It’s really hard not to have an opinion about Dell’s top-shelf XPS notebook lineup and it’s harder not to like it, to be honest. The XPS 13 often has been named as the best alternative to Apple’s MacBook Pro 13. The ultrabook packs impressive specs, beats most 13-inch laptops on the market in terms of portability while design and build quality are rarely matched.
All of this comes at a price, though, and it’s not a small one. Some of the XPS 13 configurations are even more expensive than the MacBook Pro but our opinion still remains from two generations ago – it’s worth every penny. The battery life is amazing, the performance is good, the input devices are comfortable and whichever display option you choose, the image quality is always vivid, crisp and the screen is extra bright. Let’s see how the latest Kaby Lake refresh has changed, what new features holds, and will the new Core i7-7500U live up to the expectations and Intel’s claims.
You can find all of the available models: http://amzn.to/2ggcMvh
The box contains only the user manuals, the AC cord and the small and stylish charger. The notebook, though, comes in a smaller black, matte box.
Design and construction
The overall design and build quality perfectly match the premium nature and price of the product. The only noticeable change in this aspect is the inclusion of rose gold as a color of choice. The refreshed version retains the sturdiness, the excellent choice of materials and portability from the last generation.
Anodized aluminum remains the main material while carbon fiber base peeks through the matte and slightly transparent silicone surface on the interior. We also noticed that the hinge is more tightly pulled in order to counter the annoying wobbling effect when tapping on the touchscreen. Nevertheless, it still swings when using the touch panel but it’s not as prominent. Speaking of the screen, we see identical to the previous generation XPS 13s layout – ultra-thin bezels and a compact chin accommodating the webcam in the lower left corner only to shrink even more the overall size of the machine.
It’s really hard to come across such small 13-inchers. A small exception is the recently reviewed Lenovo Yoga 910 where things are done slightly different. The form factor hasn’t been changed as much but holds a bigger 13.9-inch display. Also, given the price point of both devices, it’s pretty fair to say that the Yoga 910 holds an edge over the XPS 13 when it comes to versatility. The 360-degree rotatable watchband hinge takes the lead in this one.
However, the XPS 13 holds several other features that should appeal even to the most pretentious users. For instance, the keyboard experience is just excellent. You might notice the short key travel but this has been compensated with a clicky, tactile feedback. This type of keyboard feel always reminds us of the HP Spectre 13 and it’s also comparable to the Yoga 910’s, although the layout of the XPS 13 is entirely different. The touchpad, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. It’s responsive, stable, clicky and recognizes gestures excellently, but the surface isn’t coated with a low-resistance material. Something very essential for more precise movements of the cursor.
With no visual or build changes, the XPS 13 still remains one of our top choices for a 13-inch device in terms of quality and design. We’re also delighted by the fact that the newer XPS 13 have not grown in size and weight despite the inner hardware changes.
Disassembly, maintenance and upgrade options
Accessing the internals is a fairly easy task. You just need to remove the screws and pop it open. Oh, and don’t forget to open the little cap in the middle as it holds one extra screw, as shown in the photos below.
Storage upgrade options – M.2 SSD slot
As a premium and ultra-thin device, the XPS 13 is equipped with an M.2 SSD as a storage solution. It supports the PCIe NVMe standard holding a standard 2280 stick. It’s manufactured by Toshiba and we found the same drive in the Acer Predator 15 and 17 notebooks and in the ASUS ROG G752VS. It’s even a tad faster than its Samsung counterpart.
|2280 M.2 slot||Toshiba THNSN5256GPUK PCIe NVMe||Upgrade options|
The RAM chips are soldered to the motherboard, therefore cannot be upgraded. Make sure you pick up the best configuration depending on your needs.
Interestingly, the Wi-Fi module is a Killer AC 1535 with a main focus for gaming.
The battery has seen a slight bump now offering a 60Wh charge opposed to the 56Wh in the previous model.
The cooling design hasn’t changed as much and still offers good cooling properties. There’s one heat sink on the chip and a heat pipe leading to the fan, which pushes out the hot air. It may look too simple but it’s effective enough for this kind of device and the workload that’s going to withstand.
Since the last two generations of XPS 13 that we reviewed were equipped with a 1080p panel, we can’t really compared them to this year’s unit. But a quick research on the web shows that the laptop retains the same IGZO IPS panel from Sharp from the previous Skylake-powered generation – SHP144A.
This is a 13.3-inch panel with glossy finish and a QHD+ resolution (3200×1800). This makes up for 276 ppi or 0.092 x 0.092 mm pixel pitch. It can be considered as “Retina” when viewed from a distance equal or greater than 30 cm.
The panel offers excellent viewing angles even from a 45-degree incline.
We measured the maximum brightness with Dynamic Brightness turned off only to find out that the it’s comparable to some smartphones. We got the whopping 456 cd/m2 in the middle and 409 cd/m2 as an average value across the surface. This means around 20% deviation. The color temperature, on the other hand, seems a bit off – 7270K so colors will appear slightly colder than usual. The contrast ratio is 1020:1 before calibration and 930:1 after.
The maximum dE2000 (color deviation) compared to the center of the screen is 5.0 which is slightly higher than the maximum allowed 4.0. This is important when doing color-sensitive work.
To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction of the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.
Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people in HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.
Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.
So in this case, the notebook covers 95% of the sRGB color gamut making it an excellent choice for multimedia activities as well.
Below you will see practically the same image but with the color circles representing the reference colors and the white circles being the result. You can see main and additional colors with 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% saturation inside the sRGB gamut pre and post calibration.
The “Office and Web Design” profile has been created with 140 cd/m2 brightness, D65 white point and the gamma has been corrected to fit the sRGB mode.
We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the Office & Web Design profile.
The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.
The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the Gaming & Movie Nights profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle and the surrounding light conditions.
We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and reverse.
We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 26 ms.
PWM (Screen flickering)
Pulse Width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.
Unfortunately, the display uses PWM for regulating brightness but at much higher frequencies than usual (19.8 kHz). This means that it will affect only users with sensitive eyes while others won’t notice any negative impact.
Blue light emissions
Installing of our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin, and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our specialized article on Blue Light.
You can see the levels of emitted blue light on the spectral power distribution (SDP) graph.
The high-end display fits the high-end profile of the notebook with some excellent properties like wide sRGB coverage, high contrast ratio, relatively accurate color accuracy and incredibly high maximum brightness. However, there are some issues that need to be addressed like less than optimal gamma, color temperature and the presence of PWM from 0 to 99% screen brightness.
Luckily, our profiles are able to fix all this. They will help reduce the eye strain by eliminating the negative blue light emissions and PWM while correcting setting straight the gamma curve and color temperature.
Buy our display profiles
Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package is meant for Dell XPS 13 configurations with 13.3″ Sharp SHP144A (QHD+, 3200 x 1800) IPS, which can be found on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2gZMuN0
*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about the profiles HERE.
In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia's products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.
Office work / Web design
If your field is office work or web design, or you just want your monitor's color set to be as accurate as possible for the Internet color space, this profile will prove to be useful.
Gaming or Movie nights
We developed this profile especially for occasions on which you spend a lot of time in front of your monitor with some games or watching movies – it will be easier for you to discern fine nuances in the dark.
This profile reduces the negative impact of pulsation and the blue spectrum, securing your eyes and body. You still get a pitch-perfect color image, albeit slightly warmer.
We didn’t catch any noticeable distortions and we can say that the sound quality is very good.
The current specs sheet is for this particular model and configurations may differ depending on your region
|Processor||Intel Core i7-7500U (2-core, 2.70 – 3.50 GHz, 4MB cache)|
|RAM||up to 16GB (1x 16384MB) – LPDDR3, 1866MHz|
|Graphics card||Intel HD Graphics 620 (integrated GPU)|
|HDD/SSD||256GB Toshiba THNSN5256GPUK M.2 SSD (PCIe NVMe, 2280)|
|Display||13.3-inch – QHD+ (3200×1800) IPS touch, glossy|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2×2, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Battery||60 Wh, 4-Cell Battery|
|Weight||1.20 kg (2.7 lbs)|
We used the pre-installed Windows 10 (64-bit) OS for the writing of this review but if you wish to perform a clean install without the bloatware, we suggest downloading the latest drivers from Dell’s official website.
Quite frankly, we were surprised by the excellent battery performance, even though the unit is equipped with a juicy QHD+ screen that draws a lot of power. In fact, the new XPS 13 scored a little better than its FHD predecessor so we can only imagine how much better the battery life would be on the Full HD variant.
There are three main reasons for the outstanding results – the IGZO IPS panel, which is more energy-efficient than the standard IPS panels, the update to the Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U CPU and the slightly bumped battery capacity from 56Wh to 60Wh.
Anyway, we ran all the tests using the same settings as always – Wi-Fi turned on, Windows battery saving feature switched on and screen brightness set to 120 cd/m2.
In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.
Outstanding result – 613 minutes (10 hours and 13 minutes).
For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.
Considerably lower result but understandable given the resolution of the screen – 327 minutes (5 hours and 27 minutes).
For accurate simulation, we used the Metro Last Light benchmark running on loop with graphic settings set to minimum.
This test got the most of the battery since it’s the most demanding one – 117 minutes (1 hour and 57 minutes).
CPU – Intel Core i7-7500U
The Core i7-7500U is part of the latest Intel Kaby Lake generation of CPUs built upon 14nm manufacturing process – or 14nm+ as the company markets – and should offer marginal performance gains over the Skylake generation while improving overall power efficiency. It’s a direct successor to the Core i7-6500U (Skylake) and Core i7-5500 (Broadwell) but opposed to previous architecture refreshes, the Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U is bringing much higher clock rates. Now the chip is clocked at 2.7 – 3.5 GHz (compared to the 2.5 – 3.1 GHz on the Skylake Core i7-6500U) and still adopting the 2/4 core/thread count using the HyperThreading technology with a maximum 4MB cache.
However, the Core i7-7500U’s TDP is still rated at 15W including the iGPU and dual-channel memory controller that supports DDR4-2133, LPDDR3-1866 and DDR3L-1600. And as far as the iGPU is concerned, it integrates a slightly improved Intel HD Graphics 620 clocked at 300 – 1050 MHz, which is slightly higher than the iGPU on the Core i5-7200U (300 – 1000 MHz).
You can browse through our top CPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-cpu-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this processor: http://laptopmedia.com/processor/intel-core-i7-7500u/
Results are from the Cinebench 11 test (higher the score, the better)
|Dell XPS 13 (9360, Kaby Lake) Intel Core i7-7500U (2-cores, 2.7 - 3.5 GHz)||3.80|
|Dell XPS 13 (9350, Late 2015) Intel Core i5-6200U (2-cores, 2.3 - 2.8 GHz)||3.22||-15.26%|
|Dell XPS (9343, 2015 Broadwell) Intel Core i5-5200U (2-cores, 2.2 - 2.7 GHz)||2.86||-24.74%|
|Lenovo Yoga 910 Intel Core i5-7200U (2-cores, 2.5 - 3.1 GHz)||3.65||-3.95%|
|HP Spectre 13 (2016) Intel Core i7-6500U (2-cores, 2.5 - 3.1 GHz)||3.22||-15.26%|
Results are from the NovaBench CPU test (higher the score, the better)
|Dell XPS 13 (9360, Kaby Lake) Intel Core i7-7500U (2-cores, 2.7 - 3.5 GHz)||526|
|Dell XPS 13 (9350, Late 2015) Intel Core i5-6200U (2-cores, 2.3 - 2.8 GHz)||444||-15.59%|
|Dell XPS (9343, 2015 Broadwell) Intel Core i5-5200U (2-cores, 2.2 - 2.7 GHz)||393||-25.29%|
|Lenovo Yoga 910 Intel Core i5-7200U (2-cores, 2.5 - 3.1 GHz)||484||-7.98%|
|HP Spectre 13 (2016) Intel Core i7-6500U (2-cores, 2.5 - 3.1 GHz)||482||-8.37%|
Results are from the Photoshop test (lower the score, the better)
|Dell XPS 13 (9360, Kaby Lake) Intel Core i7-7500U (2-cores, 2.7 - 3.5 GHz)||17.46|
|Dell XPS 13 (9350, Late 2015) Intel Core i5-6200U (2-cores, 2.3 - 2.8 GHz)||20.08||+15.01%|
|Dell XPS (9343, 2015 Broadwell) Intel Core i5-5200U (2-cores, 2.2 - 2.7 GHz)||22.00||+26%|
|Lenovo Yoga 910 Intel Core i5-7200U (2-cores, 2.5 - 3.1 GHz)||17.75||+1.66%|
|HP Spectre 13 (2016) Intel Core i7-6500U (2-cores, 2.5 - 3.1 GHz)||18.78||+7.56%|
Fritz is a chess benchmark that tests the computing capabilities of the CPU with various chess moves. The Intel Core i7-7500U scored 6.891 million moves per second. In comparison, one of the most powerful chess computers, Deep(er) Blue, was able to squeeze out 200 million moves per second. In 1997 Deep(er) Blue even beat the famous Garry Kasparov with 3.5 to 2.5.
GPU – Intel HD Graphics 620
Intel’s HD Graphics 620 is a direct successor to the integrated HD Graphics 520. The latter is found in ULV (ultra-low voltage) processors from the 6th Generation (Skylake) of chips while the former is in the 7th (Kaby Lake) generation of CPUs.
Intel’s HD Graphics 620 uses the GT2 version of the graphics chip with 24 EUs (Execution Units) reaching as high as 1050 MHz and it has a base frequency of 300 MHz. However, the maximum operating frequency depends on the CPU, whether it’s the Core i3-7100U or the Core i5-7200U or the Core i7-7500U. Since the iGPU doesn’t have a dedicated memory – or eDRAM for that matter – it uses the available RAM on the system which is 2x 64-bit DDR3 or DDR4.
The TDP depends on the CPU model but it’s usually equipped with a SoC rated at 15W including the memory controller. Its performance should be enough for multimedia activities, light applications and gaming on really low resolution and minimum graphics settings.
You can browse through our top GPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook with this GPU that we’ve tested: http://laptopmedia.com/video-card/intel-hd-graphics-620/
Results are from the 3DMark Cloud Gate (G) test (higher the score, the better)
|Dell XPS 13 (9360, Kaby Lake) Intel HD Graphics 620||7494|
|Dell XPS 13 (9350, Late 2015) Intel HD Graphics 520||7207||-3.83%|
|Dell XPS (9343, 2015 Broadwell) Intel HD Graphics 5500||5040||-32.75%|
|Lenovo Yoga 910 Intel HD Graphics 620||7675||+2.42%|
|HP Spectre 13 (2016) Intel HD Graphics 520||5009||-33.16%|
Results are from the 3DMark Fire Strike (G) test (higher the score, the better)
|Dell XPS 13 (9360, Kaby Lake) Intel HD Graphics 620||1004|
|Dell XPS 13 (9350, Late 2015) Intel HD Graphics 520||389||-61.25%|
|Dell XPS (9343, 2015 Broadwell) Intel HD Graphics 5500||610||-39.24%|
|Lenovo Yoga 910 Intel HD Graphics 620||855||-14.84%|
|HP Spectre 13 (2016) Intel HD Graphics 520||732||-27.09%|
Results are from the 3DMark (Sky Diver) test (higher the score, the better)
|Dell XPS 13 (9360, Kaby Lake) Intel HD Graphics 620||3699|
|Dell XPS 13 (9350, Late 2015) Intel HD Graphics 520||3134||-15.27%|
|Dell XPS (9343, 2015 Broadwell) Intel HD Graphics 5500||2306||-37.66%|
|Lenovo Yoga 910 Intel HD Graphics 620||3474||-6.08%|
|HP Spectre 13 (2016) Intel HD Graphics 520||2451||-33.74%|
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 3.0 test (higher the score, the better)
|Dell XPS 13 (9360, Kaby Lake) Intel HD Graphics 620||302|
|Dell XPS 13 (9350, Late 2015) Intel HD Graphics 520||237||-21.52%|
|Dell XPS (9343, 2015 Broadwell) Intel HD Graphics 5500||212||-29.8%|
|Lenovo Yoga 910 Intel HD Graphics 620||275||-8.94%|
|HP Spectre 13 (2016) Intel HD Graphics 520||137||-54.64%|
This two-staged test doesn’t represent real-life use as the general user wouldn’t be able to reach 100% CPU and 100% GPU load for such long periods of time but it will give us a good grasp of what the system can offer in terms of reliability in the long run.
We start off with 100% CPU load for an hour. At first, the CPU was able to reach its full potential of 3.5 GHz but then declined to 3.0 GHz, which is absolutely normal for a Core i7-7500U processor. The new Kaby Lake CPUs are designed to reach higher frequencies for the first 30 seconds or so and then return to more bearable clocks without exceeding the TDP of 15W. However, as you can see in the image below, the high performance of the CPU comes at a price – high temperatures.
We also ran the GPU stress test alongside the first one, again for an hour. Quite expectedly, the CPU started throttling so it would give enough headroom for the GPU to perform at its full potential.
Despite the inner temperatures, the surface around the keyboard and touchpad remained cool. Also, we weren’t sure where to mention this, but we noticed an annoying coil whine when the notebook is on. It’s definitely not the fan as it stays off when the device isn’t under heavy load. It’s definitely something that you can hear when you are in a quiet environment.
So the bottom line is that the new XPS 13 offers something that some people will describe as “unnecessary upgrade” and we agree with this to some extent. However, the XPS 13 was an excellent premium ultrabook as it is so the slight bump in the battery department and the all new Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U are all welcome changes, which reflect on endurance quite a lot as you can see from our tests.
Moreover, Dell has kept the same impeccable design and build quality, along with the stunning border-less screen. The keyboard feels good and the touchpad is generally comfortable to use. The surface needs a little improvement and it’s something that’s been missing for the last two generations as well.
Now let’s talk about the display because we already did a review of the Full HD versions from the last two years and we are extremely happy with the QHD+ variant this year. As we already mentioned in the display section of the review, the Sharp IGZO IPS panel used for this unit is also available in the SKylake-powered 9350 XPS 13 so the results should apply to the latter too. We are talking about high-quality, crisp, vivid and super bright screen with negligible drawbacks that can be fixed by installing our profiles. The most noticeable flaw would be the use of PWM from 0 to 99% brightness bu that’s also something we can fix with the Health-Guard profile.
Do we still recommend the refreshed XPS 13? Sure we do. In fact, we still think this is one of the best premium laptops out there as long as you can afford it. If not, you won’t make a mistake getting the previous Skylake generation – the difference isn’t that noticeable. Or you can simply opt for the Lenovo Yoga 910 which is also a great alternative if you are looking for a more versatile product and a little bit of extra endurance during the day.
You can find all of the available models: http://amzn.to/2ggcMvh
- Impeccable design and build quality
- Light and portable like always
- Good input devices
- Fast storage solution (M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD support)
- Nearly border-less and almost flawless IPS IGZO QHD+ panel
- Outstanding web browsing runtimes
- Coil whine
- The screen uses high-frequency PWM from 0 to 99% brightness (Health-Guard profile fixes that)