Note: This article was first published on 8 January 2020.
The Dell XPS 13 has long been one of the best-looking ultrabooks around, boasting a deliciously compact form factor and a gorgeous edge-to-edge display. With the announcement of the new 2020 model, Dell may have just cemented its place on top of the ultrabook pile, at least in terms of design. The new XPS 13 is – to put it simply – stunning, with Dell lopping off the bottom bezel and making it even thinner.
The fit and finish is impeccable, and the laptop features a CNC-machined aluminum body in either platinum silver or a white colour Dell is dubbing "frost". Dell says it's cut from a block of aluminum in just two pieces, an approach that is more durable than piecing the machine together from more parts.
In addition, the edges are double-anodised, which makes them more durable and resistant to scratches. It's not uncommon to scuff up the side of your notebook as you try to plug in your peripherals, so the new design is supposed to help with that.
Dell also kept talking up the amount of attention it paid to the tiniest details. For instance, an XPS logo sits on the bottom panel, but it hasn't simply been etched there by laser. Instead, the logo was laser-cut out of a sheet of stainless steel and placed into the recess by hand.
The black and white palm rests, which come with the platinum silver and frost colour respectively, also differ from one another. The black model is made from carbon fibre that is as strong as aluminum but lighter, which helps reduce the overall weight. On the other hand, the "arctic white" palm rests are made from woven glass fibres, which also come with a UV- and stain-resistant coating to stay clean over time. It also has a more silky texture and an attractive sheen that's quite eye-catching.
The chassis also tapers to a super thin edge – it looks great, and feels even better in hand. It measures just 14.8mm at its thickest point at the rear, and weighs just 1.2kg (or 1.27kg for the touchscreen model). This is one laptop that you can just slip into your bag and forget about.
But the main highlight of the new XPS 13 has to be its display. It's larger than before at 13.4-inches, boasting also a crisp 3,840 x 2,400-pixel resolution. Alternatively, there is the option for a lower resolution 1,920 x 1,200-pixel screen, in case you decide you don't need 4K. You'll notice the new 16:10 aspect ratio, which is better for viewing documents, and Dell managed this by shrinking the bottom bezel from 19.5mm to only 4.6mm.
Many so-called edge-to-edge screens really only have slim bezels on three sides, and that was the case on the old XPS 13 as well. The new model finally achieves a true bezel-less look, and it's absolutely stunning. You kind of just want to keep staring at it, and I expect this will be one of the biggest selling points of the XPS 13 for many people.
The display is topped with Corning Gorilla Glass 6, which has been bonded to the aluminum. The tiny 2.25mm infrared webcam still sits in the top bezel, so Dell has thankfully ended its dalliance with odd bottom-mounted cameras for good.
Dell has had to change the design of the hinge to accommodate the larger display too, and the new twin-coil press fit hinge sports a smaller cutout above the palm rest for a cleaner look.
On top of that, the keyboard has been improved as well, with the new layout utilising the available space more efficiently. The keyboard now spans the entire length of the base and features slightly larger keycaps and trackpad. The small-ish trackpad was one of the flaws of the old XPS 13, but Dell has tried to make things better this time around.
The keyboard has a 1mm travel distance – it doesn't seem great on paper but the sensible spacing between keys and larger keycaps help create a fairly comfortable typing experience.
The power button has been integrated into the keyboard's layout too, instead of sitting off by itself at the right. It doubles as a fingerprint reader, letting you sign in quickly using Windows Hello.
For better or worse, Dell also cleaned up the sides of the notebook. The four-LED battery indicator is gone, and you now get just two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a microSD card slot, and a headphone jack. In comparison, its predecessor had an extra USB-C port. I much prefer the new look because of just how uncluttered it is, but the battery indicator was pretty useful.
To round off, here's an overview of the specs of the laptop:
The latest version of the Dell XPS 13 could be one of the laptops to beat in 2020. It combines a luxurious design with top-notch specifications, and it's looking like quite the winner. That said, you can expect it to cost quite a lot when it arrives. A laptop for the masses, this is not.