Dell XPS 13 (2016 Gold Design, Core i7 With Iris) Review –

8 months ago Comments Off on Dell XPS 13 (2016 Gold Design, Core i7 With Iris) Review –

Introduction & Design

Tablets and 2-in-1 convertibles are appealing for their versatility and portability. But for those type for a living, or just generally prefer a traditional keyboard and need to be able to work while on the go, it’s tough to beat a traditional laptop. And in the realm of traditional laptops—especially ones with solid build quality and enough oomph to handle more than basic productivity tasks—Dell’s XPS 13 is tough to beat, here in early 2016.

We praised the company’s current XPS line when we tested the first model in early 2015, for its attractive, compact design, which effectively slips a 13.3-inch display inside an aluminum-and-carbon-fiber shell that’s about the size of many 11-inch laptops (such as the Apple MacBook Air).

Later in 2015, we praised the updated XPS 13 model for its addition of a reversible USB Type-C/Thunderbolt port, and its improved performance and battery life (this time over 10 hours), thanks to the inclusion of a newer Intel 6th-Generation “Skylake” processor.

The latest model we’re looking at here retains the same design and much the same features as the models we looked at in 2015, including a stunning 3,200×1,800-pixel touch screen, the now-familiar barely-there bezel (a feature the company calls “Infinity Display”), and a blazing-fast 256GB Samsung PM951 NVMe solid-state drive (SSD) paired with 8GB of RAM.

Dell XPS 13 (i7, Gold, Iris Lid with Silver XPS 15)

But Dell has outfitted this specific $1649 configuration with a couple of unique features. Unlike the silver shells of previous iterations, this model comes with a subtle champagne-gold hue on the lid and underside. And the Core i7-6560U processor in this model sports improved Intel “Iris” integrated graphics, rather than the HD Graphics 520 that ships with most high-end slim-and-light laptops these days based on Skylake silicon.

Just know that the inclusion of Iris a slight down tick in CPU clock speed, which means it didn’t always beat out less-expensive Core i5 competitors in our benchmarks. So make sure you need the extra graphics muscle, otherwise you’re better off opting for a less-expensive Core i5 model. (Though you won’t get that one in gold.)

Dell XPS 13 (i7, Gold, Iris)

And our chief complaint about the XPS 13 remains here: Because of the slim bezels around the screen, the Webcam is wedged in under the display, in the left corner. This can make for some awkward up-the-nose camera angles during video chats, though that can be mitigated somewhat by propping the laptop up on a stack of books or some sort of stand before placing that all-important Skype call.


There’s nothing new about the design of this iteration of the XPS 13, other than the shift from a silver-metal lid and base, to a golden hue here. This isn’t an overly blingy or gaudy kind of gold, but a soft, subtle champagne-like color. In fact, we had to photograph the gold variant with the larger, silver-clad XPS 15 in order to really illustrate the color differences beyond the few available press shots. Still, we like the looks of the gold model more than we expected to. But unfortunately, Dell is offering it only in this one top-end configuration—for now, at least.

Dell XPS 13 (i7, Gold, Iris Bottom)

The gold color aside, there’s still a lot to like about this aluminum-and-carbon-fiber-clad PC. It’s fairly light (2.9 pounds, with this model’s included touch screen) and thin (just 0.6 inch thick). The slim-bezel screen, which Dell calls an “Infinity Display,” remains here as well, allowing Dell to jam a 13.3-inch screen into a frame that’s similar in size to Apple’s 11-inch MacBook Air.

Dell XPS 13 (i7, Gold, Iris Thunderbolt Close)

As we saw with the XPS 13 refresh in late 2015, Dell has added a reversible, future-looking Thunderbolt 3 port on the laptop’s left edge, which supports speeds up to 40Gbps (as well as the USB 3.1 Gen 2 standard and DisplayPort 1.2). This multifaceted port won’t be of much use to most users until the standard becomes more common, but interestingly, the laptop can also be charged over this port, as well.

Dell still ships the laptop with a traditional power brick, which plugs into the circular jack on the left edge. But if you opt for the company’s latest Dell Power Companion external battery, it can be used to power the laptop over the USB Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 port.

The dimensions of the XPS 13 remain the same, at 12×7.9 inches, and 0.6 inch thick, which lets Dell rightly claim that the XPS 13 is a 13-inch laptop jammed in an 11-inch frame. Apple’s 11-inch MacBook Air, for instance, is slightly thicker (0.68 inch), and only slightly smaller in the other dimensions (11.8 inches wide, and 7.8 inches front to back). That’s an impressive feat on Dell’s part.

That said, at 2.9 pounds (or 2.7 pounds for the non-touch models), the XPS 13 isn’t the lightest 13.3-inch laptop you can buy. Lenovo’s almost comically light LaVie Z is just 1.7 pounds (really, it feels like a hollow laptop shell), and the LG Gram weighs in at 2.2 pounds, despite being offered with either a 13.3- or 14-inch screen.

But unlike either of those two alternatives, the XPS 13 feels extremely solid, with a rigid lid, a hinge that doesn’t give or wobble as much as some other laptops and convertibles when you tap the touch screen, and a keyboard that doesn’t flex unless you really mash your fingers against the keys (which we don’t recommend). In other words, the XPS 13 feels built for durability and a life on the road, which is more than we can say for some similarly priced laptops that may be a little slimmer or lighter.

Dell XPS 13 (2016 Gold Design, Core i7 With Iris) Review –