DELL HAS broken from the norm with its newest laptop by offering a Linux version, aimed at both developers and those not too keen on Windows 10. It’s an interesting experiment, but how does the Ubuntu-powered XPS 13 stack up?
Design and hardware
The XPS 13 Developer Edition’s metal chassis is beautifully sleek and modern, and reassuringly strong despite the svelte dimensions. At just 304x200x15mm it’s a shade smaller than the current generation Apple MacBook which stands at 314x219x18mm. Our touchscreen model weighed 1.29kg, while the non-touch version is a touch lighter at 1.2kg.
This is a seriously desirable device, as a glance at the way the aluminium meets the carbon-fibre before it tapers away at the end will tell you, but you want it to be when you consider the £1,473 asking price.
If you’re ogling its looks but just don’t fancy dipping your toes into the Linux pool, you could always opt for the Windows version. This is essentially the vanilla XPS 13 in Linux clothing, there’s even the familiar Windows key.
A rubbery textured carbon fibre surrounds the subtly-lit backlit keyboard, and the red Ubuntu sticker below the keypad is the only indication of its Linux lineage. There’s a good spring in the keys, but they’re not as pleasing to use as the slightly curved buttons on the Dell Latitude E7470, for instance.
Despite a lack of physical buttons, we generally found the soft-touch trackpad responsive and accurate.
We got our hands on the Intel Core i7-6560U model (3.2GHz) with 16GB of DDR3 RAM and Intel Iris 540 graphics. But the XPS 13 will also ship with an i5 processor (2.8GHz) and 8GB of RAM.
Performance was mostly stable and smooth (see Software below). If the Dell XPS 13 is really aimed at the developer crowd as claimed, it has more than enough resources for even the most gruelling compiling tasks.
The chassis has two USB 3.0 ports (one with PowerShare), a Thunderbolt port and a 3-in-1 card reader. If you need VGA, HDMI, USB 2.0 or Ethernet you’ll need the Dell Mini Dock that’s sold separately. A 720p webcam hides in the bottom left corner of the lid.
There are a couple of choices when it comes to display technology. Top of the pile is a 13.3in QHD+ (3,200×1,800) touch display, and what a screen it is. The Gorilla Glass-toughened 13.3in display is packed into an 11in frame under Dell’s InfinityEdge moniker. It’s got a glossy finish and manages 276ppi, and the 400 nit brightness offers vivid colours and sharp edges. A lesser, but still impressive, 13.3in Full HD (1,920×1,080) non-touch option is also available.
A four-cell, 56wHR battery provides around 10 hours. One thing to note is the non-replaceable nature of the battery, which could spell bad news down the line if you’re out of warranty and in need of a new one.
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