluminium body.
    I picked the Surface Pro 4 simply because I could not recline the screen of the XPS far enough for instance while standing with the latop on a table, this is also a problem on the Surface Book.
  • Once you get to use a laptop or similar device with more than 1080p, it's very hard to go back.
  • Hi Guys! I have a QHD+ version of this laptop and I have to say that it is pretty cool device overal. In my experience higher resolution does not affect battery so much it is rather diplay drivers that do (the ones provided by display providers) I am part of the project that Eve is running and we are now desidin g what screen the device should have. Let us know and join the discussion! http://eve.community/t/step-3-lets-talk-about-the-screen/433
  • With HD being the only non-glossy finish, there is no confusion over which I will purchase.  I don't want to see the room behind me and my reflection while I'm trying to work, so QHD+ is dead to me in this notebook.
  • Yup, it's worth considering. However, I will say the new glossy screen are not really that bad and are less shiny than previous years.
  • I have to say I purchased the Full HD version of the XPS 15, and whilst great, it wasn't quite doing it for me. I returned and bought the QHD and it really was the best decision. The QHD screen really is out of this world and worth the battery hit in my opinion! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • For better or worse the new XPS 15 is either Full HD or 4K, no more QHD+.
  • Oh. I thought QHD+ was 4K? Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Nope uhd is 4k & qhd+ is somewhere in the middle 3200x1800
  • I can't tell the differences when the resolution beyond 1080P at all, regardless screen size, since bigger screen will require to look at farther distance. so as for me, any display more than 1080P is not too much attractive to me at all, comparing price and energy comsumption. of course I can't choose on my surface pro 3 or Lumia 950, but if I can, then I would totally choose FHD screen for those devices.
  • Must be nice to have this conundrum.... This comment was posted on Windows Central for Windows 10 UWP.
  • There's one small thing that really bugs me when my Surface Pro 3 is connected to a 1080p external display (The same would happen with the XPS) If you open the start menu on your Surface Pro 3, and then next time open it on your external 1080p monitor there is an annoying delay whilst it scales the Start Menu before popping it up. Once it's scaled to a specific screen, you can open it nice and smoothly on the same display over and over, it's the first time you switch to the other and it has to scale. Not a big deal....but a small annoyance. Shouldn't affect which you go for Sent from Microsoft Band
  • I just happened to get the touch i7 with the 16GB of RAM and 512GB HD. I'm looking to replace my overdue Dell OptiPlex 360 with the Core2Duo processor. The screen is AMAZING! I had a Chromebook Pixel 2 LS before and this is as good if not better.
  • Get the new dell precision instead!
  • Wish there was a 1080p or 1440p touch option
  • I had the QHD+ version with W8.1 on it, fabulous. I did not use touch all the time, but it came handy that I could. It's something what I will want from any future laptop I will consider to buy.
  • I have the QHD model and get 5 hrs battery (half the other) and have app scalling issues all day long. It was the only way to get a 1TB ssd. I regret every moment! Get the HD model unless you want more ssd. No other reason to get QHD. None. The HD screen is excellent! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Yeah, my boss has QHD on his XPS13, and had heaps of app scaling issues - there are still too many apps not properly designed for resolutions that high. We ended up changing his resolution to HD for general use, with font scaling at 125%. It's not taking advantage of the hardware, but at least you can use it.
  • I would be getting the high resolution version as I will never own a non touch device again.  I use it so much....even when my surface is in "laptop" mode.  I get to a non touch laptop I am hitting the screen like a mad man.  I do not even open my laptops anymore. 
  • I'm having this conundrum at the moment. After the Apple event on the 21st I'm going to be pulling the trigger on a new laptop (I'm waiting to see if there are going to be decent MacBook Pro refreshes before I make a decision), and the XPS 13 is very much on my radar. I personally barly use the touch on my current laptop so I feel like the 1080p version would be for me, but having not seen a QHD laptop in the wild, I have a bit of fear of missing out if I don't get one. 
  • I thought going higher than 1080p would not be a big deal, until I bought a Surface Pro 4. I know that is still less resolution than what's being discussed here, but on a 12" screen it just looks amazing! I still have my previous Asus laptop, which is 13", 1080p, and I can certainly tell the difference. It is hard to describe, but once you get used to the higher pixel density, it is quite hard to go back. You can easily discern between the two. If money is not an issue, I'd recommend going for the higher resolution.  
  • I have the QHD model and get 5 hrs battery (half the other) and have app scalling issues all day long. It was the only way to get a 1TB ssd. I regret every moment! Get the HD model unless you want more ssd. No other reason to get QHD. None. The HD screen is excellent! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android