Hands on: The Dell XPS 13 Plus is the laptop of the future

Dell’s XPS PCs consistently tops best laptop lists from all around, including our own. They always have small footprints, amazing displays, and most importantly, they’re just great from almost every aspect that matters. So when Dell announced the XPS 13 Plus today, it’s something to take note of. After all, it’s a new member of the XPS family.

First of all, you’re probably wondering what’s so “Plus” about this thing. Aside from some radical design changes that deviate from the norm a bit too much to be folded into the standard XPS 13, the new Dell XPS 13 Plus is also meant to be the powerhouse of the 13-inch lineup.

Here’s how that works. Both the XPS 15 and XPS 17 come with beefy 45W CPUs and dedicated graphics, while historically, the XPS 13 and XPS 13 2-in-1 have come with 15W CPUs and integrated graphics. The Dell XPS 13 Plus comes with Intel’s new P-series processors, which are 28W.

These new CPUs come with up to 14 cores and 20 threads, with six performance cores and eight efficiency cores. Intel announced the new SKUs, along with its new U-series chips, today. Indeed, the new U-series processors, both UP3 and UP4, will only have two performance cores, so there’s a big difference.

Dell XPS 13 Plus Specs

Processor 12th Generation Intel Core i5-1240P (12MB
Cache, up to 4.4 GHz, 12 cores)
12th Generation Intel Core i7-1260P (18MB
Cache, up to 4.7 GHz, 12 cores)
12th Generation Intel Core i7-1270P (18MB
Cache, up to 4.8 GHz, 12 cores)
12th Generation Intel Core i7-1280P (24MB
Cache, up to 4.8 GHz, 14 cores)
Memory 8GB LPDDR5 128-bit Dual Channel at 5200MHz
16GB LPDDR5 128-bit Dual Channel at 5200MHz
32GB LPDDR5 128-bit Dual Channel at 5200MHz
Note: (onboard memory)
Storage 256GB PCIe 3 x4 SSD, 512GB PCIe 4 x4 SSD, 1TB PCIe 4 x4 SSD, 2TB PCIe 4 x4 SSD
Display 13.4-inch 4K UHD+ (3840×2400) InfinityEdge touch display; DisplayHDR 400, 500-nit, 90% DCI-P3 typical, 1650:1 contrast ratio, 0.3% antireflective, anti-smudge
13.4-inch 3.5K (3456 x 2160) InfinityEdge OLED touch display, DisplayHDR 500, 400-nit, 100% DCI-P3 color gamut, 100,000:1 contrast ratio, 0.5% anti-reflective, anti-smudge, Corning Gorilla Glass 7
13.4-inch FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge
touch display; 500-nits, 100% sRGB typical,
2000:1 contrast ratio, 0.3% anti-reflective, antismudge 13.4-inch FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge display; 500-nits, 100% sRGB typical, 2000:1 contrast ratio, anti-glare
All panels – Dolby Vision, Eyesafe technology, 178° wide viewing angle +/- 89° / 89° / 89° / 89°
Graphics Iris Xe
AC adapter 60W AC adapter, (USB Type-C)
Audio Studio quality tuning with Waves MaxxAudio Pro and Waves Nx 3D audio
Quad-speaker design with 8W total output
Dual microphone array optimized with Waves
MaxxVoice supporting VoIP – Microsoft Cortana capable
Construction CNC machined aluminum with glass palm rest in graphite
CNC machined aluminum with glass palm rest in platinum
Battery 55WHr battery (built-in)*
*Battery is built-in to the laptop and is not= replaceable by the customer.
Ports 2x Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type-C™) with DisplayPort and Power Delivery
1 USB-C to USB-A v3.0 adapter ships standard
Dimensions Height: 15.28 (0.60”) x Width: 295.3mm (11.63”) x Depth: 199.04mm (7.84”)
Starting weight: 1.24kg (2.73 lbs.)
Input Touch Display (optional)
2 Digital Array Microphones
Full size, backlit, zero-lattice keyboard; 1.0mm travel
Seamless glass, haptic ForcePad
Windows Hello fingerprint reader in power button & HD (720p) Windows Hello camera in upper bezel
Ambient Light Sensor for display backlight control
Wireless Intel® Killer™ Wi-Fi 6E 1675 (AX211) (2×2) + Bluetooth 5.2

Top down view of Dell XPS 13 Plus keyboard

Let’s take a look at the keyboard and the keyboard deck, because that’s where those radical changes are. While there are lots of big, n0table things that might stick out to you, the one that sticks out to me first is the keyboard itself. It has larger keys, and there’s no longer space between them.

Personally, I’m not a fan of this. Going back to designs like the Surface Pro 3 Type Cover, I thought we all collectively decided that islanded keys are a good thing. You’ll notice that the keyboard goes completely edge-to-edge, which is super cool.

The keyboard is actually really comfortable to type on. I’m just skeptical of keyboards that aren’t islanded.

Pressing the Fn key on laptop keyboard

Notice that if you hold down the Fn key, the capacitive shortcut keys actually turn into F keys. It’s another thing that just feels modern. I can’t tell you how many laptops I review where I don’t know if it will use the F key or the shortcut by default, so I may or may not have to hold the Fn key. This solves that, showing you exactly what the key will do.

Oh, and you might have noticed the lack of a touchpad, or at least the lack of one that you can see. It’s still there, exactly where you’d expect it to be. It’s just a haptic touchpad with no border.

I spent a fair bit of time messing around with that touchpad, trying to get it to break. I wasn’t able to. It’s shockingly good. Dell credits that to muscle memory, saying that users automatically know where a touchpad ends.

I tried a lot of multi-touch drag-and-drop operations too, something that I find often screws up haptic touchpads. You know, it’s when you drag it to the end of the touchpad, hold it down with that one finger, and use another finger to continue dragging from the top. It’s a simple maneuver on a mechanical touchpad. I didn’t run into any issues. You have to remember that if your finger runs off of the touchpad when doing that, it will drop whatever you’re dragging.

Everything seemed to just be intuitive. I’m still kind of surprised that I liked it so much.

Angled view of black laptop

Let’s talk about the rest of the design. What’s not so radical overall, but is radical for Dell XPS, is the design of the laptop as a whole. You’ll notice that it’s got a black or white interior, but gone is the carbon fiber or glass fiber weave look. These are flat colors. Those colors are called Platinum and Graphite, so you’re still getting that monochrome look.

One other thing to take note of is the webcam, which I did spend a little bit of time with, but I’ll explore more of it when I review the product later this year. It’s still 720p, but Dell said that it focused on making a better HD webcam instead of using an FHD sensor. It did seem pretty good in the lighting conditions I was in, but obviously, I’ll need further testing than I could do in one afternoon.

Intel announced its third-gen Evo specs today as well, and one of the items on it was a requirement for Evo-certified laptops to have an FHD webcam. There was also a little asterisk saying that some Evo laptops might not have an FHD webcam, and that it’s just strongly recommended. It’s interesting though, because we’re about to find out how much people care about webcam quality. Dell is producing an amazing new device, but with an HD webcam, in a market that’s about to be flooded by FHD webcams.

Angled view of white laptop

Nevertheless, the Dell XPS 13 Plus is exactly what a modern laptop should be. It looks to the future instead of clinging to relics of the past, something that all-too-many laptop-makers tend to do. Dell actually stopped and thought about how things could be, without having to wait for a cue from a company like Apple. Indeed, this is the laptop of the future.

The Dell XPS 13 Plus will be available this spring, starting at $1,199. I’ll be first on line to want to review it.

The post Hands on: The Dell XPS 13 Plus is the laptop of the future appeared first on xda-developers.

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