Dell XPS 13 Review (2020)

dell xps 13 review 2020

We’re taking a look today at a very attractive Windows laptop from Dell. This is their new flagship Dell XPS 13 2020, a nice and compact device that uses its display real estate very efficiently.

The price point on these is going to vary based on your configuration. The basic model is a little above one grand with an i5 processor and a non-touch display, and they work their way up from there.

What I’m going to do here is give you some recommendations as to what I think the best configuration options are, and I think you’re probably going to land at around 1500$, give or take.

Let’s dive into the review of Dell XPS 13 real quickly and see what we have here.

Dell XPS 13: Quick Overview

dell xps 13 2020 overview

This model has an i7 processor, a 1065G7 that has the Iris Plus Graphics and I would strongly suggest that if you’re in the market for one of these, spend a little bit more to get that i7 processor because it has better graphics than the i5 version that they’re offering. 

Verdict

The Dell XPS 13 is an excellent investment for the future. You will get better graphical performance for games and video editing, video production, video capture, and photo editing. Anything that’s going to make use of the graphics system will benefit from that uptick in performance.

Dell XPS 13: Hardware Overview

Display

The one we’re reviewing now has a 13-inch display, but they have a few different options for it. This one has a 1900×1200 resolution display, and it also has a touch built-in.

Because it has a touch panel on it, it’s gleaming as you can see, but they offer a less expensive display with the same resolution and brightness for a little bit less without touch. That one’s a matte finish, so you might like that better if you don’t need the touch option.

If you want to go for the gusto, you can get a 4k display on this, but I think that’s overkill in a small laptop like the Dell XPS 13 because 1900×1200 in a small form-factor does have decent pixel density to it. Things look nice and sharp. In fact, I even turned up the windows scaling here to make the icons and text bigger, and it looks really nice. 

The 4K display will look a little nicer but not that nicer, especially that you’re paying more for it, and you’re also going to take a battery life hit in the process.

All of the displays are nice and bright, around 500 nits for these, so I think you’re not going to have any brightness issues no matter what light you are in, and it’s nice to see they have a wide range of choices available in display for this machine.

RAM  & Storage

The Dell XPS 13 has 16 GB of RAM installed. You cannot upgrade it, so what you buy at the beginning is what you’re going to have for life. My recommendation is to get 16 gigs onboard.

If you’re buying a premium laptop, you’re likely going to be doing premium tasks, and you need that RAM, especially as applications get more complicated over time. 

The hard drive is an NVME SSD, but that’s the only upgradable thing that they have on this model. Our demo unit came with 512 gigs of storage for us to play with. 

Weight

The weight on this one is 2.8 pounds or 1.27 kilograms. If you go with the non-touch version, it’s slightly lighter, 2.6 pounds or 1.2 kilograms. 

Build Quality

The interior here will vary based on the color you choose, not only in color but in the material. So the white one here has a glass fiber concoction, and the black one that they sell has carbon fiber on the keyboard deck. 

Both versions have a superior rugged metal feel to them. This model is nicely constructed and designed, and I’m very, very pleased overall with what they put together here. 

Display Quality

The display, as I mentioned, looks very nice at this resolution. The only thing you’re going to notice (if you’re sensitive to this sort of stuff) is a little bit of backlight bleed on the corner on the lower left. 

We saw a similar thing with their 2-in-1 version of Dell XPS, but otherwise, the display looks really nice here. 

Keyboard & Trackpad

I’m also very pleased with the keyboard. It features nice large keys. They’re well spaced, good travel to them, effortless to type on it. I didn’t have to get used to it, and I was pleased with that. 

In the upper right-hand corner of the keyboard, you’ve got a power button that doubles as a fingerprint reader for Windows Hello.

Also, very happy with this model’s trackpad too. It’s a lovely feeling trackpad that’s very accurate and doesn’t often register any inadvertent touches. So, overall they’ve done an excellent job here with the industrial design.  

Speakers

The speakers are located on the bottom of the laptop, on the left and right. They’re downward-firing, but they sound perfect for downward-firing speakers. They provide an excellent range of sound, and it’s all-encompassing. It’s got a bit of a surround effect, along with some excellent stereo separation. 

I was delighted with the sound coming out of this thing overall, but of course, a pair of headphones or some Bluetooth headphones will always sound the best.

Webcam

The webcam on the Dell XPS 13 2020 is not spectacular. It’s located up in the upper bezel, and as a result, it is really tiny. The quality isn’t excellent, it’s only 720p, but it does provide a better angle versus prior generations of the XPS laptop that used to locate that webcam in the lower bezel.  

Ports

When it comes to ports, I did like the fact that this model’s got 2x Thunderbolt 3 on it, one on the left and one on the right. These are 4 lane Thunderbolt 3 ports. You will power the laptop with these ports, but of course, these ports do more than just power. 

You can get display out, you can get data devices going back and forth, and because Thunderbolt 3 is much faster than USB, you can plug in a desktop GPU in an enclosure right into the laptop and get desktop quality graphics when docked at home. That can provide a lot of use while you still have a very portable computer that you can take with you. 

These ports, though, are compatible with USB-C and regular USB devices. You can also plug in little display dongles if you need to connect to a projector or something like that. 

You’ve got a micro SD card reader below that left Thunderbolt port. On the other side, we have the second port along with a headphone microphone jack as well. 

Overall: This model has a really nice slick design. I love the fact that it’s got Thunderbolt onboard. 

Dell XPS 13: Performance

Performance: Web Browsing

We kicked things off with web browsing. We loaded the nasa.gov homepage, and as expected, everything came up really fast and snappy, no issues there. The laptop does have Wi-Fi 6 on board, so if you have a fancy new router with one of those new Wi-Fi 6 radios, you’ll be good to go. 

Performance: YouTube

We also pulled up YouTube and watched a few videos on there, namely a 1080p video running 60 frames per second. We had no dropped frames or any glitches with that, so I think Netflix watching and all the other stuff you might do for content consumption will work very well on the Dell XPS 13.

Speedometer Test

On the browserbench.org test, we got a score of 197.2 on version 1.0 of that test and 114.4 on version 2.0. That is roughly within the margin of error of other machines powered with this similar Intel chip inside. 

Altogether we got the performance we expected out of the Dell XPS 13.

Battery Life

You’re looking at about 8 to 9 hours if you keep the display brightness down and stick to the basics like web browsing, office tasks, and email. If you start playing games on it, you start editing videos, and you turn the display brightness up, you’ll see less battery life with those things going on there. 

But for the basics, you should be able to get through a good chunk if not all of the workday without having to charge the laptop up again.

Gaming Performance

Let’s take a look now at some more strenuous tasks, namely gaming.

  • Rocket League: We started with Rocket League. Rocket League ran between 65 and 80 frames per second, depending on what was going on on-screen at 1920×1200 running at the lowest settings. 
  • GTA V: We also booted up GTA 5 at 720p, low settings, and we got between 45 and 50 frames per second. 
  • The Witcher 3: The Witcher 3 at 720p, low settings, we got between 30 and 45 frames per second.   
  • Fortnite: In 1920 by 1200, medium settings, we were getting 20 to 40 frames per second. When we switched them down to low, we got a more playable 45 to 80 frames per second.
  • Doom: We also ran the 2016 version of Doom at 1080p, low settings, and we got between 20 and 30 frames per second. When we dialed things down to 720p, we got between 28 and 41 frames per second.

3dMark Stress Test   

On the 3dMark stress test, we got a score of 96.4%. That is just below a passing score, which means that you might see some throttling here. Not a lot, but perhaps if you’re pushing it in a game, you might notice the frame rates getting a little less predictable based on the processors’ temperature. 

My advice: Keep all of these vents as clear as you can to prevent things from getting too hot.

Fan Noise

Fan noise isn’t offensive on this model. It does have a bit of a whine to it, given how small everything is. I have not heard the fan kick on all that frequently when I am doing the basics (again, like web browsing, word processing), but you will listen to it kick on, of course, when you’ve got games going and other things that push the processor a bit harder. 

Linux Compatibility

It’s also working with Linux. We booted up Ubuntu, and everything was detected properly, including the video, the touch panel, the Wi-Fi, the Bluetooth, and the Audio. 

All seems to be working pretty well here, so no issues that I could find at least on an initial boot, and everything seems to be running as nicely on the Linux side as it is on the Windows side. 

Not sure about the fingerprint reader, though. That’d be one thing you might have to do a little bit more digging onto for drivers and whatnot, but overall the Linux experience, at least on an initial look here, feels pretty good. 

Final words

Overall, I have to say this is a nice laptop. It’s nice and light, big screen, good performance, decent battery life, and a very nice industrial design. No complaints on this one just beyond a little bit of backlight bleed there in the left bottom corner. Otherwise, I think it’s a very nicely constructed device.

Previous ArticleNext Article