Dell launched the 2015 version of their XPS 13 at CES in January, and it made a big impression because of something that was very small. The first thing you see when you look at the XPS 13 is how small the bezels are around the display. At 5.2 mm, they are easily the thinnest display bezels on any laptop made today. Dell claims the XPS 13 is a 13 inch display in the chassis of an 11 inch notebook, and while they have made that claim before, for 2015, it would be hard to argue with them. But the XPS 13 is more than just a display, and Dell has outfitted it with some very modern hardware to give us our first look at an Ultrabook based on the just launched Intel 5th Generation processors, Broadwell-U.

At CES, Dell also told me that the new XPS 13 would have great battery life, with the company claiming that it would get up to fifteen hours. That claim seems hard to believe, with our battery life test topped at just a hair under ten hours by the current leader, the MacBook Air 13. However, this will be our first look at a laptop running on the new 14 nm  process from Intel, so we can get a chance to see just how power efficient the new processors are.

Dell is offering quite an arrangement of options as well, allowing the new XPS 13 to fit into a lot more budgets than some of the other premium notebooks around. The base model comes with the Intel Core i3-5010U processor, but if you need more speed you can upgrade to the i5-5200U or i7-5500U. All of the storage options are solid state drives, which is great to see. The base is 128GB, and optional upgrades are to 256GB or 512GB. Memory choices are dual-channel 4GB DDR3L-RS-1600, or a dual-channel 8GB option.

We received two models for testing, with the first being a Core i5-5200U with the 1920x1080 non-touch display, 4GB of memory, and a 128GB SSD, which lists for $900. The second model is the Core i5-5200U, with 2x4GB of memory, a 256GB SSD, and the 3200x1800 touch display. This model lists at $1400.

Update: Originally I had listed the 4 GB model as single channel, but it is actually 2 x 2 GB for dual channel. Sorry for the mistake.

Dell XPS 13 9343 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i3-5010U
(Dual-core + HT 2.1GHz 3MB L3 14nm 15W TDP)
Intel Core i5-5200U - model tested
(Dual-core + HT 2.2-2.7GHz 3MB L3 14nm 15W TDP)
Intel Core i7-5500U
(Dual-core + HT 2.4-3.0GHz, 4MB L3, 14nm, 15W TDP)
Chipset Broadwell-ULT
Memory 2 x 2GB or 2 x 4GB DDR3L-RS-1600
(Dual Channel 8GB Max)
Graphics Intel HD 5500
(23 EUs at 300-900MHz on Core i3)
(24 EUs at 300-900MHz on Core i5)
(24 EUs at 300-950MHz on Core i7)
Display 13.3" Anti-Glare IPS 16:9 FHD (1920x1080)
(Sharp 1420 Panel)
13.3" Glossy IPS 16:9 QHD+ (3200x1800) IGZO2
(Sharp 1421 Panel with Corning Gorilla Glass NBT and Touchscreen)
Storage 128GB/256GB/512GB SSD (Samsung PM851 M.2 2280)
Optical Drive N/A
Networking Dell Wireless 1560 plus Bluetooth 4.0 - model tested
(2x2:2 802.11ac 867Mbps capable Broadcom)

Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 plus Bluetooth 4.0
(2x2:2 802.11ac 867Mbps capable)

Intel Dual Band Wireless-N 7265 plus Bluetooth 4.0
(2x2:2 802.11n 300Mbps capable)
Audio Realtek HD
Stereo Speakers professionally tuned with Waves MaxxAudio Pro 1w x 2
Headset jack
Battery/Power 52Wh non-removable
45W Max AC Adapter
Front Side Charge Light
Left Side Headset Jack
Battery Meter
1 x USB 3.0 with PowerShare
1 x mini DisplayPort
Speaker
AC Power Connection
Right Side Noble Lock Slot
1 x USB 3.0 with PowerShare
SD Card Slot
Speaker
Back Side N/A
Operating System Windows 8.1 64-bit
Dimensions 11.98" x 7.88" x 0.33-0.6" (WxDxH)
(304mm x 200mm x 9-15mm)
Weight 2.6 lbs (1.18kg) Non-Touch
2.8 lbs (1.27kg) Touch
Extras 720p HD Webcam
Backlit Keyboard
Colors Silver
Pricing $800 (i3, 4GB, 128GB, FHD)
$900 (i5, 4GB, 128GB, FHD) - model tested
$1000 (i5, 8GB, 128GB, FHD)
$1300 (i5, 8GB 128GB, QHD+)
$1400 (i5, 8GB, 256GB, QHD+) - model tested
$1600 (i7, 8GB, 256GB, QHD+)
$1900 (i7, 8GB, 512GB, QHD+)

The display has some choices as well. The base model comes with a 13.3 inch 1920x1080 IPS display, with a matte finish, and no touch capabilities. This is still a respectable 165 pixels per inch, and is a good option to keep the costs down. The upgraded display is quite the upgrade. Dell has worked with Sharp to outfit the XPS 13 with an optional 3200x1800 resolution IGZO panel, which features Corning Gorilla Glass NBT over the top, along with ten-point multitouch. This works out to 272 pixels per inch, and the IGZO panel is a full RGB stripe.

There are a couple of other options as well, such as a range of wireless adapters, with the Dell 1560 outfitted on the review laptops that we received. This is a Broadcom wireless adapter, with 802.11ac support. Some of the options, like the 512GB drive, are only available with the top CPU and upgraded display. Dell does offer some degree of flexibility when ordering, but not all options are available for all devices.

Dell has crafted a fine looking laptop, with some new parts from Intel and Sharp paving the way. On paper this is a great start, so let's get into the finer details.

Design and Chassis
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  • lefty2 - Friday, February 20, 2015 - link

    Yeah, seems like no one buys 35W laptops anymore Reply
  • GreenMeters - Friday, February 20, 2015 - link

    Wish they'd include a discrete GPU option. Not anything particularly powerful, but something like the 840M that's been popular in other thin-and-light "ultrablades". That paired with the more reasonable 1080p screen would enable a lot of games at decent settings, without blowing power/heat budget. Reply
  • Dr_Orgo - Friday, February 20, 2015 - link

    I'm not sure the discrete GPU would be a good fit. Clearly it is designed as an ultrabook not as a thin and light gaming notebook. Even if the discrete GPU wouldn't add a huge amount of heat, it would still require sacrifices in thinness and battery life. The 840M wouldn't even provide enough GPU power for gaming enthusiasts, leaving the xps 13 awkwardly in the middle between pure ultrabook and pure gaming laptop. Reply
  • Sureshot324 - Friday, February 20, 2015 - link

    13" is too small for me but I'd love a 15" laptop the size of a 13" one. Hopefully this is a trend that catches on in other sizes. Reply
  • pjcamp - Friday, February 20, 2015 - link

    It appears to be trivially easy to upgrade the SSD to whatever you want. Several Torx screws and one Phillips and the back comes off, and there is the M2 SSD right before your eyes. I wouldn't let storage be a worry. Reply
  • cump - Friday, February 20, 2015 - link

    Perhaps someone could help me out. Looking at this graph the xps13 display should be as bright as a macbook air? I have the FHD 256gb i5 model of the xps13 and a late 2011 11in macbook air. Side by side the screen appears 2x brighter on the mba. Is this a result of defective backlighting, or the antiglare coating, or perhaps I've reading the graphs wrong. Reply
  • jamesau - Friday, February 20, 2015 - link

    The Trackpad is currently unusable and needs to be brought to the attention of Dell / Microsoft. It is not really precision and needs dedicated drivers to adjust things like:

    - Stopping the cursor from jumping when you lift your finger;
    - Ability to disable pinch to zoom as this sometimes interferes with two finger scroll and zooms the page in IE / Microsoft instead of scrolling it;
    - Ability to customize gestures as you can with Synaptics drivers
    Reply
  • MyManFly - Friday, February 20, 2015 - link

    Not sure if this was already mentioned, but I think it should be noted in the battery life section that the Macbook Air 13" battery life was while it was running Windows 8, not OSX (The Surface Pro 3 battery life graph shows this). Reply
  • Brett Howse - Saturday, February 21, 2015 - link

    Good catch I'll add the OS X battery life to the charts. Reply
  • jordanthoms - Friday, February 20, 2015 - link

    Why no 16gb model? Intel restriction? 8gb just isn't enough. I'd like to have the option to pay more and get a faster CPU in it as well.

    Until they do that I guess I'll be sticking with macbooks...
    Reply

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