The Dell XPS 13 Plus is interesting. It’s small, mighty and kind of futuristic. The 13 Plus packs what you’d expect from a Dell laptop in 2022, one you can carry around with you, but also one that somehow redesigns what you’re used to in a laptop without being annoying.
That last part is something I’ve kind of hyperfixated on a lot. The Dell XPS 13 Plus has a trackpad that stretches the entire width of the laptop. At first, it got in the way. I’d accidentally click something I didn’t mean to by leaning a little too heavy on my wrist while working. But, it was an annoyance that quickly turned into a pleasure and I really like what Dell has done here.
There’s more to the Dell XPS 13 Plus than an oversized trackpad, so let’s get into it.
Dell XPS 13 Plus
First announced in January at CES, the Dell XPS 13 Plus is a redesigned imagining of the company’s signature XPS 13 range. As is in the name, the XPS 13 Plus is a 13.4-inch laptop that weighs only 1.24kg. It’s 15.28mm thick and feels beautiful (it’s also the thinnest and lightest 13-inch XPS yet). When reviewing the XPS 13, we declared it was basically perfection and labelled it the best all-rounder laptop. This year, Dell has taken that one step further. This time, Dell was more minimalist with its design approach. It’s simplified the interior, moving to a new capacitive function row (which only lights either the media keys or the function keys depending on what the user is using) and it has increased the size of the keycaps.
With the XPS 13 Plus, Dell has reduced the size of the motherboard, allowing for more components to be crammed into a smaller chassis. Under the hood, the Dell XPS 13 Plus packs:
- Intel Iris Xe Graphics
- Processor: (up to) 12th Generation Intel Core i7-1280P (24MB cache, up to 4.8 GHz, 14 cores)
- Memory: (up to) 32GB (I reviewed the 16GB model)
- 55WHr battery
- 2x Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type-C) with DisplayPort and Power Delivery
- 1 USB-C to USB-A v3.0 adapter ships standard
- Colours: light (Platinum) and dark (Graphite)
Along with an edge-to-edge screen, the signature design element of past XPS 13 models was a two-tone silver lid with a black carbon-fibre interior. With this latest release, Dell has transitioned into a new era for XPS, one in which the laptop comes in two monochrome hues: light (Platinum) and dark (Graphite).
The full-size keyboard and touchpad are colour-matched with the deck and lid. This is stunning. The XPS 13 Plus is 100 per cent key caps – a ‘zero lattice’ keyboard (or in less jargony terms, one with no wasted space), the keyboard spans from one edge of the deck to the other, with practically no gaps between the keys. This reminded me of a large TV remote at first, or an oversized kid’s laptop, especially when moving back and forth from a MacBook Pro. But I got used to it. We’ve also got a seamless, glass haptic trackpad – meaning no lines around the trackpad. This keyboard is also purposely missing a key element: the function row. Replacing the Fn keys are touch capacitive ones flush with the deck. I got used to this, too. Unpopular opinion: I like the function row.
It’s drastically different to the models branded with a ’13’ that came before it.
The display is gorgeous. My day-to-day laptop is the 2021 MacBook Pro, which boasts a miniLED Liquid Retina XDR display with adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz. The XPS 13 Plus has a 3.5K OLED display that pushes out bright, vibrant colours, including the blackest blacks you’d ever expect to black. The clarity is not to be slept on. OLED is stunning. It’s locked at 60Hz, but honestly, it’s fine. Especially when we play some games.
I guess this is where I should swoon on the touchscreen that I had to force myself to get used to, considering I have very long fake nails that have me concerned I’m going to scratch the hell out of the screen. I didn’t use this feature a lot, mostly because it’s just straight-up awkward for me to use due to the aforementioned nails. Asking Zac to give it a bit of a go, he told me: “As someone who uses a touchscreen laptop on a daily basis, it’s perfectly fine and responsive”.
I also ran Stray via Steam on the XPS 13 Plus. While the laptop sounded not unlike a small plane getting ready for take-off, it kept up. I was quite impressed – zero lag, zero thinking, just doing. No matter how hard it was trying. It got severely warm underneath, however.
I tested the processor in Cinebench. In the single-core test, the laptop scored 1,493 points and 2nd position, whereas in the multi-core test, the laptop scored 5,737 points and 9th position (beating out the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio, FYI). That’s really great, indicating that this laptop could handle some strenuous, multi-application tasks (like photo-editing and video production).
We also benchmarked Forza Horizon 5, results below:
Plus work machine
Unlocking the laptop with my face is always a joyful experience, but it struggled when my fringe wasn’t pinned up. I’m not going to run through the Windows things you’ll have access to on the XPS 13 Plus, but it’s worth noting they work beautifully. The only things that annoyed me were Windows-related, that I can’t fault Dell for. When reviewing a device such as a laptop, we consider it important to run the machine how we would on a usual work day. Unfortunately, this brings annoyances to productivity and efficiency, but the XPS 13 Plus was very easy to get comfortable with. I’m a tab hoarder and the Plus held up.
During our tab test (which is opening tabs playing YouTube clips until the laptop craps itself), the XPS 13 Plus reached 53 tabs of clips from Hellfest. It sounded awful but 53 tabs was a lot to cop. But boy, did the laptop get warm. The lag started getting noticeable around the 30 mark, but it was tolerable, though.
Video calling with my team was very clear, giving my MacBook Pro display a run for its money. Sound up loud was a little cringy during meetings, but streaming through Netflix, mind you my room was otherwise silent, was fine. Not great, and it could go louder, but it was fine.
Not-so Plus battery
When testing the battery, I was unimpressed. Chucking Avengers: Endgame on, at full brightness, highest resolution, highest volume and streaming from Disney+, the battery was whittled down from 100 per cent to 30 per cent over the movie’s runtime. By the one-hour mark, the battery was down to 83 per cent and by the two-hour mark it went down to 55 per cent. The Dell XPS 13 Plus got very, very warm. While I wanted more from the battery, for all-day basic work use, it lasted nearly the whole day. Opting for a non-OLED model should also give you more battery life, if that’s a big need for you.
Charging is super quick, at least. The fast charger the laptop comes with promises 80 per cent in under an hour. This was on-par with my experience.
Not-so Plus ports
There are just two ports on the XPS 13 Plus, both are USB-C. And there is no headphone jack. When I connected the XPS to the Samsung M8 Smart Monitor, I had one port left (luckily the monitor charged the laptop, otherwise I’d have had none). I don’t really know what exactly I want to use the ports for myself, but I want the luxury of having them, you know? There is a USB-C to USB-A adapter and a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box Dell ships the XPS 13 Plus out in, however.
I’m not sure why, but unplugging the charging cable from the XPS 13 Plus is an absolute nightmare. I feel like I’m going to do some damage.
There’s also no audio jack.
Dell XPS 13 Plus, the verdict
The redesign of the Dell XPS 13 for the Plus isn’t for everyone, but you’re never going to please the entire market. I found the machine perfect for day-to-day use, and playing games was surprisingly a decent experience (when you consider this isn’t meant for that). It delivers pro performance in a form factor you can carry in your bag. The XPS 13 Plus doesn’t get too loud, but it gets very, very warm. The battery life could be better, but the OLED is stunning. It’s an expensive machine, almost too expensive for the aforementioned day-to-day use. It’s also more powerful than you’d need to check email and open a lot of tabs. It sits somewhere in the middle, made for someone who wants a powerful laptop to use for work or pleasure, without it being too bulky or loud.
Where to buy the Dell XPS 13 Plus?
From Dell for $2,300-$3,700 depending on configuration (the model I reviewed is $2,633)