Dell changed the Windows laptop market in a single stroke with the launch of the updated XPS 13 back in 2015, ushering in the world of the InfinityEdge display, and moving the entire industry forward. We were fortunate enough to get a chance to check out the precursor to the new XPS 13 back in November, with a review of the XPS 13 2-in-1. Dell had chosen not to rest on their laurels, and the 2-in-1 proved to be one of the best notebooks around if you needed a compact and powerful convertible laptop. Today we are evaluating the traditional clamshell version of the XPS 13, and while it offers many of the same features and design touches, it does so in a more familiar form factor that many customers are going to prefer.

For the 2020 refresh, Dell has made the refreshing move to taller displays, as we saw with the XPS 13 2-in-1. As a result the XPS 13 uses 13.4-inch display panel with a 16:10 aspect ratio, offering more vertical space for getting work done, and some convenient padding to place controls when watching 16:9 content. The larger display fits into a chassis that is actually 2% smaller than the outgoing design, with the new XPS 13 offering a 91.5% screen to body ratio.

This is actually the second time that Dell has refreshed the XPS 13 within the last year. The company previously updated the XPS 13 in August 2019 to use Intel's 10th generation Core processors, but presumably due to limited supply of Intel’s then-new Ice Lake platform, Dell opted to launch that iteration with Comet Lake-U processors. And under more normal circumstances we would have expected Dell to stick with an annual cadence – and thus Comet Lake – for an entire year. Instead, to some surprise, Dell gave the XPS 13 a further mid-generation refresh, launching the Ice Lake-based XPS 13 9300 model that we are reviewing today, and bringing the clamshell XPS 13 to parity with the 2-in-1 version.

The switch from Comet Lake to Ice Lake, in turn, is a significant one. it means the XPS 13 gets Intel’s new Sunny Cove CPU architecture, as well as the much-improved Gen 11 graphics. Dell offers Core i3, i5, and i7 models, with the Core i3 and i5 offering G1 graphics, meaning 32 Execution Units (EUs), and the top-tier Core i7-1065G7 featuring the full 64 EUs on the GPU side. Just as a comparison, the Comet Lake-U only offered 24 EUs of Gen 9.5 graphics, so even the base Ice Lake models still offer a 33% larger (and much newer) GPU than the outgoing models.

The move to Ice Lake also brings some badly-needed LPDDR4X support, which in turn means a 32 GB maximum memory option in the XPS 13 9300, up from 16 GB previously. Although Dell still lists a paltry 4 GB option on their specifications sheet, a quick look at the Dell.com site shows that, at least in the USA, it appears that 8 GB is the new minimum, and that is a welcome change. Offering just 4 GB of RAM in a premium Ultrabook was always a poor choice, even if it did allow Dell to hit a slightly lower price bracket. On the storage front there is more good news, with 256 GB the new minimum, with up to 2 TB available, and all drives are PCIe x4 NVMe offerings.

Specifications of the Dell XPS 13 9300-Series
  General Specifications
As Tested: Core i7-1065G7 / 16GB / 512GB / 1920x1200
LCD Diagonal 13.4-inch
Resolution 1920×1200 3840×2400
Brightness 500 cd/m² 500 cd/m²
Contrast Ratio 1800:1 1500:1
Color Gamut 100% sRGB 100% sRGB
90% P3
Features Dolby Vision Dolby Vision
Touch Support with or without touch Yes
Protective Glass Corning Gorilla Glass 6 in case of touch-enabled model
CPU Intel Core i3 1005G1 (4MB cache, up to 3.4GHz)
Intel Quad Core i5 1035G1 (6MB cache, up to 3.6GHz)
Intel Quad Core i7 1065G7 (8MB cache, up to 3.9GHz)
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics
Intel Iris Plus Graphics
RAM 4 - 32 GB LPDDR4X-3733 DRAM (soldered/onboard)
Storage 256 GB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD
512 GB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD
1 TB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD
2 TB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD
Wireless Killer AX1650 Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.0 (based on Intel's silicon)
Killer AX500 Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.0 (based on Qualcomm's silicon)
USB 3.1 2 × TB 3/USB Gen 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C
3.0 -
Thunderbolt 2 × TB 3 (for data, charging, DP displays)
Cameras Front 720p HD webcam
Other I/O Microphone, 2 stereo speakers, audio jack
Battery 52 Wh | 45 W AC Adapter (USB Type-C)
Dimensions Width 295.7 mm | 11.64 inches
  Depth 198.7 mm | 7.82 inches
  Thickness 14.8 mm | 0.58 inches
Weight non-touch 1.2 kilograms | 2.64 pounds
touch-enabled 1.27 kilograms | 2.8 pounds
Launch Price Starting at $999.99
 

Dell has gone all-in on USB-C with the new XPS 13, with one port on each side of the notebook. Both feature Thunderbolt 3 with 4 lanes, as well as power delivery for charging. The lack of a Type-A port may inconvenience some, but Dell does include an adapter in the box to assist. Wireless is the Killer AX1650, which based on the latest Intel AX200 wireless adapter – and with Intel purchasing Killer this partnership seems like it is not going anywhere.

If you read our review of the 2-in-1 version of this laptop, you will undoubtedly notice a lot of similarities. As they are from the same product line, that is not an accident: Dell has now refreshed their entire XPS series of laptops with a similar design philosophy. Let’s take a peek at what is new.

Design
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  • serendip - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    Surface models are the only mainstream computers to use a 3:2 ratio. I think 16:9 is only good for media consumption. Reply
  • cerfcanuck - Thursday, July 16, 2020 - link

    Whenever I hear "soft-touch finish", I always wonder about long-term durability. In my experience (admittedly not with recent Dell products) such finishes have either scratched easily and/or turned "gummy" over time. Is this still a problem? Reply
  • willis936 - Thursday, July 16, 2020 - link

    I have had an XPS 13 9343 for five years and the soft touch materials don’t feel aged. Five years isn’t very long term, but it’s a data point.

    I doubt these will go the way of the early 2000s mice that require a thorough hand wash after use.
    Reply
  • Byte - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    My lenovo Yoga 1 had softer touch. Its pretty thick. It did not get gummy but it is peeling off. Which is better than gummy I guess. About 8 years old. Reply
  • Retycint - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    The soft touch did not age well for my XPS 15 9560. Gotten extremely sticky and started to peel off around 2 years in - this was of course not covered under warranty as it was considered "wear and tear".

    Context: I live in a tropical and humid country which probably accelerated the deterioration, so your experience may vary.
    Reply
  • s.yu - Saturday, July 18, 2020 - link

    My 2019 XPS 13 2N1 has this finish and leaves me wondering every time after I use the palm rest if I should wipe it with water, with alcohol, or just leave it. Good thing I often use it in tent mode(a must for stylus use) and use a BT keyboard, which sidesteps the whole issue.
    There is a tiny flaw on the finish though, it's a dent less than 1mm in diameter that looks like what's left of a burst bubble of a highly viscous fluid on a flat surface.
    Reply
  • s.yu - Saturday, July 18, 2020 - link

    Oh, FWIW I have a USB charger I bought about 6 years ago that claimed a "babyskin" finish, which feels similar to this "soft-touch" finish, I'm guessing some people really thought it's made of the skin of babies is why they dropped the name. It's often under somewhat high temperatures since it's a charging brick and it's softened with some wear at the corners, but it's only very slightly sticky. Reply
  • raystriker - Thursday, July 16, 2020 - link

    Wonder if most of the premium ultrabooks will have an AMD offering by next year? Reply
  • eek2121 - Thursday, July 16, 2020 - link

    Doubtful. Intel is very competitive in the mobile space and Tiger Lake is apparently dropping in September. Reply
  • Walkeer - Thursday, July 16, 2020 - link

    what exactly do you mean by "very competitive in the mobile space"? more bugs? more power consumption? way less performance? Reply

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