Updated 08/01/2015 at 12:50pm: We’ve added a hands-on video.
Bezels are a nuisance. They rob users of precious millimeters that might be better used to reduce the size and weight of a system. It’s unlikely they’ll ever be eliminated completely, at least not with current LCD technology, but Dell’s new XPS 13 comes close.
I had time to use one after Dell’s conference today and can confirm the hype surrounding the company’s latest and greatest is justified. The bezels are as thin as most smartphones, giving the 13.1-inch panel, which is available with 1080p or 3,200 x 1,800 resolution, room to shine.
The bezels are as thin as most smartphones.
Dell is calling the XPS 13 an 11-inch laptop with a 13-inch screen. In other words, the bezels are so thin that the system’s length and width is similar a smaller 11.6-inch notebook. Keen users might worry that means it has an undersized keyboard, but I found no issue with it. The keys span most of the system’s width and even provide respectable travel.
While the bezels attracted attention at first glance the XPS 13’s build quality came into focus as I began to handle the system. This is an incredibly precise, rugged piece of hardware. It’s not as thin and light as Samsung’s featherweight ATIV Book 9, but it feels like it’d be more at home in the hands of a business traveler or even a student. I paid particular attention to the display lid to see if the bezels compromised strength and was surprised to find it feels stronger than most competitors.
Another difference between the XPS 13 and the slimmer ATIV Book 9 is the hardware. Samsung went with Intel’s Core M to achieve its super-thin profile, but Dell has opted for the standard fifth-generation Core instead. That means better overall performance, and certainly in my brief time with the system I never felt speed to be an issue. Opening multiple windows and browsing through images was silky smooth, as you’d expect from any high-end notebook.
Strangely, though, the XPS 13 isn’t a luxury machine. While it certainly looks and feels like an expensive and expertly crafted piece of machinery, the starting price for a Core i3 processor and 1080p display is only $800, and that’s quite affordable. The model I observed had the 3,200 x 1,800 pixel panel, which was excellent, but the base 1080p system looks great as well. It works out to about 168 pixels per inch, which isn’t going to make a MacBook Pro with Retina cower in fear, but is certainly sharp enough to look beautiful.
One trait that I couldn’t test at Dell’s booth, but which is important to note, is battery life. The company’s spokespeople told me they’ve used a large high-density battery to achieve up to 15 hours of life on a single charge. That’s almost double what the old XPS 13, which was already had excellent endurance, managed, and it’s one of the best figures we’ve heard quoted at the show.
Dell’s XPS 13 is available immediately, so you can pick one up now if you’re impatient. As noted, the base model starts at $800. Picking up the 3,200 x 1,800 display will set you back $1,300.