Latest Dell XPS 13 keeps its New Year's resolution to get skinny


Dell's XPS 13 laptop has become a pretty familiar sight for ultrabook shoppers since its introduction halfway through Barack Obama's second term in office. The thin-and-light machine has always used razor-thin bezels to pack a 13" screen into a frame size that would typically accommodate an 11" display.

The company has upgraded the XPS 13's specs and added a 2-in-1 version over the intervening three years, but the time has come for the laptop's biggest work-over yet. The 2018 take on the XPS 13 claims to be 30% thinner than ye olde model, has lost a little weight, and is available with a new white-and-rose-gold suit. The skinny portable also manages to bang ones and zeroes together harder thanks to the inclusion of Intel's eighth-generation Core processors.

The 2018 XPS 13 looks quite a lot like the old model, but manages to shrink from an already skinny 0.6" thick (1.5 cm) down to a wispy 0.5" (1.2 cm) thick. The petite portable has already fulfilled its New Year's resolution to lose weight, tipping scales at a scant 2.7 lbs (1.2 kg).

The machine's webcam is no longer in its odd home at the lower-left corner of the screen, moving to a slightly more pleasant spot at the middle of the display's lower edge. The change in lateral placement is unlikely to solve complaints about the camera peering up users' noses, though. That camera is compatible with the Windows Hello facial recognition feature. For some extra coin, shoppers can add a fingerprint sensor inside the power button. 

Buyers can choose between Intel eighth-generation Core i5-8250U and Core i7-8550U processors, each bringing four cores and eight threads to bear. The manufacturer says the new model is twice as fast at rendering and encoding in Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2018 when compared to the 2015 Broadwell model.

Configurations with 4 GB or 8 GB of 1866 MT/s LPDDR3 RAM or 16 GB of 2133 MT/s RAM are available. All options run the memory in dual-channel mode, but buyers should choose the amount they need from the get-go because upgrades are not possible. Storage options include PCIe SSDs ranging from 128 GB to 1 TB.  Networking comes courtesy of Intel 8265 or Killer Networking 1435 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 combo cards. Three different displays are available: touch and non-touch 1920x1080 units, plus a 3840x2160 touch panel. Screens get marching orders from Intel processor graphics regardless of configuration.

XPS 13 machines have always claimed excellent battery life, and the new models continue that trend. Models with the Core i5 processor, 4 GB of memory, and 1920x1080 screens tout battery life of nearly 20 hours in the MobileMark 2014 benchmark. Full-fat configurations with Core i7 CPUs and 4K screens offer a bit over 11 hours between appointments with the wall outlet.

Dell giveth three USB Type-C ports and a microSD card reader to the 2018 XPS 13, but hath taken away all of the older models' USB Type-A ports and full-size SD card slot. Two of those USB-C ports are Thunderbolt 3 jacks for connecting things like graphics boxes. Users can attach external displays or charge the laptop over any of the three ports. The XPS 13's audio combo jack probably disqualifies the machine from earning an Award for Heroism.

The manufacturer says it devoted 11,520 hours to developing the newly-available white-and-rose-gold finish option. The white option pairs a rose-gold aluminum exterior shell with a white glass-fiber weave interior that Dell says can reject stains. The silver-and-black color scheme has a silver exterior and black inside surfaces with a carbon fiber finish. The company says it also devoted substantial design time to thermal management, using aerospace silica aerogels to move heat out of the machine. Those improvements could result in higher performance.

The new XPS 13 is available today, starting at $1000 with Windows 10, a Core i5-8250U processor, 4 GB of memory, and a 128 GB SSD. A version running Linux is also available for $974. Bumping the memory to a more reasonable 8 GB raises the price by about $175. Dell backs the machine with a one-year warranty.

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