Dell XPS 13 Plus versus XPS 13 (2021): How much better is it?

Dell XPS 13 Plus versus XPS 13 (2021): How much better is it?

At CES 2022, Dell introduced the brand-new XPS 13 Plus, a new and upgraded version of the XPS 13 in many ways. But considering the XPS 13 is already one of the best laptops out there, how much better is this new laptop? We’re comparing the new Dell XPS 13 Plus to the current XPS 13 model (2021) to find out just how much of an upgrade it is.

The  XPS 13 Plus isn’t exactly a successor to the XPS 13, and while it has a similar size, it’s very different in terms of design and power. Let’s dive straight into the comparison, starting with the raw specs.

Dell XPS 13 Plus vs. XPS 13 (2021): Specifications

Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 Dell XPS 13 9310
CPU
  • 12th Generation Intel Core i5-1240P (12-core, 16-thread, up to 4.4 GHz, 12MB cache)
  • 12th Generation Intel Core i7-1260P (12-core, 16-thread, up to 4.7 GHz, 18MB cache)
  • 12th Generation Intel Core i7-1270P (12-core, 16-thread, up to 4.8 GHz, 18MB cache)
  • 12th Generation Intel Core i7-1280P (14-core, 20-thread, up to 4.8 GHz, 24MB Cache)
  • 11th Generation Intel Core i3-1115G4 (2-core, 4-thread, up to 4.1GHz, 6 MB cache)
  • 11th Generation Intel Core i5-1135G7 (4-core, 8-thread, up to 4.2 GHz, 8 MB cache)
  • 11th Generation Intel Core i7-1165G7 (4-core, 8-thread, up to 4.7 GHz, 12MB cache)
  • 11th Generation Intel Core i7-1185G7 (4-core, 8-thread, up to 4.8GHz, 12MB cache)
  • 11th Generation Intel Core i7-1195G7 (4-core, 8-thread, up to 5GHz, 12MB cache)
Graphics
  • Intel Iris Xe
  • Intel Iris Xe
Dimensions
  • 295.3 × 199.04 × 15.28mm (11.63×7.84×0.6 inches)
  • Starts at 1.24kg (2.73 lb)
  • 295.7×198.7×14.8mm (11.64×7.82×0.58 inches)
  • 1.2kg (2.64lbs)
Display
  • 13.4-inch FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge non-touch, 500-nit, anti-reflective
  • 13.4-inch FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge touch, 500-nit, anti-reflective
  • 13.4-inch UHD+ (3840 x 2400) InfinityEdge touch, 500-nit, anti-reflective
  • 13.4-inch 3.5K (3456 x 2160) InfinityEdge OLED touch, DisplayHDR 500,
    400 nits, 100% DCI-P3 color gamut, anti-reflective, Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
  • 13.4-inch FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge non-touch, 500-nit, anti-reflective
  • 13.4-inch FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge touch, 500-nit, anti-reflective
  • 13.4-inch UHD+ (3840 x 2400) InfinityEdge touch, 500-nit, anti-reflective
  • 13.4-inch 3.5K (3456 x 2160) InfinityEdge OLED touch, DisplayHDR 500,
    400 nits, 100% DCI-P3 color gamut, anti-reflective
Ports
  • 2x Thunderbolt 4 with USB4 Type-C
    • USB Type-C to Type-A adapter included
  • 2x Thunderbolt 4 ports
  • 1x headset (headphone and microphone combo) port
Storage
  • Up to 2TB PCIe 4 NVMe M.2 SSD
  • Up to 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
  • MicroSD card expansion
RAM
  • Up to 32GB LPDDR5 (5200MHz)
  • Up to 32GB LPDDR4x (4267MHz)
Battery
  • 55Wh Li-ion polymer
  • 60W USB Type-C power adapter
  • 4-cell, 52Wh battery
  • 45W USB Type-C power adapter
Audio
  • Quad stereo speaker (8W total output)
  • Waves MaxxAudio Pro and Waves Nx 3D audio
  • Stereo speakers (2.5W x 2 = 4W peak)
  • Waves MaxxAudio Pro
Camera
  • 720p HD webcam
  • 720p HD 2.25mm webcam
Windows Hello
  • IR webcam
  • Fingerprint sensor (in power button)
  • IR webcam
  • Fingerprint sensor (in power button)
Connectivity
  • Intel Killer Wi-Fi 6E 1675 AX211 (2×2)
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • Intel Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 (2 x 2)
  • Bluetooth 5.1
Color
  • Platinum
  • Graphite
  • Platinum Silver with Black carbon fiber palm rest
  • Frost with Arctic White woven glass fiber palm rest
Price
  • Starting at $1,199
  • Starting at $949
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Just looking at that spec sheet, some differences become immediately obvious, so let’s jump right into them.

Dell XPS 13 Plus vs XPS 13 (2021): Performance

Starting right away with performance, there are two big things here that need to be pointed out. First off, the Dell XPS 13 Plus is packing the brand-new 12th-generation Intel Core mobile processors. Up until now, Intel’s ultrabook processors had a maximum of four cores, but the Core i7-1280P comes with up to 14 cores, which is a massive bump. That’s partly thanks to Intel’s new hybrid architecture, which mixes performance cores and efficient cores, similar to how ARM processors work. The Intel Core i7-1280P has six performance cores and eight efficient cores, and all other 12th-generation processors have eight efficient cores, too.

In addition to this, though, Dell has upgraded from U-series processors to the new P-series. These are 28W processors, and they’re not completely new, but the few times we’ve seen them in the past, they were exclusive to Apple’s MacBook Pro line before they switched to Apple Silicon. Now, Windows PCs are getting them too, and that makes the Dell XPS 13 Plus significantly more powerful than the XPS 13, even though we don’t currently have concrete data to compare these processors. In terms of graphics, the two shouldn’t be far off. Both have Intel Iris Xe built-in, and the number of Execution Units hasn’t changed, either.

Dell XPS 13 Plus Platinum angled view

Dell XPS 13 Plus

That’s not all that makes the XPS 13 Plus better. With the advent of 12th-generation processors, support for LPDDR5 memory is also included, and the XPS 13 Plus has it. This new memory is significantly faster than DDR4, so performance is going to be much better here, too. In terms of capacity, though, both max out at 32GB.

Finally, in terms of storage, the two laptops have the same capacity (up to 2TB), but the XPS 13 Plus now comes with a PCIe 4 SSD, instead of a PCIe 3 model, so storage access should also be significantly faster than before. The Dell XPS 13 Plus is an upgrade across the board from its predecessor, there’s no doubt about that.

Display and sound: They look almost identical

One area where the XPS 13 Plus doesn’t improve much is the display, but that’s not really a bad thing. The Dell XPS 13 already had a great 13.4-inch display, coming in the tall 16:10 aspect ratio. The base model starts at Full HD+ resolution without touch support, which you can add. You can also upgrade to a 3.5K (3456 x 2160) OLED display with 100% coverage of DCI-P3, or upgrade to a 4K+ (3840 x 2400) LCD display if you want the highest resolution.

Dell XPS 13 (9310)

All of that is the same with the new Dell XPS 13 Plus. You get all the same options with essentially identical specs across the board. The only difference is that Dell says the OLED panel now comes covered by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, so you get some extra protection for the screen in case you drop or bump the laptop against something. Otherwise, the two screens are the same.

What is different, though, is the audio setup. The Dell XPS 13 has a solid speaker setup for a 13-inch ultrabook, featuring two 2.5W speakers for stereo sound. But the XPS 13 Plus takes things much further with four stereo speakers with a total of 8W of output, making for a much more immersive and loud setup. This is actually closer to something like the Dell XPS 15, which has some of the best speakers on a Windows laptop.

XPS 13 Plus Platinum front view

There’s also a notable difference with the webcam here. The Dell XPS 13 has a 720p camera, and on top of that, it was a tiny 2.25mm camera to make the bezels as small as possible. With the XPS 13 Plus, you still get a 720p camera, but Dell says it focused on improving the quality of the camera, so you should get a better image.

Design: The XPS 13 Plus has a whole new look

The Dell XPS 13 9310 is one of the coolest-looking laptops around, coming in two color options. The base model has a platinum silver exterior and a black interior made of carbon fiber; the other uses a “frost” silver exterior and a white interior made of woven fiber glass composite. This distinction in colors as well as materials makes the XPS 13 one of the most unique laptops around, but functionally, it’s fairly standard.

With the XPS 13 Plus, Dell has a completely new design, and it’s far more different than you might expect. First off, it’s not standard in terms of its functionality. The XPS 13 Plus comes with a touch-based function row replacing the traditional physical buttons. This isn’t like Apple’s touch bar which could display different things depending on the app, but they can switch between typical function keys and media controls like volume and brightness. It’s still a function row, but all the buttons are touch-based now and they look completely flush with the chassis. The keyboard itself pushes all the way to the edges of the laptop, and there’s not much space between the keys, so they’re all bigger now.

Aiding to its flush and clean design, the XPS 13 also comes with a brand-new touchpad, which you can’t see. That’s not a joke — the touchpad is part of the chassis now and it’s invisible to the eye. Because of this, there are also no typical buttons, and instead you get haptic feedback to simulate clicks, something Microsoft did recently with the Surface Laptop Studio.

Dell XPS 13 Plus Graphite overhead view

The Dell XPS 13 Plus still comes in two color models, but it doesn’t have the same dual-tone look as the XPS 13. There’s a Platinum (silver) model and a Graphite (black) variant, with matching keyboards making for a clean aesthetic overall. We’d say there are still reasons to prefer the XPS 13 9310 design, but the XPS 13 Plus definitely looks fantastic, too.

As for portability, the two laptops are very close to each other. The XPS 13 Plus is ever-so-slightly thicker and heavier, while also slightly deeper, but not as wide. Some differences had to be there considering the more powerful Intel processors and the cooling required for them.

Ports and connectivity: Even fewer than before

One downgrade of the XPS 13 Plus compared to the XPS 13 9310 is in its ports, which is quite disappointing. The Dell XPS 13 already had fairly limited ports, including two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a microSD card reader. It relies heavily on Thunderbolt docks or USB-C hubs to expand your connectivity, which isn’t for everyone.

The Dell XPS 13 Plus strips out the headphone jack and microSD card reader, making a dock or hub even more essential. It’s arguably more “modern” since it assumes you probably have wireless headphones, but it’s not ideal for everyone. You do get a USB Type-C to Type-A adapter in the box if you have a wired peripheral, but that’s it.

XPS 13 Plus Platinum rear angled view

Due to being newer, the XPS 13 Plus also comes with some updated wireless standards. Wi-Fi 6E is now supported with the new wireless module, as well as Bluetooth 5.2. The XPS 13 9310 has Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1, so there’s a bit of an upgrade here. If you’re curious, Wi-Fi 6E adds support for a new 6GHz band which is even faster, but has a shorter range.

Bottom line: Doe the Dell XPS 13 Plus live up to its name?

Calling this new laptop the Dell XPS 13 Plus sets some expectations, and it’s fair to say that Dell met them in a few ways. The processors have been massively upgraded not just to newer models, but to a higher wattage of 28W, almost double what the previous model offered. You also get a brand-new design that looks extra clean and modern. All while also retaining the fantastic display options of the XPS 13 9310, so you really do get a fantastic experience here.

But there are some notable downgrades, too. The removal of a headphone jack and microSD card reader are certainly odd for a “Plus” model, even if you can technically connect anything with a USB-C hub. Plus, not everyone will like the touch-based function row or the seamless touchpad without buttons. And the new design, while great in its own way, doesn’t use the same unique materials as the XPS 13.

At the end of the day, there are still reasons to prefer the standard XPS 13, but if you want the most power and something that looks very different from everything else out there, the XPS 13 Plus is certainly a great laptop. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until this spring to buy it. If you prefer the standard XPS 13, you can find it below. You can always check out the best Dell laptops if you want to explore some other options.

    The Dell XPS 13 is one of the best ultrabooks of 2021, featuring a compact design, high-end specs, and fantastic display options to choose from.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Editor at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.

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