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Here’s how Dell made the XPS 13 2-in-1 great

Dan Baker/Digital Trends
We recently reviewed Dell’s new XPS 13 2-in-1 machine and found it to combine all of the best things about the XPS 13 notebook with the features that make a Windows 10 2-in-1 device most usable. Our review confirmed our decision to name the XPS 13 2-in-1 a “Best of CES 2017.”

A closer look at how Dell developed the machine now shows that the firm didn’t simply add a hinge to the XPS 13 so that it could swivel around into tablet mode and leave it at that. Instead, the company worked closely with suppliers to make sure that its new 2-in-1 would provide an optimal experience, as Tom’s Guide reports.

For example, as we covered in our review, the XPS 13 2-in-1 introduces a new Dynamic Power Mode that pushes the Intel Core Y-series processor to greater levels of performance. The Y-series processors were renamed, separating them from the previous “Core M” designation, after that line developed a reputation for poor performance.

Although Intel Core Y processors are also low-powered CPUs, Dell worked closely with Intel to implement the Dynamic Power Mode, and we found that it indeed provides some performance advantages over other manufacturers’ machines with the same CPUs. Basically, Dynamic Power Mode lets the CPU run temporarily at a thermal design power (TDP) of 9 watts versus its normal 7-watt TDP, squeezing out a little more performance when it’s needed the most.

The performance isn’t enough to move the XPS 13 2-in-1 into a faster category of machines running Core i-series processors, but it’s a significant advantage over other similarly equipped thin and light 2-in-1s. The design decision results in a machine that maintains a low power profile overall but can still perform when called upon.

Another area where Dell worked closely with a supplier was with respect to the display, which is produced by Sharp. As Ed Boyd, Dell’s senior vice president for product design, told Tom’s Guide, “We didn’t go to Sharp and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to make a computer. What do you guys have?’ We said, ‘We want to make this.'”

Except for the display’s relatively low brightness and higher-than-average color error, Dell’s efforts seem to have paid off. We found the display to offer solid results in other metrics, including 97-percent sRGB and 75-percent AdobeRGB color gamuts, along with an excellent contrast ratio of 1,120:1.

It’s not perfect, but Dell’s assertion that it paid serious attention to the display seems warranted.

Finally, pursuit of thin designs has reached a tipping point where too much functionality is sacrificed for ultimate thinness — but Dell chose not to go all the way down that rabbit hole. While it did remove legacy ports in favor of all USB Type-C ports (which we consider a weakness at this stage of the new standard’s adoption), Dell stepped back from hampering the typing experience.

As XPS Director Donnie Oliphant put it, “We were looking at shaving, literally, just one-tenth of a millimeter off of the travel. But (the keyboard) didn’t test to our satisfaction, so we threw that 0.1 millimeters back into the design.” The XPS 13 2-in-1 is meant to be used as a tablet, and so being thinner and lighter is worth some compromise, but generally speaking Dell did what it could to maintain a quality keyboard and good battery life.

The Windows PC ecosystem is particularly competitive today, with an unprecedented number of new form factors and excellent designs, and no manufacturer can afford to rest on their laurels. The XPS 13 is a great notebook, but Dell recognized the need to make the 2-in-1 version even better — and it took some steps to get there.

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