Dell’s new XPS 13 is thinner and lighter, but with extra grunt and a 4K screen

Dell XPS 13 2018

Dell has revealed a new XPS 13 laptop ahead of CES 2018. It's a refreshed model upping the ante with an optional 4K screen, the latest Intel processors and a number of touches to make it even slicker and premium class.

Let’s start with the new XPS 13’s core specs: the laptop is driven by one of Intel’s latest, 8th-generation Core i5 or i7 processors, and it can be specified with up to 16GB of system RAM and a PCIe SSD of up to 1TB capacity.

As mentioned, there is now an option for a 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160) screen, as opposed to the previous optional QHD+ display – or you can still plump for a plain Full HD screen. Dell claims the battery life on the latter models reaches almost 20 hours, and it’s still a very solid 11 hours if you go with the 4K display (see our review of the previous Dell XPS 13 for further discussion of actual battery longevity versus claimed figures, though).

“While we made the system smaller and lighter, we were able to increase the performance by 2x over the original XPS 13 launched in 2015," Dell's VP and GM of XPS Frank Azor says, "and maintain the world’s most powerful 13-inch laptop in its class.”

Part of pushing to achieve that extra performance is tied into the thermal design of the new laptop, which uses Gore thermal insulation for better heat dissipation. Dell’s new power management facilities also help, with a ‘dynamic power mode’ that intelligently delivers maximum power when needed, while carefully monitoring system temperatures.

Whiter than white

As for the efforts to make the notebook an even more desirable and premium machine, the chassis has been slimmed down so it’s 30% thinner (trimmed down by 7.8mm) and just a touch lighter at 2.67 pounds (1.21kg).

Also, as well as a silver and black trim model, Dell is releasing a version with a Rose Gold and Alpine White keyboard deck. This isn’t just plain white, though. Dell is particularly proud to note that the new XPS 13’s white palm rest utilizes a crystalline silica material which has the white color actually woven into it like a fabric, in nine composite layers.

This is the first time woven glass fiber has been used in a laptop, and it has a titanium oxide coating which the company notes gives it a pearlescent sheen, not to mention stain-resistant powers.

That means the white won’t lose its luster over time. And, if you happen to get, say, a pen mark on the machine – or indeed somebody maliciously doodles on your premium portable – you can simply wipe it off.

One last noteworthy point is the fact that the webcam has been moved from its previously awkward position at the bottom-left of the bezel surrounding the display to a slightly-better, central position beneath said screen. It’s an IR camera now, so it can be used for Windows Hello login.

Finally, the webcam array has four microphones and is ‘far-field’ capable in respect of Cortana. In other words, you can shout at the digital assistant from across the room and still have your voice successfully recognized – in theory, anyway.

OK, so how much will the new XPS 13 set you back? The laptop is available now starting at £1,269 ($999, about AU$2,190). If you want the Rose Gold edition, however, you’ll have to wait until February, and fork out a little more with that model starting at £1,669 ($1,249, about AU$2,880).

Dell is also offering a Linux developer edition of the laptop which starts at £1,319 (around $1,780, AU$2,275) and comes with Ubuntu pre-installed.

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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).