Dell XPS 13 vs. XPS 13 2-in-1: Choosing between power and flexibility

What's the difference between the standard XPS 13 and the XPS 13 2-in-1?

Dell has an outstanding device in the standard XPS 13, but to cater to a wider audience it also offers a convertible option known as the XPS 13 2-in-1. It's very similar in appearance, size, and weight, but the 2-in-1 has a special set of hinges that allow it to be used in tablet, stand, or tent modes. Let's take a closer look these two laptops and determine the differences that will matter to you most when choosing between the two.

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Performance

The standard XPS 13 uses 15W, seventh-generation Intel U-series processors. You can go as low as a Core i3-7100U or as high as a Core i7-7560U, with a Core i5-7200U as a middle option.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 features 4.5W, seventh-generation Intel Y-series processors, which suck up way less power but also don't offer the same performance. The XPS 13 2-in-1 is available with either an Intel Core i5-7Y54 processor or an Intel Core i7-7Y75 processor.

XPS 13 2-in-1

Both sets of processors are dual core and have similar clock speeds on paper, but for better real world performance, you'll want to grab a standard XPS 13. If you plan on some light or medium gaming, the U-series processors feature integrated Intel HD Graphics 620, which is marginally better than the integrated Intel HD Graphics 615 found in the Y-series processors.

Dell uses the same type of RAM in both models (LPDDR3-1866MHz), and both models can be had with up to 16GB. Likewise, both the 2-in-1 and the standard notebook can be had with up to a 1TB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD).

Display

XPS 13 2-in-1 display

Both the XPS 13 and the XPS 13 2-in-1 are available in QHD (3200 x 1800) touch display configurations. However, only the standard XPS 13 has a non-touch, FHD (1920 x 1080) configuration, and only the XPS 13 2-in-1 has a touch, FHD configuration.

If you can't stand a touchscreen and would like to reap the battery benefits of non-touch, the standard XPS 13 is really your only choice. Love touchscreens? You'll no doubt get more use out of it if you go with the XPS 13 2-in-1. It also has support for the Dell Active Pen, something the standard XPS 13 does not have.

Battery

The standard XPS 13 comes with a 60WHr battery that, in the QHD (3200 x 1800) touch display configuration, realistically lasts up to about 10 hours. If you instead go with the FHD (1920 x 1080) non-touch configuration, you can expect up to about 13 hours of use on a single charge. That's great battery life.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 has a smaller, 46WHr battery inside. You should expect about eight hours of real usage on a single charge.

If you're in a situation where you're far from any outlets for extended periods of time, the standard XPS 13, especially the non-touch configuration, will be better suited to you. If you're not concerned about battery life, the XPS 2-in-1 still delivers a decent amount of power from a charge.

Function

XPS 13 2-in-1 hinges

The first difference you notice between these two laptops is that one of them can have its lid spun right around and tucked in to create a tablet. The XPS 13 2-in-1 can also sit in stand mode or tent mode depending on what you need it for. If you love the idea of a tablet, whether for playing touch games or for watching movies, the XPS 13 2-in-1 should be taken into consideration.

This flexibility is the main trade-off for the standard XPS 13's better performance — if you don't need a powerhouse device, the XPS 13 2-in-1 can do more.

Another important aspect to consider is the port selection. The standard XPS 13 comes with two USB-A 3.0, one SD card reader, one USB-C Thunderbolt 3, and a 3.5mm audio jack.

The XPS 13 2-in-1, because of its thinner size, doesn't have the same two USB-A 3.0 ports. It instead has two USB-C ports, one of them being Thunderbolt 3. There is also a microSD card reader and a 3.5mm audio jack.

If you still use a lot of devices that require USB-A and don't want to get into the world of dongle and adapters, the XPS 13 is a better choice.

Price

Looking at the basic configurations for each laptop, you can get a standard XPS 13 with a non-touch display and a Core i3 processor for about $800. The XPS 13 2-in-1, however, starts around the $1,000 mark, no doubt due to the touchscreen and Core i5 processor.

Scaling things up, prices remain similar. A standard XPS 13 with a Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a QHD touch display costs about $2,350. An XPS 13 2-in-1 with essentially the same specs (albeit a Y-series processor) costs about $2,250.

If you need the cheapest laptop, your best bet is the standard XPS 13, but from there the prices are pretty much the same.

XPS 13

Dell XPS 13 vs. XPS 13 2-in-1: Conclusion

After comparing these two laptops, we're comfortable handing out some recommendations. The standard XPS 13 is a better choice for anyone who needs as much power as possible and who doesn't mind having a notebook design that can't convert into different modes.

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The XPS 13 2-in-1 is still a strong performer, but its marginally thinner size and less power-hungry CPU bring it in just below the standard XPS 13. However, it can be converted into tent, stand, and tablet modes alongside the normal notebook form, and you get Active Pen support. If you aren't concerned about performance and like the idea of a convertible laptop, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is probably best for you.

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