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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  • Gigaplex - Sunday, July 19, 2020 - link

    I'm a programmer, but I rarely use the laptop keyboard. I plug it into a dock and use a desktop keyboard. Reply
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Sunday, July 19, 2020 - link

    So .. you agree with me? Reply
  • mjz_5 - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    I hope they fixed the Bluetooth. I can’t move three feet away when trying to listen to music on my 2016 XPS 13”. Same headphone on my iPhone, I can go all over the house. Reply
  • Tunnah - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    I used to say "unless it's Intel I'm not gonna bother", am now just realising with the latest AMD mobile chipsets, I've firmly swung in the other direction. It feels almost daft to go with Intel nowadays considering what AMD are putting out. I'd love one of these with new Ryzen in it Reply
  • isthisavailable - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    This "king" is overrated. Surface Laptop is miles better at a lower price. The i3 and i5 versions of xps are useless because they are G1. 4gb ram version is, again, useless. It's not even a $1000 laptop. Reply
  • hanselltc - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    The lack of Ryzen here means there are sub 600 dollar laptops running laps around this when any resemblance of stress is present. Makes this a lot less attractive. Reply
  • Deders - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    Not sure why people still say windows 10 still handles HDR poorly, have they tried it since the HDR update? Apps look fine to me, everything looks fantastic (if a little bright) Reply
  • trenzterra - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    I had the XPS 9300 for a couple months before deciding to sell it. There are some issues with this laptop which wasn't highlighted in this review:

    - The display is really bright and all, but I had issues with screen colour uniformity -- on my set, there were two vertical "bars" where the colour had a little bit of green tint to it, noticeable on white or grey backgrounds. I had my display replaced twice before getting a decent one. After the lockdown was lifted, I went to look at display units in shops and it appears many of the Full HD and 4K sets had the same issue. Perhaps it's my eyes, or maybe panel lottery is particularly bad on this laptop.

    - For some reason, my microSD card kept getting stuck in the slot (slot seemed misaligned or something, causing the spring mechanism to get stuck). In the end, I had to get a replacement laptop from Dell.

    - The current firmware, 1.0.11 (and the previous, 1.0.10), has issues outputting video with certain USB-C to HDMI adapters. This has been going on for two months with no fix in sight, despite bringing it up to Dell's attention: https://www.dell.com/community/XPS/XPS-13-9300-BIO... . Further, users are also reporting issues connecting to certain LG and Samsung USB-C/ TB3 monitors (issue reported at launch but no fix yet -- apparently, you need to plug a separate power cable into the laptop and then plug the LG/ Samsung monitor into the other port just to get it to work, notwithstanding that the Samsung/ LG monitors are supposed to do PD passthrough). TB3/ PD support is really buggy on the XPS 9300 at the moment, and I wonder if they will ever get it fixed.

    - If you have the Fast Startup option disabled (which is essentially hibernation in a different form), or restart the laptop, the laptop takes about 1min to startup, even on a whooping fast SSD. No fix in sight despite a 10-page+ long thread on the Dell forums: https://www.dell.com/community/XPS/Bug-New-XPS-13-...

    - The laptop gets hot very easily at the palmrest area. I think this is a byproduct of the carbon fibre palmrest which kinda traps heat.

    Overall, I found the laptop to be of rather good build quality and very good to look at. However, the flaws and lack of after-sales support (in terms of fixing BIOS/ firmware issues) from Dell has left me somewhat disappointed and I decided to cut my losses and sold it. Now I'm holding out for Renoir options...
    Reply
  • trenzterra - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    To clarify on the boot times, the laptop gets stuck on the Dell "loading" logo for about 40 seconds, even on a fresh install without bloatware. It seems like a BIOS bug (where something is being stuck) more than anything else, but since Fast Startup is left enabled by default (I prefer to disable it to reduce unnecessary writes to the SSD), Dell doesn't seem keen to fix it. Reply
  • Spunjji - Monday, July 20, 2020 - link

    These issues remind me of most of Dell's high-end releases since at least 2008. Shame :/ Reply

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