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Dell XPS 13 (2020) review

Small tweaks in the Dell XPS 13 (2020) make big impressions

Dell XPS 13 (2020)
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Dell XPS 13 ditches all the bezels, gets even smaller and more powerful.

For

  • Attractive, premium chassis
  • Powerful performance
  • No bezels whatsoever
  • Excellent battery life

Against

  • Lacks legacy ports

The Dell XPS 13 (2020) is a powerhouse. That's due to Dell's bold decision making and unceasing commitment to innovation.  Following up on the excellent XPS 13 (2019), Dell takes its innovation to the next level by removing the last bezel on the company's InfinityEdge display. That means the laptop is virtually borderless, making it the first of its kind. 

But that's not all. For $1,749, you get a laptop that's got a larger display with a bigger, more comfortable keyboard and touchpad, all in a chassis that's somehow smaller than its predecessor's. Cosmetic changes aside, the XPS 13 is plenty powerful, with a 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, and boasts over 12 hours of battery life.  That's why the Dell XPS 13 is one of the best laptops available.

Dell XPS 13 (2020) pricing and availability

Dell XPS 13 (2020) specs

Price: $1,749 

CPU: Intel Core i7-1065G7

GPU: Intel Iris Plus 

RAM: 16GB 

Storage: 512 M.2 NVMe SSD 

Display: 13.4-inch, 1080p

Battery: 12:39 

Size: 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches 

Weight: 2.8 pounds

The $1,149 base model of the Dell XPS 13 has a 1-GHz Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD, an Intel UHD Graphics GPU and a 1920 x 1200 non-touch display. I had the opportunity to review the $1,749 model, which features a 1.5-GHz Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD, an Intel Iris Plus GPU and a 1920 x 1200 touch display.

The laptop can also be configured with a 1TB SSD ($150), 2TB SSD ($350) and a 3840 x 2400 touch display ($300). A tricked-out XPS 13 costs $2,309 and gets you the Core i7 processor, 2TB SSD, Windows 10 Pro and a super- high-resolution display. The laptop would also come in the Frost color scheme instead of the usual silver-and-black motif.

Dell XPS 13 (2020) design

From its exterior to its interior, the XPS 13 is a showstopper. The lid's Frost White, anodized aluminum finish is cool to the touch and looks stylish going in and out my bag. The glossy Dell logo looks like a stylish broach, adding just the right amount of sparkle. I'm a fan of the twin-coil hinge that makes opening the laptop with one hand as simple as turning the page of a book.

Once the laptop is open, you'll find more of that winter white theme. Made from Dell's patented glass-fiber weave, the stain-proof Arctic White deck is beautiful. Running my fingers across the textured surface is like ASMR, but for your hands. The keyboard is pushed toward the top of the deck, leaving just enough space for a glass touchpad.

Dell XPS 13 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

At 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6-inches, the 2.8-pound XPS 13 is one of the smallest ultraportables available. It's 2% smaller than its predecessor. Regarding weight, it's on a par with the MSI Prestige 14 (2.8 pounds, 12.8 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches), and lighter than both the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (2.9 pounds, 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.6 inches) and MacBook Pro (13-inch 2019 with Touch Bar) (4.4 pounds, 12.8 x 8.9 x 1 inches). However, the HP Spectre x360 13 (2.7 pounds, 12.1 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches) is a tad lighter but slightly thicker. 

Dell XPS 13 security

The XPS 13 has an embedded fingerprint reader in the power button for easy login using Windows Hello. It's a nice, easy way to add an extra layer of security. I do wish Dell had found a way to either add a physical shutter for the webcam or an electronic kill switch. Having to use a piece of tape mars the beauty of those barely there bezels.

Dell XPS 13 (2020) ports

Dell XPS 13 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

This is a short section, because the XPS 13 is short on ports. The svelte stunner has a Thunderbolt 3 port on the right with a headset jack. On the left, you'll find another Thunderbolt 3 port and a microSD slot. That's it, so if you're planning on using a mouse or external hard drive, you're going to need to invest in a USB Type-C hub.

Dell XPS 13 (2020) display

When you first look at the XPS 13, it's what you don't see that you'll notice before anything else. This marks the first time Dell has ditched all the bezels, including the bottom chin. But Dell didn't just ditch the thick bottom bezel, it managed to shrink the other three bezels even further, with the side bezels measuring 0.15 and 0.2 inches, respectively, and the bottom bezel slimming down to only 0.18 inches. 

In the wake of those barely there bezels, you get a 13.4-inch, 1920 x 1200 touch display with a 16:10 aspect ratio. The panel is 6.8% larger than its predecessor. Somehow Dell managed to give consumers even more visual real estate in a 12.8-inch chassis — all while keeping the webcam smack-dab in the center of the top bezel. 

But how does it look? Bright and extremely vivid. I was transfixed by actress Tracee Ellis Ross' ruby-red sequined dress that played up her light brown skin in The High Note trailer. Details were so sharp, I saw every pattern embroidered into Ice Cube's inky-black smoking jacket.

Dell XPS 13 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

As gorgeous as Ross looked, I was surprised that the XPS 13 wasn't as vivid as I thought. At least, not on paper. In fact, the laptop reproduced 115% of the sRGB color gamut. That's more than enough to hold off the Prestige 14 (112%) and the Spectre x360 (109%), but the MacBook Pro (118%) and the Surface Laptop 3 (121%) are more vivid as is the 123% premium laptop average. 

However, Dell's CinemaColor utility adds a pop of color by adjusting saturation , contrast and white balance via a number of presets (Movie, Evening, Sports and Animation). And if that's not enough, the laptop also has Dolby Vision to enhance the HDR.

The XPS 13 made up for the slight color deficiency with an average brightness of 417 nits. The notebook easily outshone the 357-nit average and the competition. The MacBook Pro was a close second with 408 nits with the Spectre x360 (369 nits), the Surface Laptop 3 (348 nits) and the Prestige 14 (269 nits) right behind. 

As much as it pained me to smudge this lovely display with my fingers, I encountered an agile touch panel with accurate response.

Dell XPS 13 audio

This is a great case of big things and small packages. Despite having bottom-mounted speakers, the XPS 13 delivered loud, relatively clean audio. Megan Thee Stallion's braggadocious flow on "Savage" easily filled my smallish living and dining rooms. The Waves MaxxAudio Pro software helped provide that pop of bass most laptops this size usually lack. Don't get me wrong, it's not going to replace a good pair of headphones or external speakers, but the XPS 13 is fine for watching movies or an impromptu dance party. 

Dell XPS keyboard and touchpad

No, your eyes aren't deceiving you, the XPS 13's edge-to-edge keyboard is sporting larger keycaps — 9% larger to be exact. Despite the bigger size, the keys are still well-spaced and none of them were downsized to make room. I also like the backlighting that is bright enough for me to make out every key character in a darkened room. 

Dell XPS 13 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

Typing on the keys proved to be a comfortable experience, although I prefer a bit more feedback. Still, I reached 71 words per minute on the 10FastFingers typing test, which is slightly above my 70-wpm average. 

My fingers glided effortlessly over the glass Precision touchpad. At 4.4 x 2.6 inches, the touchpad is 17% larger than previous iterations, giving me extra room to navigate web pages. Performing Windows 10 gestures such as pinch-zoom and three-finger swipe were seamless in execution. The bottom corners of the touchpad delivered firm, clicky feedback. 

Dell XPS 13 performance

For such a lightweight laptop, the Dell XPS 13 hits like a heavyweight. Packing an Intel Core i7-1065G7 (Ice Lake) processor with 16GB of RAM, the laptop allowed me to watch an episode of Tiger King on Netflix while running 25 other open tabs in Google Chrome — all without a stutter. 

The notebook also performed well on our synthetic tests. On Geekbench 4.3, which tests overall performance, the XPS 13 achieved 19,053, handily beating the 16,669 premium laptop average. The Spectre x360, which also has a Core i7-1065G7 CPU, scored 18,408, while the MacBook (Intel Core i5 CPU) and the Prestige 14 (Core i7-10710U CPU) reached 18,221 and 17,296, respectively. The Surface Laptop 3 (Core i7-1065G7) barely edged the XPS 13 out with 19,078.

During the HandBrake test, the XPS 13 transcoded a 4K video to 1080p in 15 minutes and 10 seconds, speeding past the 19:40 average. That time was also faster than the Surface Laptop 3 (24:55) and the Spectre x360 (21:13). However, both the MacBook Pro (14:20) and the Prestige 14 (14:01) were quicker.

Dell XPS 13 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

The XPS 13's 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 8.3 seconds for a transfer rate of 613.1 megabytes per second. That rate is faster than the 622.4MBps category average, the Surface Laptop 3 (541.4MBps, 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD) and the Spectre x360 (318.1MBps, 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD). However, the Prestige (512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD) achieved 978.7MBps, while the MacBook Pro (256GB SSD) got an incredible 2,573MBps on the BlackMagic test.

The Intel Iris Plus GPU inside the XPS 13 isn't really designed to handle hard-core gaming, but it works in a pinch. The laptop produced 59 frames per minute (fps) on the Dirt 3 gaming benchmark. That's just below the 60-fps average, but still higher than the MacBook Pro (38 fps), the Intel Iris Plus GPU-equipped Surface Laptop 3 and the Spectre x360, all of which notched 47 fps. The Prestige, with its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q GPU, hit 150 fps. 

Dell XPS 13 (2020) battery life

Dell XPS 13 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

Whether you're on the road or working from home, the XPS 13 can put in a full work day and then some. The laptop lasted a whopping 12 hours and 39 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. The XPS 13 easily outclassed the 8:47 premium laptop average, as well as the Prestige 14 (9:49), the Surface Laptop 3 (9:17) and the MacBook Pro (8:41). But the Spectre x360 was the last laptop running, with a time of 13:20.

Dell XPS 13 heat

Even though the XPS 13 looks hot, it stays cool. We measured the temperature of the laptop in key areas after running a full-screen video for 15 minutes.The touchpad, center and bottom measured 79, 86 and 91 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. 

Dell XPS 13 webcam

Dell still has one of the smallest integrated webcams in the industry. The 0.1-inch, 720p webcam does a great job capturing color. My warm brown complexion was spot-on in my test shots as was my snow-white sweater. The detail, however, was a mixed bag, with the shooter showing off my sweater's knit pattern, but making my locks look like long, blurry blobs.

Dell XPS 13 software and warranty

Dell bundled a solid suite of useful branded software with the XPS 13. Dell Power Manager lets you manage power consumption via preset profiles to extend battery life or to squeeze every bit of performance out of the system. Customer Connect is your conduit to a Dell technician if you need system assistance. Digital Delivery keeps track of all your software downloads and restores them after a system wipe or crash. 

The company recently updated Dell Mobile Connect so it now plays nice with the iPhone. Now everyone can swap images, documents and videos seamlessly between your smartphone and laptop. 

Dell XPS 13 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

Third-party apps include Killer Control Center, which lets you set network bandwidth priority. The laptop also comes with a 20GB of free Dropbox storage for a year. There is, of course, some Windows 10 bloatware such as Netflix, Farm Heroes Saga and Candy Crush Saga.

The Dell XPS 13 ships with a one-year hardware warranty with onsite and in-Home service after remote diagnosis. See how Dell fared during our annual special reports: Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands.

Bottom line

Smaller, sleeker and sporting the tiniest bezels on all sides, the new Dell XPS 13 shows that Dell still knows how to push the envelope without going too far. It's an exercise in patient restraint, improving the notebook in a bunch of small ways that add up to a big leap for the system. 

For $1,749, you get a laptop that's got virtually no bezels, a powerful 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, a speedy SSD, a lovely display, over 12 hours of battery life, a comfy keyboard and surprisingly good audio, all in an elegant chassis that's 2% smaller than its predecessor.

However, if you're looking for something with longer battery life, you'll want to consider the $1,313 HP Spectre x360 13-inch. Need more power? The MSI Prestige 14 might be more your speed. But if you're looking for the total package, the Dell XPS 13 is the laptop for you.