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Dell XPS 13 hands on review

The XPS 13 marks Dell's first foray into Ultrabook territory as it joins the battle of the ultra-thin laptops

Dell knows a thing or two about luxurious high-end laptops – the Adamo XPS was some of the finest laptop engineering and craftsmanship at the time of release and the more recent XPS 14z screams premium stylings.

Now, as Dell moves into Ultrabook territory with the XPS 13, it’s continuing its commitment to powerful computing eye candy with an Ultrabook that looks good enough to lick.

Drawing obvious inspiration from Apple’s king of thin, the MacBook Air, and building on the XPS 15z and 14z, the XPS 13 is a gorgeous slice of laptop tech.

The attention to detail is immediately apparent, from its slick carbon fibre body (which is lighter and kinder to your lap, heat-wise)  and aluminium side bands, right down to its edge-to-edge 13.3in Gorilla Glass display – all packed into a compact 12in form factor.

In case you’re wondering just how slim the XPS 13 is, it’s 18mm thick. Sadly for Dell, it’s not the thinnest 13in Ultrabook out there, having been pipped to the post by Acer’s S5, which comes in at a razor sharp 15mm thick. 

Next to the 14z, though – which is 23mm at its thickest point – it looks massively underweight, so at least this confirms it’ll make for a great travelling companion. And at 1.4kg, you’ll barely notice it’s there.

What’s this? No Windows stickers? The XPS 13 has actually had its backside etched with Microsoft and Intel branding instead, marking a cosmetic change to the way laptops advertise what’s going on inside.

A choice of Intel’s i3, i5 and the more turbo-charged i7 processors mean you can tailor the XPS 13’s laptop experience to suit you – and, more importantly, your wallet.

Either way, you’re looking at great performance from a laptop that’ll be able to handle the multitude of tasks you chuck at it.

Visuals are taken care of courtesy of Intel’s HD 3000 graphics. Thanks to Intel’s Rapid start Technology, the XPS 13 boots and resumes in seconds – a feature the more impatient will undoubtedly appreciate.

The XPS 13 also has you covered in the connectivity department with a USB 3.0 and 2.0 port and Mini DisplayPort.

Drawing inspiration from smartphones and tablets, Intel’s Smart Connect technology – introduced in 2011 – ensures you can stay connected when online by waking up periodically and updating your calendar, email, and Twitter feeds, as well as downloading news feeds when it detects a network.

And just like a smartphone or tablet, the XPS 13 is location aware. So if you change cities your clever laptop will know where you are and update apps, widgets and other features accordingly.

The full size backlit keyboard looks good, even if the typeface is a little 80s, while the glass buttonless touchpad offers full gesture support and responds well to the touch.

Dell tells us the XPS 13 has been built to last a whole day, boasting 8 hours of battery life before things turn critical. Of course, this all depends what you throw at it.

Power, performance and an incredibly covetable design makes for a great combination and it’s clear as Dell takes the next step into thin and powerful laptops there is a direct focus on combining power and design.

Dell also tells us to expect Intel-powered machines of a similar nature incoming in the near future as it makes the move towards thin and powerful portable computing.

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