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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  • Brett Howse - Monday, March 23, 2015 - link

    Someone else had asked me that, so I set the 3200x1800 display to 1600x900, just to see if part of the battery life loss was due to rendering. My battery life test for this setting was almost identical to the 3200x1800 resolution.

    So it does not improve battery life because the main power draw of the higher resolution display is the increased requirements of the backlight to drive the same brightness level through a much more dense TFT. At least that was my findings on the XPS 13.
    Reply
  • growl - Monday, March 23, 2015 - link

    Thanks very much, appreciate it! Torn on which one to buy, given that I am a frequent traveler, but also generally enjoy touch and have a pretty much unlimited budget. Reply
  • mazzy - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    Hi Brett, Any Update on Auto Dynamic LCD brightness ? Reply
  • Brett Howse - Saturday, March 28, 2015 - link

    Nothing yet sorry. Reply
  • mazzy - Tuesday, April 07, 2015 - link

    I think that it'll never be fixed. It's April.. over 3 months from the launch...
    It's a pity, a great quality screen but with a glaring defect... no calibration possible... :(
    Reply
  • FranC - Wednesday, April 08, 2015 - link

    I bought the 2015 Dell XPS 13 on the assumption that Dell would release a fix that would allow end users to calibrate the display. As mazzy said, it seems like Dell has no intention of fixing this, perhaps because it would reveal that battery life is highly dependent on Adaptive Brightness being enabled. Guess I'll wait to the last day to return it, and file this one away as being Duped-by-Dell. Reply
  • paul1508 - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    Does the standard Dell Wireless 1560 support Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) or do I have to opt in the Intel AC 7260? Does that matter at all because the Dell Wireless 1560 might support Miracast? Reply
  • technoway - Monday, April 27, 2015 - link

    The battery life for the system:
    i7-5500U / 8GB-RAM / 512GB-SSD / 3200x1800 infinity touch
    is listed to be only about 7.5 hours.
    The Apple 13-inch Macbook gets 10 hours or more.

    But, Dell doesn't offer the 512 GB SSD, which I need for space, without also having the power-sucking HD+ screen. That stops me from buying the latest XPS-13.

    Dell could make simple changes and make a machine I'd buy, but for some reason they don't do this.

    The core i7 processor is a must, because it consumes less power than the core i5, and a 512 GB SSD is also a must to compete with Apple machines, but the HD+ screen wastes too much power. An HD screen is just fine on a 13-inch machine.

    Until I can get a i7-5500U / 8GB-RAM / 512GB-SSD, with just the HD display (I don't care whether it's touch or not), I won't buy this. With the HD display, that system would have great battery life - I'd estimate at least 10 hours, and probably more like 11 or 12, maybe more. Dell ruins the machine by not offering the best options for battery life.

    I do have an older first-generation XPS 13, and I like it, but with a meager 128 GB, 70 GB taken by the OS and restore partition, it's got too little storage.

    If Dell makes the machine I want, I'll buy one tomorrow. If they don't make that by Christmas, I'll probably purchase the Apple 13 inch model. It has the good battery life for an Ultrabook.

    Oh, and Dell's suggested solution for the poorer battery life is to carry around a plug-in battery pack for extra power. That competely defeats the purpose of having an Ultrabook!
    Reply
  • vaga13ond - Saturday, June 11, 2016 - link

    You're comparing apples to oranges there. Trying to compare the XPS vs a Macbook isn't really targeting the same user. Macbook's come with Core m3 or m5 (below i-series) processors not the i7 processor that you consider a "must." No touch screen, no QHD, worse on board graphics, DDR3, single port, yada yada yada... And no, the Macbook does NOT get 17.5+ hours on a battery charge doing anything besides idling. The XPS is a VERY different machine than the Apple Macbook... Reply
  • rgin - Monday, October 12, 2015 - link

    Would the performance of this beauty be affected if we ran linux on it? Reply

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