Dell XPS 13 Plus Review: Living in the future
When you buy a Dell XPS laptop, you’re buying some of the best that money can buy. You’re getting a premium aluminum laptop and an immersive InfinityEdge display. Ultimately, you’re buying the best that Dell has to offer. With the Dell XPS 13 Plus, you’re still getting that, but the company is getting a bit more experimental.
It comes with a border-less haptic touchpad, which makes it feel like it’s a laptop from the future. On top of that, the function keys are capacitive, with light-up buttons across the top of the keyboard. Even the keyboard itself is different. It stretches from one side to the other, with larger keys and no more space between them.
As always, it has a best-in-class display, and this model is 3.5K OLED, just another thing that puts it over the top. As always, Dell has produced a win with the XPS 13 Plus.
Navigate this review:
- Dell XPS 13 Plus pricing and availability
- Dell XPS 13 Plus specs
- Design: From the outside, it just looks like a Dell XPS 13
- Display: One of the best displays on a laptop
- Keyboard and touchpad: A border-less touchpad, button-less keys, and more
- Performance: It uses 28W CPUs
- Should you buy the Dell XPS 13 Plus?
Dell XPS 13 Plus: Pricing and availability
- The Dell XPS 13 Plus is available now from a variety of channels, starting at $1,299.99
- It comes in Platinum and Graphite
The Dell XPS 13 Plus is available now from Dell.com, and you can also find select configurations, such as the OLED models, as other retailers such as Best Buy and Amazon. The base model starts at $1,299, and that gets you a Core i5, 8GB RAM, a 512GB SSD, and an FHD+ display. It comes in Graphite and Platinum.
The model that Dell sent me includes a Core i7-1280P, 16GB RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 3.5K OLED display, so it’s a bit nicer than the base model. As configured, this unit costs $1,949.
Dell XPS 13 Plus: Specs
|Processor||12th Generation Intel Core i7-1280P (24MB Cache, up to 4.8 GHz, 14 cores)|
|Graphics||Intel Iris Xe|
|Body||295.3×199.04×15.28mm (11.63×7.84×0.6in), 1.26kg (2.77lbs)|
|Display||13.4″, 3.5K 3456×2160, 60Hz, OLED, Touch, Anti-Reflect, 400 nit, InfinityEdge|
|Memory||16 GB, LPDDR5, 5200 MHz, integrated, dual-channel|
|Storage||512GB M.2 PCIe Gen 4 NVMe Solid State Drive|
|Battery||3 Cell, 55 Wh, integrated
60W AC Adapter Type-C
|Ports||Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type-C with DisplayPort and Power Delivery) x2
USB-C to USB-A 3.0 adapter (included in the box)
USB-C to 3.5mm headset adapter (included in the box)
|Keyboard||Platinum Backlit English Keyboard with Fingerprint Reader|
|Webcam||720p at 30 fps HD RGB camera, 400p at 30 fps IR camera, dual-array microphones|
|Audio||Dual stereo speakers (tweeter + woofer), Realtek ALC1319D, 2 W x 2 = 4 W total|
|Connectivity||Intel Killer Wi-Fi 6 1675 (AX211) 2×2 + Bluetooth 5.2 Wireless Card|
|OS||Windows 11 Home|
Design: From the outside, it just looks like a Dell XPS 13
- It weighs in at 2.77 pounds
- Made out of all aluminum, it comes in Platinum and Graphite colors
- There are just two Thunderbolt 4 ports
Like all Dell XPS laptops, the XPS 13 Plus 9320 is made out of CNC-machined aluminum. It comes in at 2.77 pounds for the OLED model, which, for the most part, is about as light as it gets on an aluminum laptop. Once you go beyond that, you start looking at other materials like magnesium alloys, which tend to feel less premium.
The Dell XPS 13 Plus, on the other hand, feels very premium. It comes in either Platinum or Graphite with a matte finish on the lid. The model that Dell sent me for review is Platinum, and it has a white interior. Interestingly, all of the accessories in the box are black. Historically, Dell has included white accessories with white XPS laptops, although it’s possible that it just stopped doing that because there is no more white XPS 13 or XPS 13 2-in-1.
Ultimately, the exterior design of the Dell XPS 13 Plus really isn’t that different from XPS 13 laptops of previous generations. That’s particularly true of the Platinum model. The Graphite one is that color on the lid, which we haven’t seen from XPS laptops in the past. The same can be said for the new XPS 13 colors, Umber and Sky.
As far as ports go, there are just two. You’ll find Thunderbolt 4 ports on each side, which is actually quite nice. Most Windows laptops that I review still put both USB Type-C ports on one side, which means that at some point, the charging cable will get in your way. Having one on each way is a nice way to solve that. It’s actually more expensive for the OEM to do this, so it’s nice that Dell actually did.
Thunderbolt 4 isn’t just for charging though. You can get data transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps, you can connect dual 4K displays on a single port, or you can connect an 8K display. You can even use it to connect an external GPU, just in case you want to pair up the 28W CPU with more powerful graphics.
Of course, the more likely use case is just to connect a Thunderbolt dock, which you can use to add an array of USB Type-A ports, HDMI, DisplayPort, or something else.
The key thing to note about the design is that like all Dell XPS laptops, it definitely feels premium.
Display: One of the best displays on a laptop
- The 3.5K OLED display is gorgeous
- Non-OLED options are pretty great too
The Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 has the four display options that are common for XPS these days. There’s a 1,920×1,200 non-touch option, a 1,920×1,200 touch option, 3.5K OLED, and 4K IPS. Dell sent me the 3.5K OLED model, and as always, it’s lovely.
I want to be clear, however, that they’re all lovely. I’ve reviewed so many XPS laptops and I’ve experienced all of these configurations. On any color gamut test, they score in the 90% range. You’ll get better battery life with FHD+, but you’re sacrificing pixels for it. The 3.5K and 4K options look great, but of course, they tax the battery.
Brightness maxed out at 386.2 nits, falling a bit short of the 400-nit promise. Contrast maxed out at 12,920:1, and of course, it’s that high thanks to the OLED display.
Unfortunately, the webcam is still 720p, making Dell’s XPS 13 and XPS 13 Plus some of the only Intel Evo-certified laptops that don’t have FHD webcams. Dell is pretty upfront about the fact that it prioritizes narrow bezels and an immersive experience above all else. Unfortunately, in the age of working from home, that webcam is important.
On a side note, there is an IR camera up there for Windows Hello facial recognition, so that’s always nice.
Keyboard and touchpad: A border-less touchpad, capacitive keys, and more
- It has capacitive function keys
- There’s a haptic touchpad without a border
- The keys are big but they’re not islanded
You’ve probably heard people (like me) call this laptop futuristic, and an example of what a modern laptop should be. This is the section where we’re going to talk about that.
First of all, Dell got a little experimental with the keyboard. The keys are not islanded, meaning there’s no space between them. That means that the keys are bigger, but if you’re not a precise typist, you might find yourself making mistakes. There’s a reason that all other products that had keys that weren’t islanded, eventually made the transition to islanded. For example, see Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 Type Cover, which became islanded the year after. The same goes for Huawei’s MateBook E series.
It’s something to be aware of, but I have to say, I kind of like it. I’ve found the keyboard to be weirdly accurate, maybe because it goes edge-to-edge and the keys are just that big. But also, this keyboard is really comfortable to type on. The keys have just the right amount of depth and required force. They feel delightful to type on, and I have to say, I don’t sing these praises about Dell laptops much. Normally, they’re just good but never the best.
And then there are the capacitive function keys. When this was announced, it was immediately compared to Apple’s Touch Bar, which was not well received. I think it’s fine. It feels a bit weird that there’s no haptic feedback when you press the buttons, and sometimes, I definitely had to tap them more than once to get the desired effect.
What I do like about it is that if you hold the Fn key, it switches to standard F-number keys. I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pressed a function key, not sure if I have to hold Fn or not. This way, it’s easy to tell which one you’re hitting. So, not only is it a modern change, but it does feel like a practical one.
I saved the best for last. The haptic touchpad does not have a border, which might just be your biggest question mark if you’re thinking of throwing down a couple of thousand dollars for this laptop.
The touchpad is made by Aito, a company that could have actually made a haptic touchpad that could span across the whole palm rest if Dell wanted it to. Of course, if it did that, then there would be a whole lot of palm rejection technology that would have to go into it. Now, that kind of smart tech is what I want to see from the laptop of the future.
But in the meantime, this is a step toward it. Like I said, most of the time, you should do just fine without the border. Unfortunately, it’s pretty frustrating when it doesn’t work.
Performance: It uses 28W CPUs
- The Dell XPS 13 Plus is the only member of this year’s XPS family to use Intel’s new 28W processors
The interesting thing about this year’s flagship laptops is that they all use different processors. Typically, Intel has one line of processors that’s aimed at ultrabooks and convertibles, and those products all include those chips. With Intel’s 12th-generation processors, that’s not the case.
With 12th-gen, there’s a new hybrid architecture, using big cores and little cores. This is something we’ve seen from Arm processors for years, using big cores for tasks that require a lot of power, and little cores for tasks that don’t, so something like syncing notifications doesn’t have to suck down battery life. The goal is better power management.
With this, Intel has introduced a range of SKUs. It has the typical 9W and 15W U-series processors, and now there’s the new 28W P-series. Not only does the P-series have a higher TDP, but it has more performance cores, or P-cores. That’s what you’ll find in the Dell XPS 13 Plus.
But for comparison, Lenovo’s Yoga 9i also uses the P-series, HP’s Spectre x360 13.5 uses 15W U-series, and the regular Dell XPS 13 uses a 9W U-series processor that’s boosted to 12W. Some new laptops, like HP’s Pavilion Plus, offer a choice between U-, P-, and H-series (H-series is 45W) CPU. It’s kind of a confusing mess, but it means more choice for consumers, which is always good.
The problem is that the boost in performance isn’t linear. There are some cases where I’ve seen the 15W U-series outperform the 45W H-series; however, these more powerful chips will do better in multitasking, as they do have more performance cores.
|Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320
|Dell XPS 13 9310
|Lenovo Yoga 9i
|3DMark: Time Spy||1,992||1,678|
|Geekbench 5 (single / multi)||1,700 / 10,293||1,336 / 4,882||1,736 / 9,525|
|Cinebench R23 (single / multi)||1,629 / 10,121||1,243 / 3,720||1,638 / 7,757|
|CrossMark (overall / productivity / creativity / responsiveness)||1,729 / 1,525 / 2,022 / 1,433|
These benchmarks were actually achieved by going into the My Dell app and shifting it from optimized to “ultra performance”. That does things like putting the fan on max to keep the processor cool. Still, I’d love to have seen it score better.
I’ve tested several P-series laptops now, along with several H-series laptops that don’t have dedicated graphics, and I’m still not convinced that there’s any meaningful benefit to these higher wattage CPUs, especially when they’re not paired with any kind of dedicated graphics. The performance on the Dell XPS 13 Plus is fine, but you wouldn’t notice anything over if it uses a U-series chip.
And then there’s battery life, because yes, more wattage in the CPU means that it uses more battery life. A lot of other P-series laptops I’ve used come with bigger batteries, but Dell is still using one that’s 55WHr. On average, I got around four and a half hours of use out of it, but I couldn’t get beyond five hours. This was with the power slider on balanced and the screen brightness set to 50%. If you really want great battery life, you might want to stick with the regular XPS 13, which has a processor that won’t burn through the battery so much.
Should you buy the Dell XPS 13 Plus?
The Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 is one of the best laptops on the market, so if you’re thinking about buying one, consider the following.
You should buy the Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 if:
- You want a laptop that feels futuristic
- You want the best performance from a 13-inch Dell XPS laptop
- You want the best display in a 13-inch laptop
You should not buy the Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 if:
- You make a lot of video calls, requiring a good webcam
- You feel more comfortable with islanded keys
- You need dedicated graphics
If you’re not comfortable with islanded keys, you can also look toward the standard Dell XPS 13, which is totally redesigned this year. For dedicated graphics, take a look at the XPS 15 and XPS 17, which are phenomenal products.