Dell Skylake XPS 13 review: The best ultrabook just got better

At first glance, most would dismiss Dell’s 2016 refresh of the XPS 13 as minor at best. If you dig into the details though, the upgrade to arguably the best ultrabook of last year is a worthy one.

The highlights are the move from the 5th-gen Broadwell Intel chip to a 6th-gen Skylake chip and the inclusion of a rather cool USB-C implementation that we’ll get into later, but there’s a whole lot more here.

If you didn’t catch our review of the XPS 13 last year, I can sum it up as: great performance, reasonably priced, good build quality and the smallest laptop in its class with a 13-inch screen. I mean, for a 13-inch laptop, this thing is freaking small.

Its footprint clearly puts it in the same class as laptops with far smaller screens, such as the MacBook air 11 or Toshiba Radius 12. As their names imply, those use 11-inch or 12-inch screens. I’d almost put the XPS 13 on a par with Apple’s MacBook (Not Air) 12, but the MacBook 12 is an especially lightweight beast.

Gordon Mah Ung

The updated XPS 13’s footprint is still spectacular. Here is last year’s virtually identical model on top of a MacBook Air 13.

While the XPS 13’s footprint isn’t that much bigger than the MacBook 12’s, the updated XPS 13 is heavier and thicker, as this massive profile shot I lined up below illustrates. As much as some might want to put the MacBook 12 in the same class as the XPS 13, it’s not. Don’t be fooled by the visual curved surfaces the laptop makers use to make you think they’re thinner either. I measured the three contenders and found the Asus UX305 to be the thinnest, with Lenovo’s older Yoga 3 Pro slightly thicker. Truth be told, we’re talking millimeters of difference.

The XPS 13 continues to be built more like what they’d call in the old days, a fire plug. 

Gordon Mah Ung

From top to bottom: Apple MacBook 12, Apple MacBook Air 11 (2014), Dell XPS 13 (2016), Toshiba Radius 12, Apple MacBook Pro (2015), Asus UX305 (2016), HP Spectre X360 (2015), Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, Lenovo Yoga 900, Dell XPS 15 (2016).

Externally, it’s virtually identical to last year’s model. The only tell is the displacement of the mini DisplayPort from last year’s model to a USB-C port. USB-C allows for reversible USB cables that support multiple standards. While I welcome reversible cables, I don’t welcome the confusion. While the USB-C or USB Type-C connector can support many standards, they’re optional. That means not all USB-C cables support higher data rates. Or DisplayPort. Or Thunderbolt 3. It just depends.

In Dell’s case, it took the smart route by supporting pretty much all the standards you need. It has USB 3.1’s 10Gbps data rates, DisplayPort out (using a dongle) and Thunderbolt 3. That means anything you can fit into this port is probably going to work.

1 Comment
  1. Reply Nika 07.08.2016 at 10:23

    I like this Dell! Very good laptop for me and other man, it’s really. Best design of laptops.

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