Dell XPS 13 (9310) Review

By Yvonne

The latest Dell XPS 13 is today's best ultraportable. It boasts a slim-to-the max chassis and a stunning screen.

Dell XPS13 (9310) Review

The pros

  • Performance Upgraded from Intel Tiger Lake CPU
  • Elegant styling
  • Vivid 16:10 screen
  • Extremely compact chassis
  • USB adapter available
  • Battery life is long


  • Port selection limited
  • As expensive as the configuration

Related Reading: Lenovo IdeaPad 3 14 Review

Specs for Dell XPS 13, 9310

Name Value
Laptop Class Ultraportable
Processor Intel Core i7-1165G7
Processor Speed 2.8 GHz
RAM (as Tested) 16 GB
Boot Drive Type SSD
Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested) 512 GB
Screen Size 13.4 inches
Native Display Resolution 1920 by 1200
Touch Screen Yes
Panel Technology IPS
Variable Refresh Support None
Screen Refresh Rate 60 Hz
Graphics Processor Intel Iris Xe
Wireless Networking Bluetooth, 802.11ax
Dimensions (HWD) 0.58 by 11.6 by 7.8 inches
Weight 2.8 lbs
Operating System Windows 10
Tested Battery Life (Hours:Minutes) 15:02

This ultraportable notebook is the first to feature Intel's 11th Generation Tiger Lake CPUs. It offers fast, efficient computing and long battery life. The laptop weighs in at 2.8 pounds and features a stunning 13.4 inch display, gorgeous chassis, and is our Editors Choice choice among premium Windows ultraportables. It's a little expensive at $999.99, and it was tested at $1,649, but this laptop is worth the investment for those who are passionate about cutting-edge style and performance.

Related Reading: Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2022) Review

Moment to Shine for XPS 13

You can still buy the XPS 13 if you're tempted by its major redesign, model 9300. You can now find everything you want about the new laptop, plus the bonus of using the most recent Intel silicon.

Although the CPU bump is the most significant change between the model 9300 and the new 9310, it is an essential one for those who plan on keeping their machine for at least five years. Dell produces new XPS 13 models at a rapid pace, often multiple times per year. The 9310 is a solid buy for those who do not want to see their costly investment replaced by something far better within a matter of months.

Dell XPS 13 (9310) angle view

The XPS 13 is admirably thin and feels satisfyingly solid, if not particularly lightweight. It measures 0.58 by 11.6 by 7.8 inches (HWD) and weighs 2.8 pounds in the touch-screen configuration reviewed here. Versions without a touch screen weigh slightly less, at 2.64 pounds, since they lack the touch version's Gorilla Glass 6 coating over the display.

Either of those weight measurements compare favorably with the Dell's archrival, the Apple MacBook Pro 13, which weighs 3.1 pounds. But the XPS 13 is still meaningfully heavier than the very lightest models on the market, such as Acer's 1.96-pound Swift 7 flagship.

The XPS 13 is a heavy-duty product that can be used for high-quality materials. It also has a modern design. You can feel the density of this system as soon as the box is opened. Dell claims that the edges have been twice anodized to protect against scratching from frequent plugging or unplugging peripherals. You will find even more things to look at when you open the lid.

There are two options: Frost White with an Alpine White carbon-fiber palmrest or Platinum Silver with one. The latter option is what our review unit used, and it looks amazing. It features a UV-resistant and stain-resistant coating that prevents discoloration and yellowing.

Dell XPS 13 (9310) touchpad

If you like the XPS 13's styling, you'll be interested to know Dell has expanded it across the range, which includes the latest versions of the larger XPS 15 and XPS 17 laptops. This is a similarly unified approach to the one Apple takes with the styling of the MacBook Air and the two sizes of the MacBook Pro.

Whether you're looking for an ultraportable for frequent travels or a large-screen machine with serious computing power, there's an XPS for you. There's even a 2-in-1 version of the XPS 13, which sports a 360-degree hinge that lets you convert the laptop into a tablet.

Related Reading: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 (2022) Review

A stunning display, even without 4K

Three versions of the XPS 13 display are available. All three models have a 16:10 aspect ratio, rather than the 16:9. This gives you more vertical space which can be useful when scrolling through long documents or browsing websites.

The touch panel of our review unit measures 1,920 by-1,200 pixels. The resolution of this panel is slightly higher than that of full HD (1920x1,080 pixels), however it's still lower than either the Retina Display on the MacBook Pro, or the PixelSense display on the Microsoft Surface Laptop. The XPS 13 is capable of being configured with a panel measuring 3,840 by-2,400 pixels. This not only leapfrogs those laptops but also standard 4K display dimensions (3,840 x 2,160 pixels).

Dell XPS 13 (9310) profile

Once you've used a 4K screen, it's hard to go back to full HD, with its occasionally visible pixels and slightly grainy text. Perhaps that's why Apple and Microsoft don't offer full HD versions of the MacBook Pro or Surface Laptop 3. But I actually don't mind the XPS 13's screen resolution. Images appear especially vivid, which I attribute partly to the taller aspect ratio that results in slightly more pixels than a 1080p display and partly to the Dell's 100% sRGB and 90% DCI-P3 gamut support. I also appreciate the extraordinary rated maximum of 500 nits of brightness, which means the XPS 13 can even be viewed comfortably outdoors (though not in direct sunlight) if you crank up the brightness setting.

In this instance, I don't recommend the 4K version over the HD. This is a great option for people who are careful with their finances, as the price of the 4K screen can be more expensive. However, Dell's entry level screen is not as good, and it does not have touch support. This is a shame as many XPS 13 rivals offer touch support standard with the notable exception being the MacBook Pro.

Miniaturization Feats

A 720p webcam with IR facial recognition sensors, located in the middle of the display is an amazing feat in shrinking. The video quality is average for a laptop cam, meaning that indoor shots can be slightly blurred and noisy compared to the high-quality videos from midrange phones. Although Dell claims that it has made improvements to the camera's quality, such as adding a four-piece lens to improve image clarity and temporal noise suppression, Skype sessions in the living room will still be possible with your smartphone. The camera's chief innovation is its minuscule size—the XPS 13's screen occupies 91.5% of the footprint of the chassis, which means the bezels surrounding it are razor-thin.

Dell XPS 13 (9310) left ports

One of the consequences of a compact laptop is less room for ports. The XPS 13's are limited to two USB Type-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, a headphone jack, and a microSD card reader. This means you'll need an adapter or dongle to plug in an external monitor or USB Type-A peripherals. (Dell thoughtfully includes a USB adapter in the box.)

This could be a drawback for the work-from-home crowd, who will likely be using the XPS 13 with an external display. While it's true that the XPS 13 is simply following the trend toward fewer and fewer ports, its selection is stingy even among its peers. The MacBook Pro offers as many as four USB-C ports, all of which support Thunderbolt 3.

Dell XPS 13 (9310) right ports

The ultraportable offers the latest Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5 wireless connectivity standards, good for stable internet connections and wireless keyboards and mice. But many users will happily stick with the built-in touchpad and keyboard, both of which I find to be comfortable for short typing and tapping sessions. The large keycaps and extensive surface area of the pad are welcome improvements over the cramped equivalents on some competitors, including the Asus ZenBook 13. The power button in the upper right corner of the keyboard doubles as a fingerprint reader for password-free logins to your Windows 10 account.

Stereo speakers on the XPS 13 are excellent for audio quality. They combine to deliver up to 4 Watts of power and are balanced enough that the sound is richer than one would expect for such a small package. The majority of audio is transmitted through the grille at the laptop's bottom, though voice tracks and other treble notes from a few trailers I saw never sound muffled.

Dell offers an optional extended warranty of up to 4 years on the XPS 13 and a 1-year hardware warranty.

The XPS13: Goodbye Ice and Hello Tiger

New XPS 13 uses the new Tiger Lake CPUs instead of Intel's 10th Generation Ice Lake processors. Although there isn't much difference, we noticed some performance gains in a few benchmarks compared to the 9300 model. The test unit is equipped with a Core i7-1165G7 quad-core processor with Hyper-Threading. It runs at a base frequency 2.8GHz instead of 1.3GHz as the 10th Generation Core i7. While the clock speed increases performance for certain tasks, the number of threads and cores remain the same. Check out our laptop testing.

Although the XPS 13 relied more on integrated graphics than a discrete one, the new model features Intel's Iris Xe, which replaces the Iris Plus graphics. The review unit has 16GB memory and a solid-state hard drive of 512GB, both which should provide enough for most users. For the entry-level configuration, a Core i3, 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD are included. This is a much smaller set of components than the MacBook Pro's entry-level configuration, which includes a Core i5. The entry-level MacBook Pro costs $300 more than its base XPS 13 counterpart.

Here's a listing of specifications for the XPS 13 test laptop and a couple other similar laptops that we tested, such as the Apple MacBook Pro and the Asus ZenBook 13 and Razer Blade Stealth 13 and the Microsoft Surface Laptop.

Of the group, the Asus is the only other contender to sport a Tiger Lake CPU.

Memory, CPU and Media Tests

The benchmark experts at UL (formerly Futuremark) have created a Windows-only PCMark performance test suite that provides a first glimpse at overall performance. We simulate different content creation and productivity workflows in real life using the PCMark 10 benchmark test. It is used to evaluate overall system performance in office-centric tasks like word processing, spreadsheet jockeying and web browsing. Although the XPS 13 is comparable in performance to the ZenBook 13, it performs just as well.

PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the system's boot drive. Like PCMark 10, it yields a proprietary numeric score (higher numbers are better). Most recent laptops with SSDs perform roughly equally well in this test, which is the case here.

The next step is Maxon’s Cinebench R15 CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 testing, which is fully threaded in order to take advantage of all processor threads and cores. Cinebench uses the CPU to render complex images, rather than the GPU.

This score is an indicator of a computer's ability to handle processor-intensive tasks. This test clearly shows that the Ice Lake-based Surface Laptop 3 (and Blade Stealth 13) are a rung lower than the ZenBook 13 and Tiger Lake XPS 13. Core i5 is an underachiever in the MacBook Pro.

Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video-editing trial, another tough, threaded workout that's highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads. In it, we put a stopwatch on test systems as they transcode a standard 12-minute clip of 4K video to a 1080p MP4 file. It's a timed test, and lower results are better. The XPS 13 is locked in a surprising tie for first place with the MacBook Pro, with the Asus not far behind.

We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop for Windows and the latest Photoshop CC release for macOS, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and, at the end, add up the total execution time. As with Handbrake, lower times are better here. The Photoshop test stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM. The XPS 13 performs well—better than the Apple, but not quite as quick as the ZenBook 13.

Graphics and Battery Life Testing

The switch from older Iris Plus graphics to Iris Xe is one of the major benefits of Intel's Tiger Lake platform. The improvement is not noticeable in graphics testing. We use the Windows-only 3DMark or Superposition simulations to generate sequences of 3D graphics with a high emphasis on particles and lighting.

Two different 3DMark subtests are used, Sky Diver and Fire Strike. They can be applied to different systems. While both are DirectX 11 benchmarks Sky Diver can be used on laptops and midrange computers, Fire Strike requires high-end systems to excel. These scores are not public.

Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it's rendered in the company's eponymous Unigine engine, offering a different 3D workload scenario than 3DMark for a second opinion on the machine's graphical prowess.

The Iris Xe laptops show a slight advantage over their Iris Plus counterparts, but the difference isn't remarkable. It's also much less of an advantage than what is offered by an entry-level gaming GPU like the Nvidia processor in the Blade Stealth 13. The bottom line for graphics output is that the XPS 13 will be able to handle pretty much anything you throw at it except for intensive 3D games, which require a dedicated GPU to run smoothly. (For more analysis of Iris Xe performance, check out our Iris Xe primer and in-depth Tiger Lake testing feature.)

The XPS 13 is equipped with a battery of 52-watts that can last for up to 15 hours during our video playback testing. It should be able to withstand an entire day without requiring power.

That's a very good result, even though it's "just" in line with what the competition offers and actually slightly shorter than the 17.5 hours we saw from the previous model 9300.

Hear me Roar! Today's Top High-End Ultraportables

The XPS 13 ultraportable is a remarkable device. Its key strength lies in its innovative computing components and beautifully-designed, well-built chassis. This is a rare feat in an otherwise crowded market of ultraportable laptops. Aside from differences in operating systems, the XPS 13 may be a better option than the MacBook Pro right now because Apple's notebook uses older processors and is vulnerable to being replaced.

Dell XPS 13 (9310) underside

One of the few reasons not to choose the XPS 13 is if you're seeking a robust gaming experience on the side. Intel's Iris Xe silicon is pretty good if you are willing to dial things back (this is not the integrated graphics of a year or two ago), but even so, the Nvidia GeForce GTX-equipped Blade Stealth 13 is likely a more prudent choice, at the minor expense of shorter battery life, a not-quite-as-sleek chassis, and an older-generation CPU. Otherwise, the XPS 13 is the cream of the crop, and retains our Editors' Choice award as 2020's best high-end ultraportable laptop to date.