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Still One of the Most Portable 13-inch Laptops Around
The refreshed XPS 13 won't blow you away with new features or a revamped design, but it does improve in one critical area: performance. The inclusion of new Kaby Lake-R processors sees an enormous gain on its predecessors, producing performance up to twice as fast as an equivalent 7th gen CPU. In sustained workloads, the new XPS 13 performed even better than I expected, exceeding the original results we saw from the Core i7-8550U.
And it gets even better if you're jumping from, say, an original Broadwell XPS 13, with CPU performance more than 2.4x greater at times. You won't see as significant gains in GPU performance, though it's clear Kaby Lake-R is all about the CPU.
The XPS 13 still includes a range of great features despite its aging design, such as Thunderbolt 3, a fingerprint scanner, and those beautifully slim bezels around the 13.3-inch display. The keyboard and trackpad are both serviceable, and I still love the aluminium chassis with carbon fibre interior. The display looks good in general, though its dynamic contrast feature makes it unsuitable for those that demand accuracy.
Like previous XPS 13s, battery life from this latest one is fantastic, topping the charts by a significant margin in video playback, while also recording great results in web browsing. It's no surprise the XPS 13 lasts a long time with a 60 Wh battery inside, but it's always nice to confirm the laptop is good for more than a day of usage.
Pricing for the XPS 13 remains the same as last year, though at the moment only some XPS 13 models come with 8th gen CPUs. If you're after the base $800 model or the $1000 model, you'll be getting 7th gen parts, so I'd avoid those for now.
The variant I reviewed costs $1,149, which is okay for a Core i7, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, though not the cheapest out there. The XPS 13 can get very expensive when looking at the upper-tier models, so I'd stick to the base variants and configure it to your liking where necessary.
Considering the design still holds up well, and the XPS 13 is one of the most portable 13-inch devices on the market, I'd still recommend it for those wanting a pure laptop. If you want 360-degree hinges or other fancy features, the familiar design of the XPS 13 won't be for you, but that's the beauty of having so many great choices on the market these days.
Pros: Significantly improved performance thanks to 8th-gen CPUs: there's a reason to upgrade now! Design might be aging, but it's still very compact and holds up well against competitors.
Cons: Can't disable the display's dynamic contrast. Slightly expensive for the hardware you get.