latest hybrid heralds a new era of more phone-like laptops


The thin bezels have meant Dell’s had to axe the IR imaging facial recognition tech for password-free login duties, and in its place we get a fingerprint scanner built into the power button which I didn’t find to be quite as fast or consistent.

This time around the trackpad and keys are a little bigger, the hinges that allow you to flip the screen all the way round to turn it into a large tablet are less prominent, the overall footprint is lighter and thinner while at the same time it uses more metal materials for greater rigidity.

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The changes, although minor on their own, combine to make it a more comfortable laptop experience overall. I would go as far as to say that this 2-in-1 provides a better laptop experience than Dell’s dedicated laptop offering.

Make no mistake; this device still isn’t thin enough or light enough to use as a tablet for any meaningful length of time. A detachable like a Surface Book or Surface Pro is still far lighter and a better option for tablet use than any 2-in-1 with a 360 degree hinge.

The more significant changes are under the hood with the XPS 13 2-in-1 now sporting a 10th generation Intel Ice Lake CPU, which Dell claims makes it two and a half times more powerful than before as well as having twice the graphics performance.

Benchmarks bear that out, but in day to day use I found that performance would initially stutter when I had more than a handful of commonly used apps open; and this was on the top-end i7 model. I was able to get around the issue by bumping up the dial on the battery power mode to ‘better performance’ from the default ‘better battery’ setting.

The integrated graphics are much improved and you can now connect multiple 4K external monitors with HDR enabled, using the two Thunderbolt 3 ports onboard. Outside of running small indie titles and less demanding modern titles like Fortnite — which just barely yielded playable frame rates at its lowest possible graphics settings — gaming on this machine is out of the question. That said, the XPS 2-in-1 can double as a gaming PC if you go down the route of connecting an external graphics card using the Thunderbolt 3 port when stationed at a desk.

The new XPS 13 2-in-1 is one of the first laptops to meet Intel’s Project Athena specification, which is designed to push thin and light notebooks towards better connectivity, battery and performance.

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What this means in practice is that you should get at least 9 hours use before needing to charge, and expect the laptop to wake from sleep in under a second and be ready to browse the web in under two seconds. However this only applies if you’ve used the laptop in the last 30 minutes; after that it enters a deep sleep state and can take 20 seconds to wake.

The laptop will also download emails and grab social media updates in the background even while the lid is closed, which is nice, but Windows 10 isn’t yet capable of previewing incoming notifications from the lock screen beyond the default Mail app.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 also sports two far field mics for issuing voice powered commands from across the room (another Project Athena spec), but the only way I could get Cortana to respond is by pressing a Windows shortcut.

These issues aside, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is an easy recommendation for anyone looking for a premium thin and light notebook.

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