Dell XPS 13 9310 Review: OLED makes this laptop even sweeter
Just kidding. There’s so much to talk about when it comes to the XPS 13, and what amazes me is how the lineup continues to get better with each generation. I remember when the XPS 13 was a small wedge-shaped PC with a silver aluminum chassis and a carbon fiber weave keyboard. Then Dell added more colors, finally moved the webcam above the screen, and just last year, it redesigned its flagship 13-inch laptop.
That redesigned model was the Dell XPS 13 9300, and the new XPS 13 9310 is pretty much just a spec bump. It includes Intel Tiger Lake processors, Thunderbolt 4, faster memory, and Iris Xe graphics. One other big change is that it comes with an OLED display, which is on our review unit. Given that the display moved to the larger 16:10 aspect ratio, it took longer for suppliers to make an OLED option.
Dell XPS 13 9310: Specifications
|CPU||11th Generation Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor (12MB cache, up to 4.8GHz, 4 cores)|
|Graphics||Iris Xe, 96EU|
|Memory||16GB LPDDR4x Dual Channel SDRAM at 4267MHz|
|Storage||512GB PCIe 3 x4 SSD|
|Battery||52WHr battery (Integrated), 45W AC adapter|
|Webcam||Widescreen HD (720p) 2.25mm webcam|
|OS||Windows 10 Home|
Design: The new Dell XPS 13 has a smaller footprint
As usual, the Dell XPS 13 is made out of a single block of CNC-machined aluminum. And yes, the chassis is even smaller than the one from a couple of years ago, where Dell used to claim that the XPS 13 was a 13-inch laptop in an 11-inch chassis.
Dell hasn’t changed its messaging, but the statement isn’t quite as true as it used to be. When the first XPS 13 launched with an InfinityEdge display, no other company was doing narrow bezels like Dell. It might be more common to have narrow bezels these days, but most bezels still aren’t as narrow as they are on the XPS 13.
It does still come in that grayish-silver color that the Dell XPS line is known for, but the model the company sent me is Frost with a white glass fiber weave palm rest. This is the prettier color option, and I think Dell knows it. I’m really not sure why the classic color is still the default; for example, it’s still the only color the XPS 17 comes in.
This XPS 13 9310 model weighs in at 2.8 pounds, which is fairly light for an aluminum laptop. If you go for an XPS 13 9310 model that doesn’t have a touchscreen, then it will weigh only 2.64 pounds; that’s actually about as light as it gets for aluminum laptops. Lighter laptops exist, sure, but you’ll have to look at lighter materials like carbon fiber or magnesium. The XPS 13 9310 is quite thin at 14.8mm, which is actually thicker than the previous design, but it doesn’t have that wedge shape.
Let’s talk about the ports, though, because this is actually super important. Dell actually dropped a USB port on the redesign, but it wasn’t a USB Type-A port. The old model didn’t even have a USB Type-A port, and that’s not coming back.
Now, the Dell XPS 13 9310 only has two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a microSD card slot, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The Dell XPS 13 9300 had two Thunderbolt 3 ports, but Dell has always used the minimum Thunderbolt 3 spec. That means that rather than using all four lanes and getting 40Gbps, they only got 20Gbps speeds. They also only supported one 4K monitor on a port instead of two.
Thunderbolt 4 sets all four lanes as the minimum spec. That means that now, you can connect two 4K monitors to a single port. This is important, especially since so many people are working from home and you might need that multiple monitor setup, while still keeping one port free for a dock or something.
This was possible with Thunderbolt 3, so when we talk about whether Thunderbolt 4 is an upgrade from Thunderbolt 3, it very much depends on the device we’re talking about. With the Dell XPS 13 9310, it’s very much an upgrade.
Display and audio: The Dell XPS 13 has a sexy OLED display
The Dell XPS 13 9310 has a 13.4-inch screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio, making it taller than the 16:9 screen on the previous design. Displays are measured diagonally, so while it sounds like a similar size, the surface area is much larger, taller, and not as wide.
There are four screen configurations you can choose from for the Dell XPS 13 9310, two of which are Full HD+ resolution and two of which are Ultra HD+ resolution. The FHD+ are either touch and non-touch; oddly for a clamshell, that’s the only non-touch display option. The UHD+ options are 3,456×2,160 OLED or 3,840×2,400 IPS LCD, with Dell promising 100% DCI-P3 color gamut on the OLED model and 90% on the other. It’s also for a 100,000:1 contrast ratio instead of 1,500:1, and 400-nit brightness instead of 500-nit.
Dell sent me the OLED model of the XPS 13 9310. In my testing, it supports 100% sRGB, 93% NTSC, 95% Adobe RGB, and 100% P3. With OLED screens, pixels are being turned off, so you get true blacks. Colors are also more vibrant, since they’re not on top of a big backlight. In other words, it’s just prettier.
As usual, the bezels on the XPS 13 9310 are tiny, and that applies to all sides. With the previous design, ie. the one that used to have the webcam under the screen, there was more of a chin. In fact, if Dell wanted the webcam under the screen today, it wouldn’t even be able to do it.
Sadly, the webcam isn’t great on the new XPS 13 9310, and it probably never will be, either. It’s so small, which is a feat of engineering to fit it in the top bezel alongside an IR camera, but the quality suffers. It’s also still 720p resolution, but to be fair, you’re probably buying this machine at least partially for those narrow bezels. You’d have to defy some physics to get a good webcam in there.
For audio, the Dell XPS 13 9310 comes with dual 2.5W speakers that are tuned with Waves MaxxAudio Pro. They actually sound phenomenal. They get nice and loud, so if you’re streaming content, you’ll totally enjoy it on this laptop.
Dell has a feature called Dell Cinema, and that consists of three parts: CinemaColor, CinemaSound, and CinemaStream. CinemaColor is all about the display, supporting Dolby Vision HDR and letting you set configurations for movies, sports, low blue light, and more. CinemaSound is that powerful audio that’s tuned by Waves MaxxAudio, and CinemaStream prioritizes your network traffic for your streaming content.
As the name implies, Dell Cinema is all about providing you with a great entertainment experience. Pretty much every OEM is aware that if you buy a laptop, it’s probably for both personal and work use, so play is just as important as work.
Keyboard and touchpad: Pretty much par for the course
The keyboard on the Dell XPS 13 9310 has 1mm key travel. The industry is definitely trending toward shallower keyboards, so this is pretty much par for the course. The keyboard is comfortable and accurate, although while it’s a good keyboard, HP and Lenovo are doing some really fantastic things.
The keyboard in the Dell XPS 13 9310 has Dell’s standard XPS keyboard, and by that I mean is it uses the same switches you’re probably used to. This is compared to the XPS 13 2-in-1, which does not. The convertible uses Dell’s second-generation MagLev keyboard, which has shallower keys but uses magnets to create the force curve you’re used to.
The keyboard has the power button built into it, and that doubles as a fingerprint sensor. That way, you have your choice of Windows Hello mechanisms, either facial recognition or fingerprint scanning, making this a good laptop to get for Windows Hello support. However, while the sensor is built into the power button, you do still have to touch it after it boots up. On every other laptop with a fingerprint scanner for Windows Hello, your finger is scanned when you first press it so it can automatically log you in. Dell considers this to be a security risk, as it thinks you might walk away from your PC between when you press the button and when the XPS 13 boots up.
The new XPS 13 has a Microsoft Precision touchpad, so it supports all the gestures you’re used to. Dell is also making the move toward larger touchpads, which is nice since it used to be just Apple doing it.
One other thing I want to point out is that I really like the glass fiber weave palm rest. It has a textured feel to it, unlike the carbon fiber weave palm rest that’s more traditional. I definitely think this is the more stylish look for the Dell XPS 13. It’s available on the XPS 15 as well, and that’s brand-new.
Performance and battery life: The Dell XPS 13 can handle Full HD gaming, although that’s true of all Tiger Lake PCs
This model of the XPS 13 9310 that Dell sent me includes an Intel Core i7-1185G7, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. I did review one previously, which had a Core i7-1165G7, 16GB RAM, a 512GB SSD, and an FHD+ display. The OLED screen is actually what’s new to me here.
The new Core i7 CPU isn’t all that different from the old one. Frankly they’re both great, but you get a higher clock speed from the Core i7-1185G7. It’s from the 11th-generation ‘Tiger Lake’ family, also coming with Iris Xe graphics. In fact, the new integrated graphics is way more important than the new CPU.
The Iris Xe graphics in my XPS 13 9310 unit have 96 execution units, but if you get the Core i5 model, there are 80 execution units. That’s a lot more than you would have found on the 10th-gen ‘Ice Lake’ processors in this machine’s predecessor. That certainly unlocks some doors for what you can do with a machine in this form factor.
Here’s the big example — FHD gaming. Intel promised that when they unveiled this line of chips, and they delivered. If you want to play some Forza Horizon 4 on the Dell XPS 13, you can now totally do that. You’d need an external GPU to hit Ultra settings, but if you’re fine with 1080p gaming, you can play all you want without any issue. Photo and video editing capabilities are more robust than before too; I still wouldn’t recommend editing 4K 60fps video, but 4K 30fps video in Adobe Premiere Pro is a breeze.
Battery life isn’t going to blow you away on the new Dell XPS 13. If you want better battery life, you should get the FHD model. You’re going to have to make a sacrifice by going to 4K, and you’re going to sacrifice even more by going for the brighter and more vibrant OLED screen. Just keep that in mind. You’re looking at about five or six hours of real-world work here, which is still pretty good given the specs.
For benchmarks, I used PCMark 8, PCMark 10, 3DMark, Geekbench, and Cinebench. All the below systems have 16GB RAM.
|Dell XPS 13 9310|
Core i7-1185G7, UHD OLED
|Dell XPS 13 9310|
Core i7-1165G7, FHD
|Dell XPS 13 9300|
Core i7-1065G7, FHD
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9|
Core i7-1185G7, FHD
|PCMark 8: Home||3,928||3,902||3,899||4,532|
|PCMark 8: Creative||4,692||4,781||4,253||4,910|
|PCMark 8: Work||3,508||4,020||3,797||4,144|
|Geekbench||1,336 / 4,882||1,551 / 5,829||1,489 / 5,280|
|Cinebench||1,243 / 3,720||1,303 / 4,224|
One of the key things to look at are the differences between the Dell XPS 13 9310 and the Dell XPS 13 9300, particularly in the PCMark 8: Creative and PCMark 10 tests. They’re using that graphics power more, so you can really see the difference with Iris Xe.
Conclusion: Should you buy the new Dell XPS 13?
The answer to whether or not you should buy a brand-new Dell XPS 13 is almost always yes. It’s one of the best laptops on the market, and Dell doesn’t really make any mistakes with it. A great example of the opposite is Lenovo. While I’m a fan of Lenovo’s laptops as a whole, the Yoga 9i has a haptic touchpad that was not good at all, and that’s a flagship product.
With the Dell XPS 13 line, the laptops just keep getting better and better; in fact, each model is consistently Dell’s best laptop. It started out with a redesign that was announced at CES 2020, and that added the 16:10 display. The Intel Tiger Lake refresh later that year added a lot of power, and now, the OLED model is here.
There’s not much I can say that’s bad about this laptop. The webcam is definitely subpar, but that’s to be expected given the small amount of room there is. It also still frustrates me that Dell doesn’t offer cellular connectivity in its consumer laptops. And finally, this company really needs to start scanning fingerprints when you press the button; everyone else has moved beyond this.
Obviously, none of these things are deal-breakers, but it’s not only that; you wouldn’t think twice about that after buying this PC. It’s a 13-inch laptop in a tiny chassis. It’s super-portable, it’s light, it has a beautiful display, and it has a ton of power. The only people that I couldn’t recommend this to are people who I’d suggest the XPS 15 or XPS 17 to, meaning people that need a 45W processor and dedicated graphics.