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CES 2019: Dell Launches New XPS 13 That Fixes Webcam Placement

At last, Dell has moved the webcam to a position above the display on the XPS 13 laptop.

Dell's productivity-friendly XPS 13 has been terrific for many years now, and the notebook has consistently gotten better with each new update we've tried at the CRN Test Center. But the webcam placement has remained a weakness.

First the webcam appeared in the lower left corner below the display, then last year it moved to a position centered beneath the display. Neither provided a flattering angle.

[Related: Microsoft Surface Pro 6 Vs. Dell XPS 13]

Now, with Dell's update to the XPS 13 for 2019, the webcam is situated above the display where it belongs. Dell is using CES 2019 in Las Vegas this week to show off the new XPS 13, which may just have inched a bit closer to perfection with the webcam move.

There are plenty of other enhancements in the update, too. What follows are five key things to know about Dell's new XPS 13 for 2019.

Webcam

In our review of Dell's major redesign to the XPS 13 last year, we found it surprising that Dell offered just a half-measure on the webcam placement issue. By moving the webcam from the lower left corner to a spot beneath the display, the webcam still didn't make you look great. The webcam in our model actually captured the top of the keyboard unless we tilted the display back a fair amount.

Dell's reluctance to move the webcam above the display has been due to the XPS 13's "InfinityEdge" design, which features a minuscule bezel above the display. It's been one of the most appealing things about the aesthetics of the XPS 13, but it left no room for a webcam.

That's all in the past now, as Dell says it's found a solution. The new XPS 13 will sport a much smaller camera—at just 2.25mm in size—that can fit more easily above the display.

The bezel above the display has been increased slightly to accommodate the webcam, but it shouldn't be too noticeable based on our viewing of the new model. Judging by the importance of remote videoconferencing in the modern workplace, this seems like this is a worthwhile trade-off.

Dell also says the video quality has improved with the new camera thanks to the use of a four-element lens. The new webcam offers enhanced sharpness and features image focusing technologies usually reserved for smartphone cameras, as well as improved video quality in dim lighting, according to Dell.

Colors & Display

Another major update with the new XPS 13 is on the available colors, with the addition of a new color scheme: a "frost" (anodized white) exterior body with an "arctic white" interior. The white woven-glass fiber interior first appeared last year with the rose gold XPS 13 model, and that rose gold/arctic white color combo will be offered again this year—as will a silver exterior/black interior model.

For the 13.3-inch display, there will once again be a few different options for the 2019 XPS 13. Those include a touch screen with UHD/4K (3,840 x 2,160) resolution; a touch screen with FHD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution; and a non-touch FHD display. The display is also very bright with up to 400 nits of brightness available.

Processor & Battery Life

The updated XPS 13 moves up to faster new processors from Intel's eighth-gen "Whiskey Lake" series, and Dell is staking a claim that the notebook is the "most powerful 13-inch in its class." Options include Core i3/i5/i7, topping out at the Core i7-8565U (quad-core, up to 4.6GHz). Dell says the processor update brings a 10 percent improvement on performance over the 2018 model (which was already speedy).

Dell is also touting strong battery life for the new XPS 13, with a promise of up to 21 hours on a charge. That’s presumably for the FHD rather than UHD display.

Additionally, battery life will likely be a good deal less in heavy real-world usage. But past XPS 13 models have performed well when it came to battery life, suggesting the updated model will be no different.

Meanwhile, the new XPS 13 offers improved thermal management for faster cool-down, thanks to the use of glass fiber filaments. The number of heat pipes and fans have also been doubled on the new model to help with cooling, according to Dell.

Form Factor

For last year's XPS 13, Dell carried out a major redesign that saw a significant reduction of the notebook's overall size. The bezels around the display got narrower, and the notebook got much thinner at just 0.46 of an inch thick (compared to 0.6 of an inch previously). Meanwhile, the weight was brought down to 2.7 pounds from 2.9 pounds previously.

Dell hasn't tinkered with the form factor this year. While the bezel is now slightly bigger above the display, the bezel below the display is a bit smaller to accommodate, enabling the same overall size for the XPS 13. That means the thickness stays at 0.46 of an inch—to remain as one of the thinnest laptops out there—while the weight stays at a very manageable 2.7 pounds.

Price & Availability

The starting price for Dell's new XPS 13 for 2019 is $899.99. The release date for the new XPS 13 depends on the color and display configuration, according to Dell:

  • Available today: UHD touch screen in silver; UHD touch screen in rose gold
  • Available late January: UHD touch screen in frost; FHD non-touch in silver, rose gold and frost
  • Available after January: FHD touch screen in silver
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