Dell XPS 11 review

Is this gorgeous laptop-tablet hybrid worth the price of admission?

Dell XPS 11 review

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The Core i5 chip tucked inside of the XPS 11 offered mixed performance at best. The Dell hybrid had no hang ups while streaming 4K YouTube videos. The machine could also run DoTA 2 at a remotely playable 15 frames per second at maximum resolution with all the graphics settings maxed. In short, this is no gaming rig.

That said, the Dell XPS 11 struggled to keep up with my image editing in Lightroom and even web surfing. In either case, the laptop chugged a bit, despite being equipped with a decent amount of RAM and a quick SSD.

This could be due to the processor's Intel HD 4200 graphics not being up to snuff to drive the XPS 11's massive 2560 x 1440 resolution whilst keeping up with processor-intensive tasks. At the same time, this middling performance isn't backed up by a battery life that tops out at 3 hours and 49 minutes with regular everyday use.

Dell XPS 11 review

  • 3DMark: Ice Storm: 25,540; Cloud Gate: 2,739; Fire Strike: 351
  • Cinebench CPU: 155 points
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours, 28 minutes

The XPS 11's 1.5GHz Intel Core i5 chip scores some fairly middling marks, especially when compared to the smidge-faster 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 part inside Acer Aspire S7. Both laptops share the same 2560 x 1440 resolution and are separated by a 0.1GHz difference in processing power, but the Aspire S7 managed to consistently score almost two times higher than the Dell hybrid across the entire 3DMark suite and the Cinebench CPU test.

When compared to its direct competition, the Surface Pro 2, the Dell XPS 11 also falls considerably short. The Surface Pro 2 churned through the toughest 3DMark graphics stressing test with 640 points, while the Dell hybrid only managed to touch the 351 mark - but again, consider the Dell's much larger screen resolution. (TechRadar has yet to receive an 11-inch Lenovo Yoga 2 for a full review.)

The 2K cinema experience, minus the hitchy sound

The screen on the Dell XPS 11 is simply gorgeous. Colors representations are richly saturated, making images pop. Even better is that the display draws deep blacks, which are perfect watching for horror movies at night and playing dark, moody games without those bland streaks of gray. Speaking of games, I was pleased to play some of my favorite games on the higher-resolution screen. Because of the middling processor, you might want to turn off some of the more intense settings (like ambient occlusion) to keep the action moving along at a decent 30 fps.

Dell XPS 11 review

You better grab your headphones

While the screen presents a vivid picture, the speakers on the XPS 11 can ruin high tones. Certain high-pitched songs, like Short Change Hero, brought out the tinniness of the device's speakers. Explosions also sound garbled when they hit on this laptop. So, while a Michael Bay movie might look great playing on the Dell XPS 11, its speakers can diminish the experience.

Touch keyboard or touchscreen?

Dell made a lot of conceits to design the XPS 11 as a tablet first and laptop second. Nowhere else on this machine is this philosophy more evident than the keyboard. The resistive touch keyboard was made to be as unintrusive as possible, saving users from awkwardly squishing the keyboard while holding the device as a tablet. While Dell has succeeded in this endeavour, touch typing was extremely aggravating on the XPS 11.

Like Microsoft's Surface keyboard cover, this keyboard requires mashing on the buttons for anything to register. This grew tiring after a while, especially when balancing the laptop on my lap, as each keystroke caused the laptop to bounce up and down. My biggest gripe with the keyboard: the lack of a definitive transition marking the end of the space bar and other essential buttons, like the Windows key. Rather than hitting the spacebar, I would often just hit an area of rubber between the actual key and the trackpad. The rest of the keyboard is etched with bits of black plastic marking the end of the keys. A simple trough to mark the bottom edge would have easily fixed the issue.

Dell XPS 11 review

A valiant effort, at least

Thankfully, the far more accurate touchscreen was just a poke away to save me from the XPS 11's fussy touch keyboard. The laptop's trackpad also was perfectly usable and sizable for dragging the mouse around the Dell hybrid's expansive WQHD display.

Bundled Software

Dell packed on a few pounds of bundled software with the XPS 11. Luckily, there's nothing too superfluous, as every bit of included software has its own use.

  • Dell Backup and Recovery: While Windows 8.1 already has a backup and recovery agent, this Dell client adds an extra bit of security in case of virus attacks and accidental file deletions.
  • Dell Digital Delivery: This enables users to purchase, download, and update certain apps like Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 and Acrobat X, avoiding update sites.
  • Dell Smart Assist Configuration Utility: This tool allows users to customize how often the laptop pulls updates while it is in smart sleep mode.
  • Dell Update: An easy download tool that pulls driver and software updates automatically.
  • My Dell: An easier way to view your Dell XPS 11 configuration without having to mull around the Windows device manager or tap into your Windows Experience Index.
  • PC Checkup: A built-in hardware diagnostic tool for tracking system changes and a drive space manager for those precious gigabytes.
  • PocketCloud: A free cloud solution that connects with your Google account to access files and apps across other Windows PCs and Mac machines.

Dell XPS 11 review

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee was a former computing reporter at TechRadar. Kevin is now the SEO Updates Editor at IGN based in New York. He handles all of the best of tech buying guides while also dipping his hand in the entertainment and games evergreen content. Kevin has over eight years of experience in the tech and games publications with previous bylines at Polygon, PC World, and more. Outside of work, Kevin is major movie buff of cult and bad films. He also regularly plays flight & space sim and racing games. IRL he's a fan of archery, axe throwing, and board games.