I usually shy away from Windows 8 laptops. The interface isn’t as natural as what you’d find with OS X and Windows 7. Many of them have displays that twist around and fold, which I don’t find much use for.
But Dell’s newest XPS 13 laptop is so excellent it persuaded me to give up my personal MacBook for Windows 8 for a week.
The XPS 13 is light, gorgeous, and works well. If you want a Windows machine that’s just as good, and perhaps better than, the MacBook Air, this is the laptop to buy.
The XPS 13 comes in a few different configurations. My review unit comes with a 3,200 x 1,800 resolution touch screen, 256GB of solid state storage, 8GB of memory, and a Core i5 Intel processor for $US1,399. If you wanted to go for the non-touch screen option with all of the same specifications, it would cost $US200 less than a 13-inch MacBook Air with the same storage, memory, and processor.
You can get an entry level model without a touchscreen, a 1080p display, 128GB of storage, 4GB of memory, and a Core i3 processor for $US799.
No matter what configuration you choose, you’ll probably be impressed with the XPS 13’s screen. Dell’s latest 13-inch laptop uses what it describes as an “infinity display,” meaning the screen itself stretches almost completely from edge-to-edge. There’s barely any bezel at all — which allows Dell to make a laptop that’s the same size as a typical 11-inch notebook, but has a 13-inch screen.
The so-called “infinity display” looks gorgeous too; colours really pop and images look bold. The screen itself is glossy, which I liked, but some may find distracting since it produces a bit of glare. It wasn’t overwhelming though, and the glossy texture is necessary to make swiping the touchscreen easy and comfortable.
The one problem I had with the screen, however, was that it seemed rather dim. Whenever I used it I had to keep the brightness cranked all the way up or at least above halfway to see content on the display easily.
Even though the XPS 13 is a bit cheaper than the MacBook Air, it’s one of the few Windows laptops that can actually stand up to Apple’s in terms of design. The lid and underside of the laptop are made of brushed aluminium, giving it a polished and premium look. When you open it up, you’ll notice the keyboard deck is coated with a soft carbon fibre material, which makes it comfortable to rest your wrists as you type.
Generally speaking, the keyboard is sturdy enough to make typing easy and enjoyable. But, if you’re being picky like me, you’ll notice the keyboard flexes a little bit when you press down on it. It’s a minor complaint, but one worth noting.
During normal use, the Dell PS 13 performed smoothly and quickly. Apps usually launched within two to three seconds, and the computer powered on in about 12 seconds.
And the Dell XPS 13 is powerful too. Since it runs on Intel’s newest processors, it boots up quickly and offers long battery life. With mixed usage, which included browsing the web, doing light work in Google Drive, and streaming content from Netflix, the laptop lasted for about nine hours. That’s impressive, especially since I had to leave the display brightness at its highest setting during the majority of the time I used it.
There are few negative things to be said about Dell’s new laptop. The glossy screen can sometimes produce glare, and the keyboard could be better. That’s about it.
So if you’re in the market for a new Windows laptop, the XPS 13 is one of the best you can buy. If you want a 13-inch screen, this is the smallest laptop you’ll find with a display of that size.
The borderless screen, lightweight design, and aluminium build make one of the sexiest laptops out there — it’s one of the only Windows laptops that can stand up to the MacBook Air in terms of sheer looks.