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Review: Dell's XPS 13 For 2017 Closes In On Perfection

The CRN Test Center does a deep dive with the latest edition of Dell's powerful and portable laptop.

With the latest update to the XPS 13, it remains our favorite Dell laptop and one of our top picks for a Windows laptop overall at the CRN Test Center.

Few other laptops manage to combine portability, speed and battery life as effectively as the XPS 13, updated for 2017 with the latest Intel processors.

[Related: Review: Lenovo's Yoga 920 Is A Windows 2-in-1 That Could Lure MacBook Pro Fans]

One downside of previous models -- the camera placement at the bottom left side of the screen -- persists with the 2017 model. But in basically all other regards, the newest XPS 13 is a joy to use.

A top highlight is the brightness and clarity of the 13.3-inch display, which is a QHD+ touch screen in our tryout model. The display will cost you an extra $350, but we recommend it. The display goes up to 400 nits of brightness, and even set to 75 percent the display looks incredibly bright.

The XPS 13 is a clamshell, not a 2-in-1, so the touch screen doesn't have the same foldability of many other laptops hitting the market (it doesn't even go back a full 180 degrees).

The XPS 13 maintains the almost nonexistent bezel on the top, left and right sides of the display, which keeps the laptop to a relatively small size overall (Dell says it's equal in size to a typical 11-inch laptop).

Other design elements, such as the aluminum casing and carbon-fiber palm rest, continue to give the XPS 13 an appealing look.

There's been much criticism of the camera placement in the past, since the angle is unflattering, so it's surprising that Dell hasn't found a satisfying solution yet. The placement may be a deal-breaker for some users, but all laptops have trade-offs and this isn't one of the worst in our view, since webcam usage is likely to be minimal for many users.

The performance of the latest XPS 13 is fast and smooth, which can be attributed to a combination of Intel's eighth-gen Core i7 processor (quad-core, from the Kaby Lake R series), 16 GB of RAM, and Killer 1535 wireless connectivity. Web pages load rapidly, and keeping an absurd number of windows open is no issue.


The touchpad and keyboard are both terrific on the XPS 13. It's the best touchpad on a Dell laptop that we've tried, thanks to the use of Microsoft's Precision Touchpad technology. And the keyboard is comfortable and quiet — by way of comparison, we definitely prefer it to the keyboard on the other laptop we reviewed in recent weeks, Lenovo's Yoga 920.

We got 7.5 hours of battery life in our tryout of the XPS 13, with heavy multitasking usage and the screen at 75 percent brightness. Those are great results for a high-brightness, high-res touch-screen laptop. Turning on the battery saver and lowering the brightness would of course lengthen the battery life further.

Even with all of this horsepower, battery life and high-res touch-screen capability, Dell keeps the XPS 13 to a thickness of 0.6 of an inch and a weight of 2.9 pounds.

The XPS 13 model that we tried out (QHD+ touch screen, eighth-gen Core i7) is currently priced at $1,550 on Dell.com. That strikes us as something of a bargain for everything it brings together (though normal pricing puts the model at $1,750). Without the touch screen, the laptop is currently priced at $1,200. A lower-cost model with an eighth-gen Core i5 processor hasn't been released yet.

All around, apart from the camera placement, there's a whole lot to like with the latest XPS 13 and we highly recommend it for on-the-go productivity.

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