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Dell XPS 13 (Late 2017, Kaby Lake R)

Introduction, Design Features

2012 Editors' Choice Logo

When the current iteration of the Dell XPS first broke cover at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show nearly three years ago, Dell’s then-new killer ultraportable stood out as a smartly crafted, slim-and-light traditional laptop. That was in a market that, at the time, was focusing more on convertibles and detachables.

A few years down the line, 2-in-1s are still a major focus, with all manner of Surfaces and Yogas—as well as plenty of imitators—landing regularly on our test bench. Dell even released its own convertible version of the XPS 13 earlier this year with the XPS 13 2-in-1.

Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake R (Coffee Open)

Through all that, the traditional XPS 13 laptop has been updated several times, with the latest model we’re looking at here sporting a new 8th Generation Core i7 U-Series processor (also referred to as Kaby Lake R or Kaby Lake Refresh). The new chip doubles the number of CPU cores, from two in Intel U-Series-based laptops to four here, making the updated XPS 13 significantly more appealing for those doing video editing or other CPU-intensive tasks.

Can Dell’s premium ultraportable still compete with the best of today’s thin-and-lights, like the Microsoft Surface LaptopGram 14 (2017)?XPS 13 (2016), which at added a “Rose Gold” shell option, there’s nothing aesthetically different with this model—all the changes are internal. And frankly, aside from a few recent additions, like a Thunderbolt 3 port and optional fingerprint reader, not much has changed with the XPS 13 on the design front in the last few years. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. At 2.7 pounds and 0.6 inch thick, with the still-attractive slim “InfinityEdge” bezels around the 13.3-inch display, the XPS 13 is still one attractive portable.

Also, unlike some of the slimmest laptops on the market which only offer USB-C, you still get a mix of old and new ports here, with Thunderbolt 3/USB-C and USB-A ports on the left edge, along with the headset jack and a battery meter button.

Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake R (Left Ports)

It’s important to note that while the Thunderbolt port on the left edge can be used for charging, Dell still ships  the XPS 13 with a traditional AC adapter that uses the cylindrical barrel connector (the port for which is in the left corner in the image above) for charging. If you want to charge over USB-C, you’ll have to spring for Dell’s 45-watt USB-C Power Adapter Plus, which was selling for $45 direct from Dell when we wrote this.

The right edge houses a second USB Type A port, along with a full-sized SD card reader.

Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake R (Right Ports)

Since there are no physical changes on the outside of this new XPS 13, we’ll shift to the internals. For a deeper dive about the laptop’s aesthetics, including the very good input devices, see our initial Dell XPS 13 review from early 2015. The primary downside that’s still worth pointing out: Due to the slim bezels around the screen, the Webcam is still stuck awkwardly in the lower left corner of the display section of the laptop, underneath the screen. This leads to less-than-flattering angles for video chats. This can be helped somewhat by propping the XPS 13 up on a few books, but we’d really like Dell to find a way to move the camera back where it belongs: above the screen.

Components Configuration Options

Models of the XPS 13 with quad-core 8th Generation Intel Core (Kaby Lake R) processors start with the Core i7-8550U-based model that Dell sent us for review. That configuration includes 256GB of solid-state storage and 8GB of RAM, along with a 1080p non-touch display for a total list price of $1,299 (though selling for $1,149 direct when we wrote this review). The entry-level $799 model retains a 7th Generation Core i3-7100U processor, 128GB of solid-state storage, and 4GB of RAM. We’d definitely recommend stepping up from the base model, primarily for the doubling of RAM (important for multitasking or just for having more than a few tabs open without running out of memory).

A $1,499 model doubles the RAM again to 16GB, while keeping the storage and CPU the same as our review unit (256GB SSD and the Core i7-8550U). This pricier model, though, also includes a higher-resolution (3,200 x 1,800-pixel) display with touch support. The higher-resolution screen and touch capabilities will no doubt find favor with many. Just know that you’ll likely sacrifice hours of battery life for the more pixel-dense screen. Personally, for typical productivity purposes, we find the 1080p of our review unit works quite well.

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