Dell XPS 13 7390 hands-on review

The new XPS 13 is as portable as ever, but just got way more powerful

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Dell XPS 13 7390 hands-on

“The new XPS 13 looks familiar but just got significantly more powerful.”
  • Latest 10th-gen Comet Lake processors
  • Premium design with minimal bezels
  • Tactile keyboard with integrated fingerprint reader
  • Up to 21 hours stated battery life
  • Iterative update with no major design change
  • Graphics will still suck

The XPS 13 is the best laptop you can buy, plain and simple. But when we saw a preview of the redesigned XPS 13 2-in-1 this summer complete with the new Intel Ice Lake processors and a super-portable form factor, we started to wonder if the old tried-and-true had been surpassed.

Though the 2-in-1 is yet to be launched, we now have an updated XPS 13, timed with the release of the powerful new Comet Lake processors from Intel. It doesn’t look any different from previous versions on the outside, but on the inside it’s got a new beating heart.

Perfecting the wheel

With a design that gets as close to perfection as the XPS 13, it’s hard to imagine where Dell designers would go next. Fortunately, Dell chose not to reinvent the wheel, opting instead of refinements that make an already great laptop better.

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That process began earlier this year when Dell showed up an updated XPS 13 at the Consumer Electronics Show. Though the company has been lauded for the striking design with bezels that are almost invisible along the top and side edges, that design forced designers to relocate the webcam to the screen’s bottom edge. To achieve the older sleek look on the XPS 13, users had to compromise on video calling, with awkward up-the-nose angles during conference calls. To rectify this, Dell chose a more balanced design earlier this year, miniaturizing the camera to just 2.25mm, and adopting a more balanced bezel design, and that’s a design trend that’s fortunately moving forward with the latest 7390 model with Intel 10th-gen processor.

Given that not much has changed with the overall design of this laptop, the latest XPS 13 7390 is still constructed of premium materials, including a Corning Gorilla Glass 4 display to protect the UltraSharp 4K UHD touch display, aluminum in the shell, and a woven carbon-fiber  – you can also choose configurations with FHD touch and non-touch if you’re on a budget – and a machined aluminum lid and bottom cover in a wedge shaped design with carbon fiber palm rest that’s made from woven fibers of glass.

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As with recent generations of the XPS 13, the latest model features a good keyboard with very tactile keys – the keyboards on early versions of the laptop felt mushy – and a Windows Hello fingerprint sensor is built into the keyboard deck, similar to the design approach Apple took with the MacBook Air’s redesign.

Another aspect that is unchanged in this new generation is the screen. You still get the option of either 1080p or 4K, both of which have their benefits. In our experience, both are fantastic displays, though you’ll want the 4K option for the wider color gamut and brighter panel (over 400 nits).

For port selection, the XPS 13 still offers two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a USB-C 3.1 port, a microSD card slot, and a headphone jack. All 10th-gen processors also include Wi-Fi 6, which Intel promises will result in faster connectivity.

Comet Lake delivers six cores

The only real update here is in performance. In case you’re confused (because we definitely were), Intel now has two breeds of 10th-gen mobile processors: Ice Lake and Comet Lake. Comet Lake, featured here, is the more conventional processor, built off the 14nm architecture Intel has been refining for many years. Going with Comet Lake isn’t just about being safe, though. It comes with one big benefit. Six-core processors.

The Core i7-10710U features six cores and twelve threads, making it far more powerful laptop for creatives and multitaskers. In the past, access to six cores was limited to 15-inch laptops like the Razer Blade or Dell XPS 15. Though we don’t expect the small XPS 13 to reach the performance levels of those H-series processors, the two extra cores should be a significant benefit. When you jump down to the Core i5 or Core i3, the upgrade to Comet Lake likely won’t be as noticeable.

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Though Dell didn’t have much to share about the specifics of the system’s performance, it did provide us with some Cinebench R15 multi-core test results.

You should hardly take a test like this at face value, especially when it comes as part of marketing materials. It did, however, show some of the strength of Dell’s thermals. Despite being limited to four cores like many of the other comparison laptops, the graph showed how its system can sustain higher levels of performance over time where other systems quickly begin to throttle. It’s something the company has been talking up for years. Dell says its unique thermal design is to credit, which uses Gore insulation to help dissipate heat and prevent throttling.

It should be noted that the high performance here doesn’t include the two extra cores of the Comet Lake Core i7, which should vastly improve multi-core performance.

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The XPS 13 can be configured with up to 16GB of memory, and storage maxes out with 2TB PCIe solid-state drive, giving you plenty of storage and performance while mobile.

As always, we’ll have to run our own benchmarks to see how the 10th-gen processor performs when we get the new XPS 13 in for review, but early results suggest that this is a very capable processor that will help the XPS 13 maintain its performance promise.

Graphics are unchanged

It’s not all good news for the XPS 13 and Comet Lake, though. Laptops that have the new Ice Lake processors will also get an option for the new Iris Plus graphics, which the XPS 13 lacks. These new integrated graphics from Intel are said to have significantly-increased performance, rivaling a discrete options like the Nvidia MX150. That should mean that even a highly portable system like the XPS 13 2-in-1 will be able to play some modern games at medium settings at near 60 FPS.

The XPS 13, however, will have to rely on the familiar UHD integrated graphics, which aren’t so good. There’s no getting around that. The XPS 13 does come with Thunderbolt 3 ports, though, meaning you can always plug in an external GPU  to do some gaming, but that’s your only option.

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Battery life on the XPS 13 is rated for up to 21 hours in “productivity applications” for the 1080p model, and down to 11 hours for the 4K model. The XPS 13 has historically been a superb performer in terms of battery life, so we don’t expect that to change in this new model.

The new XPS 13 goes on sale on August 27, but we don’t know the details of pricing yet — only that the Core i3 base model starts at $899 as it always has. Dell has also told Digital Trends that the configurations with the six-core processor will not be available until October.

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