Product Review–Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook

Introduction

I am reviewing the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook which is Dell’s main foray in to the  Ultrabook thin-and-lignt market. The model I am covering is the more expensive unit which has a 256Gb solid-state drive

There are economy model of this computer, one with Intel i5 processor and 128Gb solid-state drive as the cheapest option and another mid-range model with an i5 processor and a 256Gb solid-state drive.

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook Rydges Melbourne

Price
– this configuration
AUD$1499 – online price from Dell
Processor Intel Sandy Bridge i7-2631M cheaper option – Intel Sandy Bridge i5-2467M
RAM 4Gb shared with graphics
Secondary storage 256Gb solid-state storage
cheaper – 128Gb solid-state storage
Display Subsystem Intel HD
Screen 13” widescreen (1366×768) LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD
Network Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
Bluetooth 3.0
Connectivity USB 2.0 x 2
Video DisplayPort
Audio 3.5mm audio input-output jack
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 7.0 Professional
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Overall: 5.6 Graphics:  5.6
Advanced Graphics: 5.9
Insert variants with relative price shifts

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

Like other Ultrabooks,, this Dell XPS 13 is very light and doesn’t take up much room in your shoulder bag. The unit is wrapped in an aluminium finish with the keyboard surrounded in a rubber-feel panel which doesn’t feel as sweaty to use.

At times the computer does feel warm underneath after a long session of use. This is more noticeable around the back edge and is more so if you are engaging in video-heavy or CPU-heavy tasks.

User Interface

Dell XPS 13 UltrabookThe Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook is equipped with an illuminated keyboard. But this keyboard does feel hard and has that cheap calculator-keyboard feel.  At least you can still touch-type on the keyboard easily. It als misses distinct keys for page-up / page-down functions which can be confusing when you are browsing a Web page.

The XPS’s trackpad doesn’t have distinctly marked-out buttons for selecting or confirming the options. This is similar to what is accepted on the MacBook computers and  it can be hard to locate the correct buttons by touch when you need to click or right-click that option.

The trackpad doesn’t respond to the double-tap = select gesture which is a common gesture for nearly all laptop trackpads.

Audio and Video

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook right hand side - USB 2.0 port, DisplayPort

Right hand side connections – USB 2.0 port and DisplayPort

The Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook performed properly, responsively and smoothly with video content. This included action content that I viewed as part of a video-on-demand show. It may not be all that suitable for some activities like intense gaming.

I used this Ultrabook with the previously-reviewed Turtle Beach headset and found that you need to enable the Realtek Waves MAXXAudio all the time to keep “punch”in the sound even for the TV show. Of course, I would not expect much for the integrated speakers especially if you want to play music or desire movies and games with the effects being there.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook left hand side connections - power, USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio in-out jack

Left-hand side connections – power, USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio input-output jack

The Dell XPS 13 is equipped with two USB 2.0 connectors, a 3.5mm audio input-output jack and a DisplayPort port for monitors and video adaptors. These are its only connectors, in order to achieve a very slim notebook.

This Ultrabook has a 256Gb solid-state drive as its secondary storage and, unlike mist laptop computers that I have used or reviewed, doesn’t come with a memory-card slot. This would be considered an omission for those of us who take the memory card out of our digital cameras as part of transferring our images to a computer.

Battery life

The battery does live up to the expectations for an Ultrabook’s battery with it being half-empty aftar a good afternoon’s worth of hotspot surfing.

Even viewing 1.5 hour’s worth of on-demand video had the battery meter registering 45%. Like the Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook, the Dell XPS 13 doesn’t support a hibernate mode for whenever you are not using the machine. Instead, the computer will stay in a “sleep mode” for a few hours then enter a “deep sleep”mode until you power it on.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook could benefit from a pair of USB 3.0 sockets rather than USB 2.0 sockets so as to take advantage of external USB hard disks. As well, it could be equipped with an HDMI socket or be supplied with an HDMI adaptor so that it can connect to just about every flatscreen TV in circulation.

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook rear viewAs I have said before, it definitely misses the SD card slot which would be important with digital-camera users who prefer to “remove the film” from the digital camera and this could be installed in the lid if you needed to balance out the space for the various hardware parts..

Conclusion

I would recommend that people purchase the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook as a secondary notebook computer to use while travelling or using your favourite cafe, bar or hotel lounge as your second office. This assumes that you have a larger laptop or desktop as your main computer where you do most of your work on. It could be sold for a bit cheaper based on the options that it has even though the solid-state drive is sold at a premium.

Also, I would recommend that people who have digital cameras purchase an SD card reader if you you need to remove the card from the camera to download pictures. As well,you would need to know where the computer is at all times because the machine isn’t equipped with a lockdown slot.

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