Tech review: Dell XPS 13 (2020) is as excellent as ever

The Dell XPS 13 (available on Lazada and Shopee) has been the gold standard for premium Windows laptops over the years.

Even its less inspired iterations have made the best of the year list of many reviewers, including this one.

This year’s model looks to be no exception. The latest XPS 13 retains the familiar sleek design of its predecessor and Dell has made a few tweaks that bring it closer to perfection.

The screen, for instance, has narrow bezels on all four sides, unlike last year’s model which has a relatively thick bottom bezel.

The keys are now larger, with Dell extending the keyboard right to the left and right edges. Key travel is decent seeing as the laptop is only around 15mm thick. Meanwhile, the smooth glass touchpad has increased by 17 per cent in size, making multi-touch gestures easier to execute.

Dell has managed to squeeze a tiny Web camera in the barely-there top bezel and, more importantly, an infrared camera alongside for facial recognition.

Last year’s XPS 13 did not support facial recognition and instead offered a fingerprint sensor integrated in the power button. The 2020 version still has this fingerprint sensor, so you get to pick between using fingerprint and face.

There is, however, still some room for improvement. For instance, I found it hard to grip the lid to open it as there isn’t a pronounced notch at the front lip.

And while I can open the lid with one hand, it takes a bit of effort. I suppose Dell has to balance the ease of opening the lid with ensuring that the touchscreen remains stable when users are tapping on it.

Background Story

FOR

Crisp and bright 4K display

Near-bezel-less screen

Return of facial recognition feature

AGAINST

Dongle required for USB Type-A devices

Middling battery life on 4K model

One fewer port than predecessor

SPECS

Price: $3,199

Processor: Intel Core i7-1065G7 (1.3GHz)

Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics

RAM: 16GB DDR4

Screen size: 13.4 inches, 3,840 x 2,160 pixels

Connectivity: 2 x Thunderbolt 3 ports, microSD card reader, audio jack

Battery: 52 watt-hour

RATING

Features: 4.5/5

Design: 5/5

Performance: 4/5

Value for money: 3.5/5

Battery life: 3.5/5

Overall: 4.5/5

ST Tech Editor’s Choice

My other grouse is that the XPS 13 comes with one fewer USB-C port than last year’s model. It has two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports (that are also used to charge the laptop) and a headphone jack. Like recent XPS 13 models, a dongle is required to connect an external storage drive or a monitor. Dell includes a USB-C to USB-A dongle.

I tested the silver and white model, which has a glass fibre palm rest that is more comfortable to touch than the laptop’s stiff and rigid aluminium chassis. The black version has a carbon fibre palm rest.

My souped-up model also comes with a crisp 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) touchscreen that is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 6. This screen is rated at 500 nits, which is extremely bright. Thankfully, there is an integrated light sensor that adjusts the screen brightness automatically according to ambient light.

The display supports Dolby Vision, which is available for those who subscribe to Netflix’s premium plan. The visuals are excellent for a laptop screen – vibrant but not overly saturated. The anti-glare coating does a good job of keeping reflections in check, despite the screen’s glossy finish.

In terms of computing hardware, the XPS 13 has a standard configuration with the latest components, such as an Intel Core i7-1065G7 chip, 16GB of system memory and a 1TB solid-state drive. In the PCMark 10 benchmark, it scored 3,976, which is similar to that of the LG gram 17 (3,848). The LG uses the same Intel processor but has only 8GB of memory.

In The Straits Times video-loop battery test, the XPS 13 clocked just under five hours, which is roughly two hours short of most ultrabooks. This is likely due to the XPS 13’s bright 4K screen. Seeing as the XPS 13 has a decent-sized 52 watt-hour battery, you should get much better uptime if you pick the 1,920 x 1,080-pixel screen option instead.

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