Dell XPS 13 It was the most important Windows laptop of the past decade, serving as the flag-bearer in the fight against the Mac. It has topped countless Best Laptop pages and is a straightforward recommendation for anyone looking for a Windows PC. The claim to fame was first introduced in ultra-thin display bezels – a feature now embraced by gadgets across the consumer tech industry. Since then, Dell’s tactic has been to fix and improve, making small but meaningful changes to its flagship clamshell laptop.
This year, Dell is taking even greater risks by introducing a new XPS 13 Plus.
To be clear, the XPS 13 Plus will sit next to the XPS 13, not replace it. However, it is much more than the same laptop that has a buzzword at the end of it. The XPS 13 Plus was built, in the words of Dell, from the ground up. This may not be obvious at first glance because the new model has the same overall design as the previous modelHowever, closer examination reveals several differences.
Most of those are found indoors, where Dell has thought of ways to reimagine the traditional laptop through simplicity and simplification. One way was to replace the separate touchpad with a sheet of glass that runs along the entire length of the surface. The new uninterrupted touchpad uses touch to replace the click with vibration, a method familiar to anyone who has recently owned MacBook.
Above the touchpad is what Dell calls a “latticeless” keyboard, or, in less sophisticated terms, a panel without wasted space. Taking a page from the bezel-less screen, the keyboard extends from one edge of the deck to the other, with virtually no gaps between the sharp-angled keys, which provide 1mm of travel.
This keyboard intentionally misses a key element: the job description. Replacing the Fn keys are capacitive touch keys that flush with the surface, a change Dell says will make it easier to switch between the function and media keys.
Other updates to the chassis are less obvious but just as important. This includes amplifiers enhanced by a quad setup with two keyboard bottom releases up and a pair of drivers down. By expanding the dual XPS 13 Plus fans, Dell gave them the cooling needed to run on 28W processors, higher than the 12W TDP chips on previous models.
This brings us to the components. The XPS 13 Plus will run on 12th-generation Intel P-series processors, an intermediate chip between the high-powered H-series chips and the low-power U-series chips used in earlier XPS models. The result should be a huge performance boost, although how much is still a mystery. Intel focused on its 12th-generation H-series chips at CES 2022 and only briefly mentioned the P-series. Expect to hear more about this new processor in the coming months, including how it stacks up with AMD and Apple chips.
For now, all I can say is that the XPS 13 Plus will come with four CPU options ranging from an Intel Core i5-1240P (4.7 GHz) CPU to a 12-core Core i7-1280P (4.8 GHz). It can be paired with up to 32GB of DDR5 RAM and up to a 2TB PCIe SSD. The graphics are unsurprisingly limited to the integrated Iris Xe. One feature of the new CPUs is the support Wi-Fi 6E And the XPS treats Bluetooth 5.2 as a good measure.
Best of all, you get the extra power without sacrificing portability; The CNC-machined aluminum and glass laptop measures 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches and weighs 2.7 pounds, or roughly the same as the standard model. And there’s still plenty of display options to choose from, from a 13.4-inch 1920 x 1200 resolution (16:10 aspect ratio) 500-nits display with 100% sRGB coverage up to 4K or a DisplayHDR 400 panel Or an OLED touch screen.
Dell hasn’t provided battery life estimates, but we’re keen to see if the processor with more power is affecting run times. The non-replaceable 55Wh battery will need at least 10 hours of normal use for the XPS 13 Plus to steal its sibling’s place as the best laptop replacement. MacBook Air, especially since Apple’s latest systems are approaching the 15-hour mark.
There’s a lot to unpack here, and I’ll reserve my judgments for my full review, but I salute Dell for seizing the opportunities. There’s no denying that these changes can be divisive, and the company seems to welcome chaos (even openly claiming the XPS 13 Plus was “Gen-Z-inspired,” whatever that means).
I’m really concerned that switching from tactile to capacitive inputs might annoy some, and that removing some of the XPS’s signature textures might damage the brand. But at least Dell does more than just re-release the same laptop with new specs. Instead, it took the time to think about how to move the traditional clamshell laptop forward. All that remains is to see if the XPS 13 Plus is really heading in that direction. We’ll know soon enough. The XPS 13 Plus running Windows 11 or Ubuntu will ship this spring with a starting price of $1,199.