The new Dell XPS 13 is close to perfect. It is an immaculately crafted piece of technology and the best ultrabook I have tried this year.
While Windows ultra-thin laptops were originally made to compete with Apple's MacBook Air, the latest XPS 13 makes the Air look stodgy.
Slimmer and lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Air, the XPS 13 also has a smaller footprint. It is about the size of a laptop with a 12-inch screen, but has a 13-inch display.
It is the screen - bright, vivid and almost borderless - that is the XPS 13's standout feature. Dell said the bezel is 5.2mm thick, but it looks to me as if someone simply outlined the display with a black marker.
The downside of the thin bezel is that the Web camera is now at the bottom left corner of the display. During a video chat, the other party will probably be looking up your nostrils unless you tilt your head accordingly.
The touchscreen, dubbed the infinity display, is made by Sharp. Reportedly exclusive to Dell until August, it is not likely to appear on another laptop for some time.
Everything looks crisp and clear on the high-resolution, 3,200 x 1,800-pixel screen. But not all Windows apps work well at such a high resolution, so you may get fuzzy icons or formatting issues.
As expected of a premium ultrabook, the lid and the base of the XPS 13 are made of aluminium. Sandwiched in between (and providing a great visual contrast) is the black carbon-fibre palmrest, which is finished in soft touch paint. It is more comfortable to rest on than a cold metal surface.
The backlit keyboard has very good key travel for an ultrabook. It is paired with an excellent touchpad. Smooth and responsive, this is one of the best touchpads on a PC.
This ultrabook's compact size leaves little room for ports. But you still get two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader and a mini-DisplayPort. As in earlier models, there is a useful battery indicator. Press a button and the lights at the side will show the existing battery level, even when the laptop is switched off.
Inside the XPS 13 is a new fifth-generation Intel Core i7 chip. Though more capable than the low-powered Intel Core M chip, it does require a fan which can be audible when the laptop is running intensive apps.
In Digital Life's battery-life test, the XPS 13 ran for almost 61/2 hours at maximum brightness and volume. Considering its bright, high-resolution screen, this is fairly good.
In Singapore, only two versions are available - the $2,199 version reviewed here, and a $1,699 model with a Core i5 chip, 4GB RAM, 128GB storage and a non-touch 1,920 x 1,080-pixel screen.
I would have preferred something in between.
Processor: Intel Core i7-5500U (2.4GHz)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500
Screen size: 13.3 inches, 3,200 x 1,800 pixels
Connectivity: 2 x USB 3.0, mini-DisplayPort, SD card reader, audio jack
Battery: 52 watt-hour
Value for money: 3/5
Battery life: 4/5
This article was first published on Mar 18, 2015.
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