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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  • Stochastic - Thursday, February 19, 2015 - link

    I’ve been using this machine for a few weeks now. My impressions so far are largely positive. Here are some things that would take this laptop from “Great” to “Unbeatable”:
    --Offer option to disable auto-brightness
    --Improve display calibration of FHD model
    --Use less aggressive anti-glare coating on FHD model
    --Give more touchpad options for configuration
    --Reduce tendency of fan to spool up when plugged in (this can be tweaked in software settings, however)
    --Adjust position of webcam
    --Add just a smidge more key travel (I wouldn’t mind a 1mm thicker device)
    --Use a different material for keyboard such that smudging is less noticeable
    --Reduce price of 256GB SSD/8GB RAM model by $100
    --Provide option for touch display on the FHD model for $100 or less premium

    If Dell made the above changes then this device would absolutely take the market by storm. As is, it’s still a very solid device in my opinion.

    I will say that I’m not getting anywhere close to the battery life that Anandtech is reporting for the FHD model. I’ve read on forums that the CPU usage spikes up whenever the touchpad is used, so that might account for the disparity. It would be great if Anandtech could investigate this.
    Reply
  • eddman - Thursday, February 19, 2015 - link

    "I will say that I’m not getting anywhere close to the battery life that Anandtech is reporting for the FHD model."

    Do you mean web browsing battery life? If so, are you using chrome? If yes, then it could be the culprit. Last time I checked chrome used a bit too much power compared to IE.
    Reply
  • Stochastic - Thursday, February 19, 2015 - link

    Yeah, I am using Chrome. I feel crazy saying this, but I'm actually really looking forward to Microsoft's Spartan browser. Reply
  • ymcpa - Thursday, February 19, 2015 - link

    Why would you say you feel crazy? IE has been a good browser for a while now and it is less resource intensive than chrome. It's funny that chrome started out as the light, simple alternative to IE and now it is the bloated one. The only reason to stay with chrome is if extensions are important to you and Spartan is reported to allow extensions. Reply
  • CaedenV - Thursday, February 19, 2015 - link

    Ya, I use to swear by chrome a few years ago, but about 1.5 years ago I started having odd issues where it would slow my computer down and have odd rendering/graphical glitches. I tried FF again for a few months but really hate the changes they have been making to it. So now I have been using IE for the last year for lack of something better... and you know what? It pretty much works. I do miss some of the plugins that I use to have, but the privacy settings do a decent job at blocking most adds which is the big thing. Not saying that I have really fallen in love with IE, but for 90% of what I do it works great, and the other 10% I hold my nose and use FireFox.

    If not for the performance (and privacy paranoia) I would switch back to chrome in a heartbeat, but it simply is not as good as it use to be compared to the other options available.
    Reply
  • mhonard - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    I have the MS signature version with i5, 256gb, 8gb ram, QHD touch display and NOT running chrome. Light usage I'm only getting 6.5 hours of usage in balanced mode. I am using the touchpad exclusively. It would be nice to understand why I'm getting such a different result than Anadtech. This is a deal killer for the price I paid. Reply
  • Brett Howse - Saturday, March 14, 2015 - link

    Could be lots of things really. What is your display set to for brightness? Display is a big draw. You are getting between our heavy workload and our light workload, so assuming your display is close to 200 nits, it could just be that your light workload is still a lot heavier than our light web browsing workload. File copies, network access, and other things can all contribute to a lot more power draw.

    First suggestion is to set the brightness lower as it will likely have the biggest impact. You can also try installing Battery Bar to see what kind of power draw you are pulling at any one time.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, February 19, 2015 - link

    Go to the windows 8 start screen and just type in brightness, the auto feature should be there to turn off? I don't have this model but that's how it worked on every win8 laptop I used. Reply
  • ymcpa - Thursday, February 19, 2015 - link

    The article stated that there is no option to off the auto brightness setting and have asked Dell to respond. I'm sure it is something that can be fixed in a future firmware update. Reply
  • ymcpa - Thursday, February 19, 2015 - link

    Not sure what more touchpad options mean. I bet the fan spools up when plugged in because the power setting are set for highest performance when plugged in. There is probably not much they can do with the web cam without increasing the bezel. I would suggest a flip up web cam that is hidden and you flip it up when you need it. Plus this will insure privacy since people won't be able to hack in to the laptop and access the web cam. The rest of your comments seem very doable. Reply

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