Battery Life

One of Intel's big mandates for the ultrabook line was for them to have good battery life, and that's a mandate anyone can really get behind. Dell has gone out of their way to further optimize the XPS 13 for better running time, but their optimizations do run afoul of our testing: the screen features an ambient light sensor which will dynamically adjust the brightness depending on how bright the surrounding room is, and while their optimized mode is enabled it's impossible to prevent the system from going to sleep if left idle. As a result, the XPS 13 was tested in our tried-and-true customized "Power Saver" configuration.

Battery Life - Idle

Battery Life - Internet

Battery Life - H.264 Playback

Relative Battery Life - Idle

Relative Battery Life - Internet

Relative Battery Life - H.264

It's hard to complain too much about the battery life the XPS 13 produces, but it's also a situation where you have to wonder if a better thermal solution might not pay off dividends here. Jarred has already proven that Intel's "Hurry Up and Get Idle" mantra is actually accurate to Sandy Bridge, and the XPS 13 could stand to run the fan a bit less.

Heat and Noise

This is really where the Dell XPS 13 just isn't as good of a citizen as we wish it was. Under stress testing, we found the XPS 13's core temperatures would idle in the mid forties and then push into the low eighties. That trouble is compounded by the fan noise; the XPS 13 just seems to have a hard time in general dissipating heat. There's a ceiling that it hits, and then the fan will keep running well after the system has stopped being stressed as it slowly but surely tries to get the temperatures back down to the forties. As I mentioned before, once any obstruction is placed under that bottom vent, it's not at all difficult to get the core temperatures into the high nineties.

Fan noise under heavy load is at least 43dBA, and as is customary with the small fans ultrabooks require, the character of the noise is extremely high pitched. Again, this is really going to be the price of admission for an ultrabook. I want to say that Dell probably could have tweaked their fan controls better, but really it's the fact that the whole cooling system just doesn't seem to be as efficient as competing designs.

System Performance Another Low Quality TN Panel
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  • piroroadkill - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    "AnandTech receives a notebook for review from a vendor not named Sony or Apple, and that notebook features a cut rate 1366x768 TN panel with poor viewing angles, poor color, poor contrast, and just poor quality all around."

    Yup. I also do take issue with the resolution, I think that 768 vertical pixels is a bit cramped, and that 1440x900 is the ratio and resolution we should be hitting on 13" screens.

    I have a 14.1" 1400x1050 machine at home, and that is just about right. I have a 15" 1920x1200 screen, and although it looks great, I do admit that the scaling issues we have in Windows as it stands, means that it can be a little uncomfortable to some (I found an issue where changing DPI even by a little made a piece of software unusable. Not just hard to use, unusable).

    Lets see some good quality 1440x900 panels in this size of laptop, what do you say, Dell?
    Reply
  • Cloudie - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    I totally agree; I have a Macbook Air 13 and the 1440*900 resolution is absolutely perfect for this screen size. I only wish the colour gamut and viewing angles were closer to level of the Macbook Pros or one of the other 3 or 4 notebooks on the market with decent screens. Reply
  • retrospooty - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    " I have a Macbook Air 13 and the 1440*900 resolution is absolutely perfect for this screen size."

    Yup, I had that on my Lenovo X301 back in 2009 and it rocked. This 1366x768 madness has to stop.
    Reply
  • apinkel - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    Couldn't agree more.

    I think the MBA is a bit over-rated simply due to lack of ports and the move to a non-user-replaceable battery (sadly most of the ultrabooks have followed apple on these two items) but the one thing that I am really, really jealous of is the screen on the MBA.

    I have an X301 right now and I really like it. I like the screen size/aspect ration/resolution, the keyboard which has better feedback then every ultrabook I've tried, great port selection (I work on other people's PC's and I have to have an ethernet port), excellent battery life with the optional bay battery and light weight. I do wish the X301 had the current generation of ultra low voltage cpus but for my usage I've actually been surprised at how well the 1.4ghz CPU has performed.
    Reply
  • Dug - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    You will have moved on to another computer a long time before the battery would need to be replaced.

    One thing I wish pc ultrabooks all had was a thunderbolt port.
    Reply
  • apinkel - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    I just back from a trip (last minute booking) where I had a 7 hour layover in an airport. Having a replaceable battery, even on a laptop with 5+ hours of battery life is handy to have.

    That said, the battery issue isn't a deal breaker for me. The lack of an ethernet port is.
    Reply
  • Guspaz - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - link

    Few people even buy a second battery for their notebook, let alone carry one around. And even for the Macbook, you can always buy an external battery pack like the Hyperjuice and accomplish much the same thing, with the added advantage of not having to turn the notebook off while swapping batteries. It's what I do with my Toshiba notebook, even though it does have a removable battery. Reply
  • retrospooty - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    I know... I really wish they did an X310 and 320. WTF? Now Even Lenovo's newer 13 inch have 1366x768... gack. Reply
  • apinkel - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - link

    I agree.. I was really disappointed with the screen on the X1. They put gorilla glass on it (why?... it's not a touchscreen, it adds weight and adds glare) and the resolution changed to 1366x768.

    The big downside to the 16:9 screens is that if you want 900 lines of resolution you end up with a resolution of 1600x900... and the dpi becomes to high to be legible for me.

    With a 13.3" screen and 1440x900 you end up with a dpi of 127... which is the sweet spot IMO.
    Reply
  • kjboughton - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    Couldn't agree more...

    I was recently looking for a cheaper notebook to replace an aging Dell m770 that I'd had from 2003 when I decided to try the Inspiron 14R.

    It's going back. The whole unit feels cheap but the 1366x768 TN panel from BOE-hydis is HORRIBLE. I can't stand using the notebook because of that. And to think that the $999 ~ $1499 XPS Ultrabook using a similar panel (albeit a slightly smaller viewing area) is astounding. Barf!
    Reply

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