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Dell XPS 13 Plus vs. XPS 13: Which is better?

The Dell XPS 13 has been at the top of our best laptops list for several years now, and for good reason. It’s an extremely well-built and well-designed machine that epitomizes the 13-inch laptop. It looks great, performs well, has an excellent keyboard and touchpad, and leaves very little to desire.

That wasn’t good enough for Dell, though. It decided to produce an adjunct laptop in the 13-inch size, the XPS 13 Plus, which brings a host of new technologies and a new design. Just because it’s newer doesn’t mean it’s better, though. That’s why we’re taking a look at the XPS 13 Plus and comparing it to the XPS 13 to see if the new machine has a chance to usurp the older machine’s place at the top of the heap.

The Dell XPS 13 Plus on a marble side table.

Specs

  Dell XPS 13 Dell XPS 13 Plus
Dimensions 11.64 inches x 7.82 inches x 0.58 inches  11.63 inches x 7.84 inches x 0.60 inches
Weight 2.8 pounds 2.73 pounds
Processor Intel Core i3-1115G4
Intel Core i5-1135G7
Intel Core i7-1185G7
Intel Core i7-1195G7
Intel Core i5-1240P
Intel Core i7-1260P
Intel Core i7-1270P
Intel Core i7-1280P
Graphics Intel Iris Xe Intel Iris Xe graphics
RAM 8GB LPDDR4
16GB LPDDR4
32GB LPDDR4
8GB LPDDR5
16GB LPDDR5
32GB LPDDR5
64GB LPDDR5
Display 13.4-inch 16:10 IPS Full HD+ (1,920 x 1,200)
13.4-inch 16:10 IPS Full HD+ touch
13.4-inch 16:10 OLED 3.5K (3,456 x 2,160) touch
13.4-inch 16:10 IPS UHD+ (3,840 x 2,400) touch
13.4-inch 16:10 IPS Full HD+ (1920 x 1200)
13.4-inch 16:10 OLED 3.5K (3456 x 2160) touch
13.4-inch 16:10 IPS UHD+ (3840 x 2400) touch
Storage 256GB SSD
512GB SSD
1TB SSD
2TB SSD
512GB SSD
1TB SSD
2GB SSD
4TB SSD
8TB SSD
Touch Optional Optional
Ports 2x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
3.5mm audio jack
MicroSD card reader
 2x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
Wireless Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2
Webcam 720p, Windows Hello IR webcam 720p, Windows Hello IR webcam
Operating system Windows 10 or 11 Home or Pro Windows 11 Home or Pro
Battery 52 watt-hours 55 watt-hours
Price $950+ $1,099+
Rating 5 out of 5 stars Hands-on review

Design

XPS 13 Plus laptop on a white table.

The XPS 13’s design is the culmination of years of iterations. It’s a mix of aluminum in the outer chassis and carbon or glass fiber on the keyboard deck (depending on whether it’s black or white). The build quality is as good as it gets, with zero bending, flexing, or twisting, and the aesthetic is streamlined and stunning in its cohesive simplicity. The fiber palm rest is warm and comfortable compared to all-metal alternatives.

The XPS 13 Plus looks eerily similar from the outside, with the same aluminum lid and chassis bottom albeit with two color options, Platinum and a darker Graphite, but open it up and it couldn’t be more different. First, there’s no longer any fiber in the keyboard deck — it’s now all aluminum, losing that warmth enjoyed by the XPS 13. It’s an even simpler look that remains attractive but doesn’t stand out as much from the rest of the laptop pack. We weren’t able to determine the build quality of the XPS 13 Plus during our brief hands-on time with the laptop, but we assume that it will retain the XPS standard.

The XPS 13 Plus keyboard is markedly different as well, no longer simple chiclet keycaps as with the XPS 13 but rather a flatter, edge-to-edge design that offers less key spacing. Again, we only had a few minutes of hands-on time with the XPS 13 Plus, but the keyboard still felt as good as the version on the XPS 13.

Dell XPS 13 open on a table.

Even more striking is the lack of physical function keys on the XPS 13 Plus, with LED-backlit touch buttons without any kind of haptic feedback — it’s a strange choice that we found lacked the kind of responsiveness that would have made them more comfortable to use. We’re not sure that the touch keys improve over the physical keys on the XPS 13, and it seems to us that Dell is emulating Apple’s Touch Bar that was abandoned on the most recent MacBooks.

The touchpad is also brand new and entirely different, disappearing entirely and incorporating a haptic mechanism that we found a bit clunky in its initial version. Whether it’s better than the XPS 13’s physical touchpad will come down to how well Dell can refine the haptic version before release. Overall, the keyboard and touchpad combine to give the interior of the XPS 13 Plus a much different and more minimalist design. Whether it’s better or not comes down to personal taste.

The XPS 13 always had limited connectivity, with just two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a microSD card reader. The XPS 13 Plus has even less, with the likely controversial decision to remove the audio jack and the microSD card reader. That gives the XPS 13 an edge. The XPS 13 Plus does have updated Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2, compared to the Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 on the XPS 13.

Finally, while the webcam on the XPS 13 Plus remains at just HD (720p) as with the XPS 13, four speakers on the Plus model seem to provide enhanced audio over the XPS 13’s two speakers. That’s a distinct advantage that we’ll have to evaluate more when we’re not in a crowded and loud environment.

Performance

Dell XPS 13 9310 Performance view with ports and back edge.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The XPS 13 is equipped with a range of 11th-gen Intel Core processors, from the 2-core/4-thread Core i3-1115G4 to the 4-core/8-thread Core i7-1195G7. It also utilizes up to 32GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 2TB of PCIe Gen 3 SSD storage. It’s a speedy performer for demanding productivity tasks.

The XPS 13 Plus utilizes one of several 12th-gen CPUs Intel CPUs, from the Core i5-1240P up to the Core i7-1280P. These are 28-watt chips compared to the 15-watt processors in the XPS 13, and they use a completely new hybrid architecture built around “performance” and “efficiency” cores.

Dell also improved airflow in the XPS 13 Plus, up to 55%, meaning that the new processors should have a higher performance ceiling. Finally, the XPS 13 Plus can be configured with up to 64GB of faster LPDDR 5 RAM and up to 8TB of PCIe Gen 4 SSD storage.

We haven’t had a chance to test performance, of course, but we’re going to go ahead and assume that the XPS 13 Plus will be much faster than the XPS 13. Of course, the XPS 13 will be refreshed — it’s not going away — with likely the same components, and so once that happens the performance will probably be similar between the two models.

Display

Dell XPS 13 Plus in color Graphite open.

Other than dropping the Full HD+ IPS touch option, the XPS 13 Plus seems to have the same display options as the XPS 13. That means both can be configured with either a Full HD+ non-touch IPS panel (with a touch option on the XPS 13), a 3.5K OLED panel, or a 4K+ IPS panel. We’ll have to wait to apply our colorimeter to see if either laptop has an advantage in terms of display quality. If the XPS 13 Plus is anything like the XPS 13, though, that means it, too, will enjoy an excellent display no matter which option you choose.

Portability

Profile view of a closed Dell XPS 13 9310.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The XPS 13 Plus is almost the same size as the XPS 13, coming in at 11.63 inches by 7.84 inches by 0.60 inches compared to the XPS 13 at 11.64 inches by 7.82 inches by 0.58 inches. That makes the XPS 13 Plus slightly thicker than the XPS 13, but still quite thin. The XPS 13 Plus is slightly lighter at 2.73 pounds versus 2.8 pounds. Both laptops are tiny thanks to their minimal display bezels, and both will slip into a backpack and be barely noticeable.

While the XPS 13 Plus has a slightly larger battery at 55 watt-hours compared to 52 watt-hours in the XPS 13, we can’t comment much on potential battery life. Intel’s 12th-gen CPUs are expected to be more efficient and provide better battery life, but of course, that remains to be seen.

The Dell XPS 13 is the safer pick for now

Top-down view of an open Dell XPS 13.

We don’t have complete pricing information on the XPS 13 Plus, but we know that it will start at $1,099 for a Core i5, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage, and a Full HD+ non-touch display. That compares to the XPS 13 at $950 for a Core i3, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a Full HD+ non-touch display. The XPS 13 Plus will likely be slightly more expensive than the XPS 13, even after the latter receives its refresh later in 2022.

Which is the better laptop? That’s hard to say at the moment, given that we haven’t had a chance to go in-depth on the XPS 13 Plus. Most likely, the choice between the two will come down to whether you want the haptic touchpad and touch function keys and like the metal palm rest, or whether the XPS 13’s more traditional design appeals to you.

And, of course, we don’t know what the XPS 13 will look like when it’s updated. There’s still time to make a decision, though, since Dell has yet to announce a release date for the XPS 13 Plus, and that’s likely to be several months away.

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