The new iteration of the Dell XPS 13 Touch is an ultraportable laptop that you'll be proud to show off. The sleek build and brilliant QHD+ touch screen carry over from last year's model, but adds a sixth-generation Intel Core i5 processor and the first USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support that we've seen on a laptop. This is notable, considering that Thunderbolt upgrades usually appear first on Apple laptops like the latest MacBook Pro at Amazon. The XPS 13 Touch (9350) at John Lewis has a much higher-resolution screen in a frame that's more compact than the MacBook Pro, and also has the build quality, performance, and battery life that should come with a premium system. It's our new Editors' Choice for high-end ultraportable laptops.
Design and Features
Quite dashing, the XPS 13 Touch is constructed from machined aluminum, with a bright-silver top lid and carbon fiber on its palm rest. It has the same frame as last year's model, measuring 0.6 by 12 by 8 inches (HWD), although it's 1.6 ounces heavier at 2.85 pounds. It's weightier and slightly thicker than the LG gram-14Z950 at Amazon, which clocks 2.08 pounds and 0.5 by 12.8 by 8.9 inches, but its keyboard and lid feels a lot sturdier, with none of the noticeable flex we saw in the LG laptop.
The brilliant 13.3-inch screen has a QHD+ (3,200-by-1,800 pixel) resolution that shows an astonishing level of detail. The near-invisible bezel minimizes distractions, whether you're working on large spreadsheets or watching movies on Netflix.The bezel design and its higher-resolution display certainly outshine rivals like the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro and the Lenovo LaVie Z HZ550, both of which both look a bit dated in comparison. The Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 P25W-C2300-4K has a higher-resolution display (at 3,840 by 2,160), but that convertible-hybrid laptop's other features are less impressive. Since the XPS 13 Touch's lid is only 8 inches tall, it can easily fit on an airline tray table in coach, unlike most 13-inch and larger laptops.
The touch screen is very responsive and the full-size, chiclet-style keyboard and one-piece touchpad are comfortable to use. The keyboard deck is solid with no flex; key travel and overall feel are top notch. The keys are backlit, as you'd expect on a premium system. Multitouch gestures are supported on the wide touchpad, if you don't want to use the touch screen.
The XPS 13 Touch is one of the first laptops we've seen with the new USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support. This means that you can connect the system to Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C devices natively, and it will also interface with a DisplayPort monitor, HDMI-equipped displays, Thunderbolt (1 or 2), and USB (2.0 or 3.0) devices with an adapter. Dell offers a $75 pocket adapter that connects USB-C to Ethernet, HDMI, USB 3.0, and VGA, as well as a desktop Thunderbolt 3 dock, for which pricing has not been confirmed. Other ports include Power (USB-C isn't used for charging on this laptop), a headset jack, a USB 3.0 port on the left side, and an SD card reader and another USB 3.0 port on the right side. For wireless connectivity, there's dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
The system comes with 8GB of memory and a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD). That's plenty of space for many home users who stream music and videos instead of storing them locally. That's also double the storage of the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro, and 76GB more than the 180GB SSD in the Lenovo ThinkPad X250$1,060.99 at Office Depot. There are a few preinstalled programs like Candy Crush, Flipbook, and Twitter, but on the whole it's not too bad. The system comes with a 1-year warranty.
Our review unit was configured with a sixth-generation Intel Core i5-6200U processor with Intel HD Graphics 520. It's not as fast as the Intel Core i7 processors in the Lenovo HZ550 or the Toshiba Satellite Radius 12. The system returned a good score of 2,450 points on the PCMark 8 Work Conventional test, which is a little lower than the competition. Scores were better on the multimedia tests, at 2 minutes 29 seconds on Handbrake, 4 minutes 44 seconds on Photoshop, and 286 points on CineBench. The XPS 13 Touch beat the Intel Core i7-equipped LG gram-14Z950 on all three tests (3:14 on Handbrake; 4:48 on Photoshop; 245 points on CineBench), and is competitive with the MacBook Pro 13-inch (2:38 on Handbrake; 4:17 on Photoshop; 311 points on CineBench).
3D gaming performance in our tests was good for an ultraportable. The XPS 13 Touch scored 5,606 points on the 3DMark Cloud Gate test, beaten only by the Toshiba Satellite Radius 12, and its score of 379 points on the 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme test topped the field. At Medium-quality settings, its scores on the Heaven (19 frames per second or fps) and Valley (23fps) tests were a bit below playable levels, but you should easily be able to play less graphics-intensive games like Diablo III and Minecraft.
Battery life is excellent, especially compared with ultraportables with older Intel Core i7 processors. The XPS 13 Touch lasted 9 hours 2 minutes on our rundown test, far outlasting systems like the older Dell XPS 13 Touch (7:40), the Lenovo HZ550 (7:40), the LG gram-14Z950 (7:17), and the Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 (5:49). Only the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro (11:10) and the Apple MacBook (14:10) did better, but you're probably leaning toward a Windows 10 PC if you're seriously considering the XPS 13 Touch.
And consider it you should. The latest Dell XPS 13 Touch packs a sleek, stylish build, a drool-worthy screen, and performance to match its looks. Although there are more compact 11- and 12-inch ultraportables out there, they make concessions for their maller size, such as a lower-resolution screen, shorter battery life, fewer I/O ports, or a smaller keyboard. The XPS 13 Touch is only slightly larger, but retains a full roster of features. It's also lighter and slimmer than the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch, and sports a sharper display and more storage for only $200 more. Thus, the Dell XPS 13 Touch is our Editors' Choice for high-end ultraportable laptops. If Windows isn't your OS of choice, however, then the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro is a fine alternative.
Type: Ultraportable, Tablet
Processor Name: Intel Core i5-6200U
Processor Speed: 2.3 GHz
Operating System: Windows 10
RAM: 8 GB
Storage Capacity (as Tested): 256 GB
Graphics Card: Intel HD Graphics 520
Screen Size: 13.3 inches
Weight: 2.85 lb
Screen Type: Widescreen
Native Resolution: 3200 x 1800
Storage Type: SSD
Rotation Speed: SSD
Networking Options: 802.11ac (2.4+5.0 GHz Dual-band)
Wireless Display Capability (WiDi): Yes
Battery Type: 56 Whr (Watt hours)
Battery Rundown - Standard Battery: 9:02
PCMark 8 - Work Conventional: 2450
3DMark - Cloud Gate: 5606
3DMark - Fire Strike Extreme: 379
Heaven 4.0 - Medium Quality - 1366 x 768 - Off: 19
Heaven 4.0 - Ultra Quality - Native - 4X: 2
Valley 1.0 - Medium Quality - 1366 x 768 - Off: 23
Valley 1.0 - Ultra Quality - Native 4X: 2
Handbrake 0.9.9: 2:29 min:sec
CineBench R15: 286
Photoshop CS6 Multimedia Tests: 4:44 min:sec
Heaven 4.0 - Ultra Quality - Native - 4X 2
Valley 1.0 - Ultra Quality - Native 4X 2
Valley 1.0 - Medium Quality - 1366 x 768 - Off 23
Heaven 4.0 - Medium Quality - 1366 x 768 - Off 19
3DMark - Fire Strike Extreme 379
Handbrake 0.9.9 2:29
CineBench R15 286
PCMark 8 - Work Conventional 2450
3DMark - Cloud Gate 5606
Photoshop CS6 Multimedia Tests 4:44
Battery Rundown - Standard Battery 9:02