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Review: Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 Is A Solid Option For Convertible Fans

The CRN Test Center finds some major pluses, along with a few trade-offs, with the first-ever convertible XPS 13.

For anyone in the market for a 2-in-1 laptop, Dell's convertible version of the XPS 13 ought to be on the short list.

Debuted last month at CES 2017, it's the first time Dell has released a 2-in-1 edition of the popular XPS 13. It also followed closely on the heels of a fall update to the standard XPS 13, which we considered one of the best laptops of 2016.

After our tryout in the CRN Test Center, we think the XPS 13 2-in-1 deserves a look -- even in the increasingly crowded convertibles field -- in large part because of the similarities with the original.

[Related: Head-To-Head: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 Vs. Lenovo X1 Yoga 2017]

One biggie is the nearly bezel-free 13.3-inch display, which is borrowed from the standard XPS 13. The lack of a display border means the laptop feels small (akin to an 11-inch laptop) while still having a lot of screen space to work on. No other convertible on the market has a surface area as small as on the XPS 13 2-in-1, according to Dell.

The 2-in-1 version also features the same machined aluminum exterior and carbon fiber palm rest as the original -- a very appealing design that's also highly durable.

Ultimately, Dell didn't make too many aesthetic changes to the 2-in-1 version, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The steel-and-aluminum hinge is one external difference, and the hinge worked well in our tryout when converting the laptop to stand or tablet mode.


Most of the differences are inside, though. The processor and battery might be the two most dramatic changes.

Dell has favored low-power processors -- the seventh-gen Y-series Intel Core I processors (formerly known as Core M), which don't require a fan and aim to aid with battery life.

The processors don't have quite as much giddyap as the U-series Intel Core i line, which is used in the standard XPS 13.

Our test model featured the Core i7-7Y75 processor, and not surprisingly the performance in our tryout was a bit behind that of the standard XPS 13 (and of other laptops with the seventh-gen U-series chips that we've tried out). In particular, the XPS 13 2-in-1 was just not quite as speedy when loading web pages.

But we'd still rate the performance as up to snuff for productivity tasks -- it handled our multitasking without slowdowns. Dell notes that it's taken measures to close the performance gap between the Y-series and U-series by developing a feature it calls "Dynamic Power Mode," for delivering higher power in short bursts as needed for heavy workloads.

Dell includes a 23 percent smaller battery in the XPS 13 convertible than on the standard version -- 46WHr versus 60WHr. In our tryout, we got 6.5 hours of battery life on a charge.

That's not too bad, considering we were using the touch screen a fair amount and putting the laptop through fairly heavy usage overall, to try to simulate normal conditions (we also had the brightness set to 75 percent).

But it's well short of the 10 hours of battery life that we got for the standard XPS 13 (worth noting: that was for a non-touch version).


Dell's efforts around keeping the battery small and having a low-power, fanless processor help allow for another difference — around slimness. The convertible version measures 0.54 of an inch thick—putting it up there with the thinnest laptops on the market -- versus the 0.6 of an inch thick with the original XPS 13.

The slimness is nice, but we're a bit surprised that the XPS 13 2-in-1 still weighs the same 2.7 pounds as the original non-touch version.

And there's yet another trade-off related to the slim profile of the machine. The XPS 13 2-in-1 doesn't have a multitude or diversity of ports, with two USB-C ports and an SD card slot as the only options.

Thankfully, Dell has included a USB-C to USB-A converter with every XPS 13 2-in-1. But that of course means carrying another wire around. By contrast, the standard XPS 13 includes two USB-A ports plus a USB-C port and SD card slot.

Thin laptops are in, but whether or not all of the trade-offs are worth it will be up to the user. And keep in mind that the original XPS 13 is still pretty thin itself.

Ultimately, we can see the XPS 13 2-in-1 appealing to those looking for a convertible that rates high on portability and design without sacrificing too much on horsepower, durability or battery life.

Our tryout model -- with the i7 Y-series processor, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB of storage and a 1,920 x 1,080 display — comes with a price tag of $1,299, which seems fair. The starting price of the XPS 13 is $999, and models with a higher-res (2,560 x 1,440) display and additional RAM and storage are available as well.

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