Dell XPS 9300 the latest in Windows laptops

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Dell XPS 9300 the latest in Windows laptops
Dell XPS 9300 the latest in Windows laptops

In recent years we have seen interesting experiments in laptop format, such as the use of two screens to offer more possibilities, or new hinge designs to offer two experiences in one.

But what if you only want one laptop, one that ignores these fads and focuses on what really matters, one that, preferably, uses Windows? If you don’t mind using a Mac, the only question is the size and price of your new MacBook Pro. But if you want to use your Windows programs, you have so many options that it can be hard to find the right one. Of course, you can simply buy a Dell XPS.

Dell XPS 9300: the best portability

We have been able to test what will probably be one of the most popular models in Dell’s new XPS range: the 13-inch model, defined as the 9300 model. It is the one that bets more on portability, and therefore, the one that has more risk of making a fatal mistake.

The problem with netbooks has always been their total bet on format, above even something as basic as the user experience. They are devices that you buy because they are small and light, not because of what they can offer you.

Everyone knows the XPS 15 is going to be good, but what about the ‘little brother’? I’ve been able to spend a few weeks with this one, and what I’ve discovered has been nice, and I fall short.

Quality finishes

This is a Dell, and that means two things: it’s going to be a little more expensive than the competition, but you’re going to notice it in the quality of manufacturing. The new XPS 13 is no exception: as soon as you take it out of the box you notice the difference in the feel of the aluminium.

Even when closed, the Dell XPS 13 shows quality finishes
Even when closed, the Dell XPS 13 shows quality finishes

When it comes to design, we have to admit that Dell has not reinvented the wheel. At first glance, it not only looks like a conventional laptop, but the quintessence of the laptop; only when we open it do we realize details that make it special. An act that, by the way, is easier than it seems; the new hinge allows us to open the laptop with just one hand.

The first of these details is the stylish carbon fibre finish on the wrist rest, something that can cause division of opinion; I personally love that this effect is being adopted by the industry, but it is no less true that many people would prefer something simpler.

At least we can say that it is not distracting and the difference is not noticeable to the touch. The version we have received is in black, but it is also possible to get it in white, and from the images, it looks very elegant.

A screen that looks bigger than it is

It may surprise you that I’ve called a 13-inch model “ultra-portable”, which may be just a little smaller than 14-inch models; but the truth is that the XPS 13 9300 is ultra-portable in size: 296 mm x 199 mm, and it looks like it.

Carbon fiber effect on the new Dell XPS 13
Carbon fiber effect on the new Dell XPS 13

The secret is in the screen, which thanks to its thin edges doesn’t take up much more than 13 inches, so the size of the notebook is actually closer to an 11 or 12 inch. This is a ‘trick’ that Apple has recently used very effectively on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, but which Dell has been using for some time now: it’s called InfinityEdge.

The result is that the screen looks bigger than it really is; it’s a strange feeling, but one that you quickly get used to. After all, practically the whole front of the laptop is a screen: 91.5% according to Dell.

Minimal edges don’t shift the webcam

The edges have been reduced to the point of being imperceptible, as if the screen were floating in front of our hands; the design of the hinge also helps to hide plastic and give all the prominence to the screen.

The Dell XPS 13 webcam is still where it should be
The Dell XPS 13 webcam is still where it should be

But best of all, unlike other brands, Dell has managed to put the webcam in the top edge of the screen, its traditional place. In recent years, the fever to get the thinnest edges has forced you to experiment with different positions, such as the bottom edge or even inside a key. But that’s not exactly ideal for video calls, as many people are discovering in the age of Zoom.

Despite being 2.25mm thick, Dell has managed to integrate a four element lens to achieve decent quality; but more importantly, this makes the recording angle much more natural and doesn’t feel like we’re looking down on the rest.

A panel you can look at as you like

We can choose between two resolutions: FHD+ (1920 x 1200 pixels) or 4K (3840 x 2400 pixels); the model we’ve been able to test is the first, but it’s not the worst. In fact, at this size, and with this hardware, I would say that it is the ideal resolution, and this panel keeps the features that matter: a contrast of 1800:1 and a brightness of 500 nit.

By choosing the FHD+ screen you will lose the HDR400 support (although it keeps Dolby Vision), but unless that is a priority, with the FHD+ screen it should be enough. Especially as we still have incredible viewing angles of 178 degrees, so it really doesn’t matter how you look at your laptop. If we add to that the 500 nits brightness, the truth is that I haven’t had any problem using this laptop in different situations, except for the moments when the sun rays reflect directly against the screen.

Tenth generation Intel Core

Another reason to opt for FHD+ resolution is that it is much more appropriate for the hardware that the XPS 13 can be mounted on, but this doesn’t mean it’s not powerful; it offers the appropriate performance for such a laptop, but don’t wait any longer.

Of course, Dell has made the leap to the tenth generation of Intel Core processors, but it has done so by opting for the more modest, but also more efficient models, for reasons that we will explain later on.

This means that the most basic version of the XPS 13 uses the Core i5-1035G1 (up to 3.6 GHz), and the most complete, the Core i7-1065G7 (up to 3.9 GHz); by comparison, the 13-inch MacBook Pro has the most powerful versions of those same processors, the Core i5-1038G7 (up to 3.8 GHz) and the Core i7-1068G7 (up to 4.1 GHz).

The Powerful Windows PowerToys
The Powerful Windows PowerToys

Yes, all this means that the corresponding Apple model will always be more powerful, but this is a conscious decision on Dell’s part.

It won’t let you down, if you’re reasonable

The truth is that the differences, although they exist, do not translate into a slow system; the XPS 13 is capable of doing everything you ask of it, and more. The only question is how much you’re going to ask.

The model we have been able to test is based on the Intel Core i7-1065G7, accompanied by 16 GB of LPDDR4x RAM (no option to mount more) and an integrated Intel Iris Plus graphics (Intel UHD on the Core i5); with this computer, I have been able to work as I usually do, without problems. It is possible to use text editors, image manipulation programs and watch videos in high definition, all at the same time and without problems. For regular office use, the XPS 13 delivers the right performance.

The Dell XPS 13 supports labor-intensive tasks such as photo editing
The Dell XPS 13 supports labor-intensive tasks such as photo editing

Of course, if you want something else, that’s when the trouble starts; if you’re looking for a video editing machine anywhere, you’ll need something more powerful like an XPS 15 (which hasn’t made the jump to the tenth generation of Intel Core yet). Something that makes sense, since on a 13-inch screen, no matter how good it is, you really can’t do much.

And although Intel has improved a lot with its integrated graphics, this is not a computer to play with, unless you prefer older titles or don’t mind cutting down on the graphics quality. But let’s be honest, if you’re thinking of buying an XPS 13, that’s not your priority.

What it does, it does perfect

More importantly for you, the XPS 13 will be up to the task and won’t let you down, and in that sense we can say it’s more than up to the task. This is a laptop that you can take anywhere, thanks to its low weight of 1.2 kilograms, but it works like a conventional desktop computer.

At no time have I felt the need to turn on my personal computer to continue what I was doing; and that is the best praise I can think of for both the performance of the computer and the keyboard and trackpad assembly.

As far as the former is concerned, the keys have a proper travel; not the best, but by no means the worst. It doesn’t feel like you’re hitting the laptop directly, but after hours of work you’ll feel the consequences on your fingers. In addition, the top right key is actually the power button, which has a built-in fingerprint reader that supports Windows Hello, so you can turn your computer on and unlock it by simply placing your finger on it.

The power key on the Dell XPS 13 also has security features
The power key on the Dell XPS 13 also has security features

The trackpad suffers especially from the size of the laptop and therefore I recommend carrying a mouse with it; but for an emergency or for casual use, it offers a good feeling.

Portability is the strong point in the experience of using the XPS 13. Closing your laptop, picking it up and taking it somewhere else is almost as easy as carrying a tablet; and in fact, while using this laptop I’ve been rethinking whether the idea of using a tablet for these tasks really makes sense.

While I was ‘rocking the boat’, I noticed that the XPS 13 behaved exceptionally well; a suspicion that I confirmed when I saw that, even when all the cores are working at their maximum, the laptop never gets too hot.

The trackpad of the Dell XPS 13 could be bigger
The trackpad of the Dell XPS 13 could be bigger

In tests with Aida64, I found no signs of thermal throttling, which consists of lowering the frequency of the cores when they get too hot; in the XPS 13, they all stayed at maximum frequency regardless of the work. That speaks to an outstanding thermal design by Dell’s engineers.

The new benchmark

My experience with the Dell XPS 13 has been exceptional. It’s the typical product that focuses on doing one thing, and doing it well; in this case, it gives us the experience of a Windows system, anywhere and without the hassle.

In my articles I always try to look for a ‘but’, even in devices that I have liked a lot; but in this case, I really have little to say about it. Yes, it could be more powerful, it could have a bigger trackpad, it could offer more different connections (2 Thunderbolt for each USB-C, an audio jack and a microSD card reader is all you have).

The Dell XPS 13 occupies an important niche in the market
The Dell XPS 13 occupies an important niche in the market

But then, it wouldn’t be the XPS 13. It would be something else. Those are not failures, but consequences of having chosen this type of laptop; and they come with important advantages, such as an exceptional thermal design, a good keyboard, a screen that is a pleasure to look at, a pioneering webcam and a practical format.

The XPS 13 9300 is a small, lightweight, and capable laptop, and sometimes you just need that. Most of the time, in fact.

The Dell XPS 13 9300 is available starting at $1,149 on the Dell website.

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