Dell XPS 13 (2020) review: A deft upgrade that doesn't break what doesn't need fixing
Should I buy the Dell XPS 13 (2020)?
Dell’s latest XPS 13 doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it does work to smooth things out. The latest version of Dell’s premium notebook brings with a handful of smart design changes and minor improvements in performance and battery life.
It’s Dell’s best laptop - made a little bit better.
Previous Dell XPS 13 have earned our recommendation and this one's no different. There are certainly more specialised options available for more specialised usage. However, if you're looking for the best all-around laptop around and can fit it into your budget, the new Dell XPS 13 is what you're looking for.
Price when reviewed
In Australia, recommended retail pricing for the new Dell XPS 13 starts at AU$2898.
Dell XPS 13 (2020) full review
In Australia, you can buy the new Dell XPS 13 with prices starting at AU$2898. You can find it through the following:
Design - Look, Feel and Features
There are two ways to talk about the design of Dell’s latest XPS 13. You can either look at things from the perspective of someone who is already familiar with the OEM’s range of premium laptops or approach things with a more fresh frame of mind.
On one hand, everything that worked about the previous XPS 13 models works just as well here. The overall look, feel and featureset of the new Dell XPS 13 is largely consistent when it comes to the broad strokes of the laptop experience.
You still get the slick and sleek form-factor. You still get the softly-rubberised wrist-rest and full-sized, LED-lit keyboard with 1.3mm travel. You still get the thin bezels on the effortlessly-beautiful 13.3-inch FHD InfinityEdge display.
Some of those details merit more explanation than others. This time around, Dell has looked to escalate their pitch for what the best laptop looks like. To that end, the new XPS 13 features a larger display plus a new edge-to-edge keyboard.
Where the previous models worked to whittle away the top and side-bezels, the new XPS 13 cracks down on the bottom-most edge of the display. All told, this revision sees the new XPS offer a slightly (6.8%) larger display surface than predecessors.
As mentioned, the keyboard on the XPS 13 has also gotten a facelift. Specifically, it now stretches all the way to the edge of the clamshell, allowing for more comfortable daily use. This change isn’t exactly earth-shattering but, after a few weeks of tinkering with it, I’m convinced it's a smart one.
For the record, the new Dell XPS 13 now features a total of four ports:
2x USB Type-C
1x headphone jack
I can’t erase my memories of reviewing the last four generations of XPS 13 laptops. However, if you are coming to things fresh, I doubt you’d be disappointed with the serving of silicon goodness that Dell are delivering here.
Dell’s XPS range is about providing a premium Windows laptop experience that doesn’t just deliver the fundamentals but excels at them. It doesn’t just have a nice display. It’s got an excellent one. It doesn’t just have a nice trackpad. It’s got an excellent one. It doesn’t just have a nice CPU. It’s got an excellent one.
The trick here is that the Dell XPS feels premium but it also feels resistant to the wear and tear of the everyday. It’s not something you want to put behind glass to keep in mint condition. It’s a nice laptop that’s designed and ready to be used in the real world.
The new Dell XPS 13 feels sturdy, significant and cohesive. It’s soft on the inside, tough on the outside.
Performance - Specs, Benchmarks and Battery Life
Processor: Intel Core i7-1065G7
Operating System: Windows 10
Storage: 512GB SSD
Graphics: Intel Iris PLus Graphics
MicroSD slot: Yes
Display: 13.4" FHD+ InfinityEdge Non-Touch Anti-Glare 500-Nit Display
Connectivity: Killer Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.0
Front-Facing Camera: Widescreen HD (720p) webcam
Dimensions: 14.8mm x 296mm x 199mm
When it came to benchmarks, the new XPS 13 delivered the kind of incremental upgrades you’d expect. Across the board, it scored slightly higher than its predecessor but not by so great a margin that you’d call it a slam dunk.
Dell XPS 13 (2020) benchmark scores:
Geekbench CPU (Single): 1251
Geekbench CPU (Multi): 4601
Geekbench Compute: 10312
PC Mark 2.0: 3225
In terms of everyday usage, the Dell XPS 13 lived up to the legend of what a flagship premium laptop should deliver but it didn’t exactly redefine my expectations going forward. Applications loaded with a snappy sort of speed and there was little in the way of bloatware to be found here.
Going above a dozen or so tabs in Edge or Chrome did see things slow down somewhat but that’s not unusual for a laptop - even one as nice as this one. Dell’s latest XPS 13 might pair up some of the best laptop-grade hardware available with a great form-factor but there’s still a significant difference to be noted between what you’re getting here and what you’ll get from a desktop.
As for battery life, the new Dell XPS 13 delivered in a way we didn’t expect. Though excellent on most fronts, battery life for the XPS 13 has rarely strayed too far from the standard set by Intel’s Project Athena initiative. That standard is more than fine for most - but battery life just hasn’t been exceptional in the way that you’d hope and expect an XPS laptop to be.
This year’s Dell XPS 13 gets a little bit closer to that ideal. When subjected to the usual Battery Eater testing tool, which gauges the minimum battery life of a given notebook PC, the new Dell XPS 13 lasted for 3 hour and 33 minutes. Though not quite as long-lasting as the recent Galaxy Book S, this result represents a significant improvement on previous XPS 13 models - which have usually dropped dead after around 2 hours of testing.
The Bottom Line
Dell’s latest XPS 13 doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it does smoothen things out somewhat. It doesn’t stray far from the template but it is strategic about how it wants to be better than what came before it. Even if that formula is a little predictable, it’s easy to like.
The only real problem here is that while the new XPS 13 does offer improvements, none of these improvements really make for a solid enough reason to get the notebook over its prior incarnation. I had a great time working on the new Dell XPS 13 but I wouldn't say it was a radical improvement or upgrade over last year's model - which is now cheaper than ever.
The new Dell XPS 13 is the Peter Capaldi-era of Doctor Who in laptop form. It rarely releases genuine and original surprise but it's all too often a delight regardless. It doesn't do or say anything anything particularly different to its predecessors but it's great for many of the same reasons and in spite of the shared shortcomings.
Like the BBC's eternal science fiction drama, the new Dell XPS 13 is the gift that keeps on giving.
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