Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition 9370 review

A truly top-notch Linux laptop…

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Our Verdict

It barely seems possible but Dell has made its flagship laptop even better by reducing the size and weight, bumping up the processor and packing in a 4K screen. No other Linux laptop compares.

For

  • Fantastically portable
  • Excellent performance levels
  • Class-leading 4K display
  • Comfortable keyboard

Against

  • Disappointing webcam
  • No USB-A ports
  • Touchscreen model is susceptible to glare

At first glance you could definitely be forgiven for thinking that the new XPS 13 Developer Edition, carrying the ‘9730’ moniker, is actually the last generation XPS 13. Or the one before. Or the one before that even.

This is because Dell has consistently chosen evolution and not revolution for its top-of-the-range small laptop, focusing mostly on keeping the internals bang up to date while sticking with a tried and tested design.

When the original XPS 13 debuted in early 2015, it broke new ground with its tiny bezels (squeezing a 13.3-inch screen into the body of a much smaller device), but three years on, the competition hasn’t stood still. So is the XPS 13 still the best laptop of this size?

Design

Despite the design continuity with its predecessor, avid Dell watchers will be able to spot changes in the 9370 compared to the 9360 range. The new laptop actually brings in a number of design elements from the 9365 2-in-1, shrinking in size and eschewing USB-A ports in favor of USB-C (Thunderbolt).

The finish and shade of silver on the lid are tweaked, but overall the design remains one that successfully combines both an understated business attitude and a ‘look at me’ wow factor courtesy of those now even thinner screen bezels.

Should you choose the top spec Windows model you also have the option of a rose gold lid with ‘alpine white’ internals, but this isn’t available for the Linux-based Developer Edition notebook. We have tried the white laptop and although it certainly looks different, we found the lighter colored screen bezels a little distracting and the new deck surface (designed to prevent discoloring) less comfortable when resting our hands on it.

The drop in size and weight for the latest laptop represents a 24% reduction in volume and it’s certainly a noticeable improvement (not that the 9360 was large to begin with). This is partly achievable due to a reduction in the size of the battery, which drops from 60WHr to 52WHr, although due to increased efficiencies elsewhere this doesn’t necessarily equate to a drop in battery life. Aside from the loss of the USB-A ports, the other significant space-saving change is the inclusion of a microSD rather than full SD slot.

When laptops thin down one of the first things to suffer is often the keyboard. Thankfully, that’s not the case here. The keyboard mechanism is new, and if you’ve used a previous generation XPS 13 extensively you will spot the change, but thankfully it is just ‘different’ – it’s neither better nor worse, and still remains a great keyboard to type on.

It’s infinitely better than what you’ll find on a MacBook for example. We were somewhat disappointed that the Windows key remains on the Linux edition – come on Dell, can it be that difficult to print a different key cap? Might I suggest a penguin?

The layout of the XPS 13 has remained fairly consistent throughout its life and we’re pleased to see that there are only a couple of changes this time round. The love it or likely hate it camera remains below the screen, but now it’s in the center, for slightly better aligned up-nose shots. The camera has IR support for Windows Hello login, but this, of course, isn’t an awful lot of use in Linux.

The power button remains in the same position rather than being on the side like the 2-in-1 which is a relief. On Windows models the power button is also a fingerprint reader, but this functionality is dropped with the Ubuntu-based models.

Charging on the laptop is now available only via USB-C – there’s no conventional barrel port. A compact charger is included in the box, and given there are three ports the charger can be used with, we think this is a positive step. As an added bonus, if you’re using other USB-C equipped devices such as your mobile phone, the laptop charger will work just great for that too, with support for the USB-PD power delivery specification.

Spec Sheet

Here is the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition 9370 configuration sent to TechRadar Pro for review:

CPU: Intel Core i7-8550U quad-core, up to 4GHz

Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620

RAM: 16GB LPDDR3 2133MHz

Screen: 13.3-inch 3840 x 2160 resolution touchscreen

Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD

Ports: 2 x Thunderbolt 3, 1 x USB-C 3.1, microSD slot, audio jack

Connectivity: Killer 1435 802.11ac 2x2 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

Camera: 720p IR front webcam

Weight: 1.21kg

Size: 302 x 199 x 11.6mm (W x D x H)

Battery: 52WHr

Specifications

The 9360 generation of XPS was slightly confusing as it received a mid-life refresh without a model number increment. Earlier devices featured Intel’s 7th-generation processors while later devices received the 8th-generation Kaby Lake R CPUs. The Developer Edition also features the 8th-gen i7-8550U chip, which brings quad-core power to the U chips for the first time.

The already excellent display also gets a bump from QHD+ to 4K resolution (a Full HD option remains). The top spec screen is simply stunning – as well as the higher resolution it has a better contrast ratio, is brighter and has better viewing angles. It’s simply the best screen you’ll find on a laptop of this size. Touch support is included, which does mean a glossy finish, albeit with a glare reduction coating – we’d love to see a matte, non-touch 4K option to further minimize glare without reducing the resolution.

The Developer Edition spec gets you 8GB or 16GB RAM, a 256GB, 512GB or 1TB PCIe SSD, ‘Killer 1435’ 802.11ac 2x2 Wi-Fi, along with a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports with PowerShare, DC-In and DisplayPort. You also get one USB-C 3.1 port with PowerShare, the aforementioned microSD slot and a good old 3.5mm headphone jack.

You can opt for a Full HD non-touchscreen or 4K touchscreen display. You’re not likely to be wanting for anything, although it should be noted that graphics are integrated and provided by the Intel UHD 620 chipset – powerful though the XPS is, it won’t make a good gaming machine.

As for the price, our review model commands an asking price of £1,599 (around $2,250).