Dell XPS 13 Plus review: Gorgeous, powerful but “hot” ultraportable

Dell released a Plus edition of its excellent XPS 13 laptop this year, to the surprise of many fans. As the name suggests, this version comes with more advanced technical features and is implicitly more expensive. But does the plus justify the difference of a few hundred dollars? We’ll find out the answer in this review.

The Dell XPS 13 is one of the most highly regarded ultraportable laptops on the market. With the Plus edition, Dell packed as much power as it could into a 13″ screen diagonal laptop.

The device, tested by me in the Platinum edition, comes with a minimalist design. The laptop is made of aluminum and immediately catches the eye with its small number of ports. The Dell XPS Plus comes with just two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports. But considering the target audience for this device, that’s not necessarily a negative.

The XPS 13 Plus isn’t a desktop replacement or a model with which you equip regular employees, but a lightweight, small form factor device designed for executives, business people or entrepreneurs who spend much of their careers on the road and in conferences. Users don’t need to buy adapters right away because two are included in the box: USB-C to USB-A 3.0 and USB-C to 3.5mm audio jack.

The keyboard and the entire front are made of grey plastic and glass. The touchpad is integrated into the palm rest and you have to guess where it is because it’s not marked in any way. There is no indentation or other clue as to where it is. Over time you learn the area where it is hidden. I would have preferred if Dell had introduced some discreet lettering or LEDs to show exactly where this item is.

In a similar way the F-keys and Power button are hidden. Fortunately, however, the F-keys are permanently illuminated and arranged in a capacitive button bar. Pressing the Fn key gives the user access to several functions, such as volume control, a button for screen capture or microphone mute. There is no response from these keys when pressed, so sometimes you wonder whether or not they have taken over the given command. A vibration system would certainly have been appreciated by many users.

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The Power button, located to the right of the Backspace button, includes a fingerprint sensor. It’s not marked either, so when you first open the laptop you’re left wondering where it is.

The keyboard is edge-to-edge, comfortable, and the generously sized keys, with no gaps between them, have a decent 1mm travel. You can type quickly and without mistakes. The keys are illuminated, but the brightness of the light flow is not satisfactory for me. The LEDs under them are not as bright as the ones in the capacitive button bar.

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The laptop is very well built, the hinge is firm, and the overall feel is that of a premium product. It should be noted that the product is 100% recyclable.

An excellent display, but modest refresh rate

The Dell XPS 13 comes with a non-touch display that offers 1,920 x 1,200 pixel resolution and 16:10 aspect ratio. Using this display is a pleasure. Viewing angles are wide, colors are vivid, faithfully reproduced, brightness is high, and the very narrow bezels help you focus on what you’re looking at on the display. Unfortunately, however, the refresh rate is only 60 Hz, which is hardly acceptable on high-end devices in 2022. Those who want a higher resolution can opt for the 3,456 x 2,160 pixel or 3,840 x 2,400 pixel versions. But they still come with a 60 Hz refresh rate.

An interesting feature here is Dell’s Eyesafe technology, which reduces the amount of harmful blue light emitted by the display.

Also impressive are the speakers. Two are discreetly positioned on the side, at the bottom of the device. Sounds are faithfully reproduced at all pitches, and bass is satisfactory. It helps that the XPS 13 Plus has two additional small speakers hidden under the keyboard and facing upwards. Dell has also included an app, MaxxAudio Pro, on the device for fine-tuned sound customisation.

The laptop’s camera is integrated into the top edge of the display. As you’d expect from a device targeting the business environment, where apps like Zoom or Skype are used a lot, the sensor delivers good performance, though the maximum resolution is only 720p.

Excellent performance

The Dell XPS 13 Plus comes with a 12th generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, Intel Iris Xe graphics and 512GB of internal SSD storage. Performance is excellent, even in some fairly complex games. I ran World of Tanks Blitz on the device with all settings on full, with excellent results.

In the PC Mark 10 Productivity Test Suite, the most relevant test for this model, the Dell XPS 13 Plus scored 5,411. It’s beaten in its segment only by the Lenovo IdeeaPad Slim 7 Carbon, with 5,936. In Geekbench, the tested model scored a multicore score of 10,621 and a single core score of 1,797. By comparison, the MacBook Air M2 has the following results: multicore – 8,965, single core – 1,911. As you can see, the Dell XPS 13 Plus is at the top of the ranking of the best performing ultraportable laptops on the market.

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Unfortunately, however, when running more demanding applications or after longer gaming sessions, the laptop gets quite hot. That’s despite the fact that Dell claims to have included an improved cooling system on the device, with larger fans providing 55% more airflow.

At times the laptop heated up quite strongly just with the Chrome browser on, with 24 tabs open. For those who want to use the device for longer periods for intensive tasks, I recommend using a coolpad to avoid “melting” the internal components.

Mediocre battery life

Unfortunately, this is one area where the Dell XPS 13 Plus doesn’t excel, and the mediocre battery life certainly has something to do with overheating issues. Heat overloads the battery pack. It’s hard to exceed four to five hours of use in a productivity scenario.

Low battery life exacerbates the problem of lack of ports. The laptop will spend a lot of time plugged into the charger so you’re left with a single USB-C port to make do with for all other necessities.

Technical features in brief:
Operating system: Windows 11 Pro, version 21H2
Display: 13.4″, 1,920 x 1,200 pixel resolution, 60 Hz refresh rate
Processor: Intel Core i7-1260P, 12th generation
RAM: 16 GB (LPDDR5, 5,200 MHz)
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe
Internal storage capacity: 512 GB (M.2, Gen 4 PCIe)
Camera: 720p resolution, Windows Hello support
Ports: 2 x Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type-C with DisplayPort and Power Delivery)
Battery: 55 Wh, three cells, fast charging at 60 W
Dimensions and weight: 295.3 x 199.04 x 15.95 mm / 1.27 kg

Conclusion

The Dell XPS 13 Plus is a solidly built laptop that delivers great performance. It’s a very nice computer that feels like it’s from the future, lightweight and ultraportable.

But the manufacturer packed very powerful components into a small space, and because of that, compromises had to be made. Problems with battery life and overheating make this model hard to recommend at the 10,000+ price tag it carries. I think XPS 13 fans should opt, this year, for the base version of the laptop or look at alternatives, including the significantly cheaper MacBook Air with M2 chip and better graphics performance. In my opinion, the XPS 13 Plus is more of an experimental product, aimed at ardent fans of the series and early adopter customers.

Positives

– Superb design based on premium materials
– High performance
– Lightweight and small in size
– Quality, eye-friendly display
– High quality sound

Negative parts

– Mediocre autonomy
– Overheating
– Touchpad hard to use
– It is very expensive
– Few ports

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