The great ultraportable notebook shootout (2021 edition)

By Kenny Yeo - 14 Nov 2021

Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13

The Dell XPS 13 is one of the most compact notebooks thanks to those barely-there bezels.

The Dell XPS 13 has always been one of the most desirable ultraportable notebooks and it’s easy to see why. Its aluminium body looks expensive and the entire notebook feels exceedingly well put together. The design hasn’t really changed over the years but there’s no real reason for it to. It’s attractive and also very compact. The only bad thing you could say about it is that it feels a little dense and heavy.

The screen is Dell’s InfinityEdge display which means very thin bezels. Other brands have caught up but the XPS 13’s bezels are still one of the slimmest. Despite the slim bezels, the webcam is positioned above the display and it supports Windows Hello. However, the webcam’s resolution is just 720p and the quality, like most other notebook webcams, is just passable.

The bezels are impossibly thin, The display itself is sharp and has accurate-looking vibrant colours.

The XPS 13’s display has a 16:10 aspect ratio and depending on spec, will support either Full-HD+ (1,920 x 1,200 pixels) or UHD+ (3,840 x 2,400 pixels) resolutions. My unit had the latter and it’s brilliant. As you’d expect from a notebook that comes from the world’s number one computer monitor brand, the display is sharp with vibrant colours and gets really bright. It’s handily the best display in this shootout. It also supports touch inputs and it’s protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 6.

The XPS 13 is just 14.8mm thick.

The XPS 13 is available in a variety of configurations, all with Intel’s new Tiger Lake processor. The unit I have has the following specifications:

  • 13.4-inch 4K+ touchscreen display
  • Intel Core i7-1165G7
  • 16GB memory
  • 512GB SSD
  • Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics

This particular spec will set you back S$2,599. This makes it one of the pricier notebooks but the premium is somewhat justified by its exceptional build quality and mega display.

Ports are a bit of an issue for the XPS 13. Apart from the microSD card reader and 3.5mm audio jack, there are only two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports. One of them has to be used for charging so some sort of hub or adapter is likely necessary if you plan on using peripherals with this notebook. There are no USB-A ports on this notebook.

The on right is a single USB-C Thunderbolt 4 port and a 3.5mm audio jack.

The trackpad is a little small but at least it’s smooth and accurate. Dell has maximised the use of vertical space but they could have made the trackpad wider. The keyboard is a joy to type on. The layout is sensible, the keys are large, and they have a tactile snappy feel to them. 

The feel of the keyboard is one of the best. The trackpad is a little small but Dell has made it just about as large as they could have.

The speakers are above average for a notebook of its class. They get really loud and they sound quite balanced. There’s some sense of bass and the mids sound present, but the treble is tinny. Even so, it’s doubtlessly the best-sounding notebook in this shootout.

The XPS 13 has always been one of the most well-rounded ultraportables and this latest model from Dell continues the tradition. The build is fantastic, the display is gorgeous, the keyboard, trackpad, and speakers are all top-notch too. We’ll just have to see if it can deliver on the performance front to justify its high price tag.

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