Dell XPS 13 (2022) review: a real answer to the MacBook Air

Dell XPS 13 (9315)

MSRP $829.00

“The Dell XPS 13 happily trades performance for a healthy dose of affordability and efficiency.”


  • Aggressive price
  • Very compact design
  • Great battery life
  • Comfortable keyboard
  • Display is shiny and prime quality


  • No headphone jack
  • Performance is lacking

The beloved Dell XPS 13 of previous years now not exists.

The favored line of premium laptops is now split between the XPS 13 Plus and the usual XPS 13 – and that’s meant a recent approach to distinguishing the 2.

With the XPS 13 Plus because the costlier, innovative, that leaves the usual XPS 13 because the cheaper offering. The result’s a nerfed XPS 13 by way of performance, but at an especially inexpensive starting price of just $829.

Dell XPS 13 specs

  Dell XPS 13 (9315)
Dimensions 11.63 x 7.85 x 0.55 inches
Weight 2.59 kilos
Processor Intel Core i5-1230U

Intel Core i7-1250U

Graphics Intel Xe Graphics
RAM As much as 32GB LPDDR5 5200MHz
Display 13.4-inch 1920 x 1200 IPS
Storage As much as 1TB PCIe SSD
Touch Optional
Ports 2x Thunderbolt 4 ports
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2
Webcam 720p + IR camera
Operating system Windows 11
Battery 45 watt-hour
Price Starts at $829

A well-known design

The back lid of the Dell XPS 13.

Taking a have a look at the design, there are a number of notable changes from previous generations of the XPS 13. Just like the Plus model, this one is all aluminum, so no more carbon-fiber weave within the palm rests. I’ll definitely miss the white color option and the unique materials of the old XPS laptops.

Dell now offers the lighter “Sky” color, which is the one I actually have, and the darker “Umber” model. The Sky color is interesting too, because the keycaps are a rather different color. All of it comes together in a color scheme that feels unique. These aren’t standard silver and black, not less than.

Dell hasn’t bought into the trend toward sharper 1080p webcams.

The super thin bezels are still here, in fact. Because the pioneer of super-thin laptop bezels, Dell’s design stays essentially the most aggressive with its screen-to-body ratio. It looks as spectacular as ever.

Unfortunately, the persistence to maintain the look, means it’s still stuck on a tiny 720p webcam housed in the highest bezels. It’ll get by for the occasional Zoom call, but it surely’s not essentially the most flattering by way of image quality. It does some odd things with colours, and struggles in common video conferencing scenarios, especially if the lighting isn’t perfect. Dell hasn’t bought into the trend toward sharper 1080p webcams, especially not on the expense of its hard-earned top bezel.

The Dell XPS 13 on a table with the Start Menu open.

The display itself hasn’t modified this time around either. It’s still a 16:10 IPS panel with options for touch or non-touch. You possibly can crank it as much as 444 nits, which is plenty shiny, even should you’re working outside or near a window. In fact, color saturation (AdobeRGB 75%) isn’t wide because the high-resolution OLED models available on the XPS 13 Plus. But for the needs of a sub-$1,000 laptop, this is a wonderful display.

Dell has also saved a lot of more experimental design features for the XPS 13 Plus. So, no haptic feedback trackpad, edge-to-edge keyboard, or capacitive touch buttons that replaced the function row. All the things here is more familiar and more comfortable.

I miss the haptic trackpad from the XPS 13 Plus.

The one aspect I actually miss from the Plus model is the haptic trackpad. I loved the implementation of it, and the chunkier click of the usual XPS 13’s touchpad feels tiresome as compared. Double clicks aren’t as smooth, and the clicking mechanism is overly loud.

While the XPS 13 Plus got lots of the flashier recent features, it retained a really similar internal design to previous generations of the XPS 13. The usual XPS 13, though, couldn’t be more different on the within.

Redesigned internals

The side of the Dell XPS 13 on a table.

Numerous engineering work has gone into making the Dell XPS 13 thinner. It’s now 0.55 inches thick, which makes it one in all the thinnest Windows laptops you may buy. And it does feel really thin to carry, despite the undeniable fact that it’s actually only 5% thinner than the previous model. But as I’m sure you already know, at this size, every millimeter shaved off comes with a mountain of labor behind the scenes.

First off, Dell says the motherboard is 1.8 times smaller overall this time around, including using a thinner PCB, which is definitely now using a tech borrowed from smartphone boards. Pulling off the back cover, you may see how little space the motherboard now takes up — it’s pretty astounding. Dell has found ways to shrink mainly every component, including the storage and memory — and without stepping into all the main points, it’s a formidable amount of engineering work that went into this internal redesign. However the result, again, is only a 5% reduction in thickness.

The internals compared between two versions of the Dell XPS 13.

And if it seems like I’m not impressed, it’s because there’s this little laptop on the market called the M2 MacBook Air. At 0.44 inches thick, the MacBook Air continues to be 20% thinner than the XPS 13. That seems like greater than it truly is, though. You won’t see an enormous difference in thickness whenever you set these laptops side by side, and Dell has put in lots of work to be sure that of it.

But when it comes right down to it, the true kicker with the brand new XPS 13 is the performance. In attempts to shrink all the things down, you get only one fan, and with it, only a 9-watt processor from Intel’s Twelfth-gen U-series chips. These chips have just two Performance cores, which is 4 fewer than the P-series chips just like the one utilized in the Dell XPS 13 Plus.

(single / multi)
Cinebench R23
(single / multi)
PCMark 10
Dell XPS 13 (Core i5-1230U) 1393 / 4,459 333 1379 / 3457 4023
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Gen 2
(Core i7-1280P)
1493 / 8668 126 1575 / 7595 5094
Dell XPS 13 Plus
(Core i7-1280P)
1316 / 8207 127 1311 / 6308 4309
Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED
(Ryzen 7 6800U)
1417 / 6854 112 1402 / 8682 5647
HP Elite Dragonfly G3 (Core i7-1265U) 1699 / 5936 194 1618 / 5601 4975

The most important purpose of nerfing the XPS 13, I assume, is to tell apart the XPS 13 from the Plus model, which uses a more standard 15-watt processor. Less power means less performance – and on this case, it’s actually quite a bit less. That is one in all the worst-performing Intel Twelfth-gen laptops I’ve tested to this point. It’s even a bit slower than last yr’s Eleventh-gen model. But with a 9-watt processor that has only two Performance cores, it’s sort of what I’d expected.

Which may sound horrible, but really, I might argue that last yr’s performance might be enough. You shouldn’t be buying this laptop to edit video all day or play games. As a substitute, it’s for web browsing, online work, video conferencing, the occasional photo edit or coding project — and this laptop handles all of that just fantastic.

It’s the multi-core performance that suffers essentially the most, in any case, and for essentially the most part, those kinds of applications are only not what a laptop of this kind is for. Moreover, in the case of selecting the processor for a laptop, it’s not all about performance. Looking beyond the benchmarks, you’ll see numerous benefits that higher suit the Dell XPS 13 to match with a laptop just like the M1 MacBook Air.

The hidden advantages of less power

The keyboard of the Dell XPS 13.

First off, the XPS 13 handles heat significantly better than the XPS 13 Plus. Considered one of my biggest complaints with that laptop was how hot the surface temperatures got, even when running pretty standard applications. The XPS 13 doesn’t have that problem, and really does a improbable job at staying each cool and quiet. There’s only that one fan, and it never gets overly loud.

In fact, you’ll find an “Ultra Performance” thermal mode within the My Dell utility, which might crank the fan a bit more. Unlike some Performance modes present in other laptops, this one does quite a bit. Toggling on Ultra Performance mode while encoding a video in Handbrake, for instance, netting me a 42% faster completion of the duty. This put it closer to other Twelfth-gen U-series laptops, showing just how far the default “Optimized” mode is weighed toward a quiet, cool experience.

Battery life is the second good thing about Dell using a lower-powered chip on the XPS 13. This thing lasted well over 13 hours in light web browsing, which is over 5 hours longer than the XPS 13 Plus. So long as I didn’t have too many long video calls, I discovered that I could through the vast majority of a day away from an outlet. You’ll still get a solid 4 or five more hours out of the M2 MacBook Air, but by way of Windows laptops, the Dell XPS 13 is back on the front of the pack.

The keyboard of the Dell XPS 13.

The query stays: would you trade a number of extra hours of battery life for a step down in multi-core performance? I feel for most individuals wanting to buy this laptop, the battery life is more useful.

And lastly, there’s the value. Choosing this lower-powered chip has allowed Dell to cost the XPS 13 very aggressively. The starting configuration, which is the one I’m reviewing, costs just $829. That base-level configuration even comes with 512GB of storage, meaning it’s not less than $400 cheaper than the M1 MacBook Air when similarly configured.

And Dell isn’t really even offering higher-end configurations — not less than not right away. No high-resolution OLED screens or 2TB storage options can be found in the mean time, leaving those for the XPS 13 Plus. Even so, there’s just not one other laptop at this price point that may compete by way of overall value.

When missing a headphone jack is an issue

The USB-C port on the Dell XPS 13.

But there’s one decision Dell made with the XPS 13 that seems like undoes all of the clever engineering and marketing behind this laptop. It doesn’t have a headphone jack. Similar to the XPS 13 Plus, the XPS 13 has said goodbye to the beloved 3.5mm headphone jack, offering you only two Thunderbolt 4 ports in exchange.

An adapter is included within the box, thankfully, but that doesn’t take away the sting of feeling a bit duped.

The dearth of a headphone jack is a compromise most individuals won’t see the necessity for.

Dropping the headphone jack on the XPS 13 Plus made some sense. It was meant to be a cutting-edge laptop, in any case, that pushed the boundaries of design. People knew what they were stepping into. And with the edge-to-edge keyboard and touch buttons, it felt such as you were trading the unique design for a sleeker design.

But with the XPS 13, Dell could have taken it a step too far — and that’s coming from someone who isn’t fully against the thought of laptops without headphone jacks. I don’t think people use their headphone jacks as much as they think they do. But on a laptop just like the XPS 13, especially at its cheaper price, it’s a compromise most individuals won’t see the necessity for. And I’m unsure I do either.

Buy it, but tread flippantly

The Dell XPS 13, open on a table in front of a window.

In lots of ways, the brand new XPS 13 seems like a response to the overwhelming success of the M1 MacBook Air. While the remainder of the Windows ecosystem has continued on, almost pretending as if the MacBook Air didn’t exist, the XPS 13 seems like it’s actually been designed around beating Apple at its own game.

It’s still not as powerful or long-lasting because the MacBook Air, but at $829, it’s a killer deal. I like that Dell wasn’t afraid of using the value as an attack against Apple, even when it meant making a number of compromises along the best way. If I could discover a solution to add back in a headphone jack, I’d have few qualms recommending this laptop to most individuals purchasing for a Windows laptop. But whilst it’s, you won’t find one other premium laptop under $1,000 quite this good.

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