The latest Dell XPS 13 – it's the model number 9315 that we're reviewing here – comes with a lot of heritage as one of the best Dell laptops. The XPS 13 has topped lists of best photo-editing laptops and best student laptops for many years and with good reason. The most recent refresh has a very high standard to live up to.
This time around, the late-2022 version of the laptop has upgraded internals and an even thinner chassis. As is the norm for Dell, you can pick this up in a variety of configurations and colors, but we've explained the review model we were given in detail below as well as the other options available.
The price widgets embedded around this Dell XPS 13 review should give you some idea of the latest deals available on this particular laptop. The Dell XPS typically costs between $799-1349/£949-1849, but at the time of writing you can pick this particular configuration up for around $900/£1,000.
Dell XPS 13 Specifications
CPU: 12th Generation Intel Core i5-1230U, (Configurable to Intel Core i7-1250U)
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 16GB, (Configurable to 8GB, 32GB)
Screen: 13.4-inch, FHD+ 1920x1200, 16;10, touchscreen LED or 13.4-inch, (Configurable to UHD+ 3840x2400 pixel resolution, 16;10, touchscreen LED LCD)
Storage: 512GB SSD, (Configurable to 256GB, 1TB)
Ports: 2 x Thunderbolt 4 with USB-C
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1
Weight: 1.17 kg
Size: 295 x 199 x 14 mm
Dell XPS 13 Key features
Every laptop is a compromise between power, portability, and price, and it's the middle item in that list that's the main concern of the Dell XPS 13. You're not exactly going to be gaming or chopping up 4K videos on a laptop of this size, but the specs under the hood are relatively respectable given the size constraints, led by that 12th-gen Intel Core i5-1230U processor.
Combine that with 16GB of RAM and you've got a machine that's going to be comfortable navigating around the web, running office applications, and doing some light photo editing. We certainly didn't notice any slowing down with several dozen browser tabs open at once, and if you're realistic about what the laptop is going to be able to do then you won't be disappointed.
If you go for a laptop that's this thin and this light then you do make compromises, as you can see with the port selection – you've got just a couple of USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ones. Dell being Dell, you can get this laptop in a variety of configurations, including a non-touchscreen display and less RAM if you want to save a bit of money.
We think if you're going to pick the Dell XPS 13 as your next laptop, it's going to be because of its compact size and its rather beautiful finish (a subjective call, of course – your mileage may vary). This is a super-compact, super-thin, super-light laptop you can take anywhere, and it's one that feels like a super-premium device as you use it. The typing and trackpad experience is top-notch, for example, and you can tell this costs more than the budget Windows laptops on the market.
The screen is worth a mention too: while it's not the highest resolution, that doesn't matter too much at a 13.4-inch size, and the 16:10 aspect ratio is perfect for working on documents or on the web (while less so for watching widescreen movies). You can get the display with or without touchscreen capabilities – our review unit did come with a touchscreen, which gives you a bit more flexibility in terms of input.
A couple of 2.5W speakers take care of audio duties, and they do better than you might expect – though they're not great, obviously, because of their size. They're fine for watching movies or listening to music as long as you're not too fussy about fidelity, and they impress in terms of keeping a good level of clarity at higher volumes. The integrated 720p webcam is about on the same level: fine for the basics, though if you spend a lot of time on video calls you might want to plug in an external webcam that gives you a higher resolution and some more features.
Dell XPS 13 Build and handling
There's certainly plenty of style and class about the look of the Dell XPS 13, and you can pick it up in the dark, purplish Umber (like our review unit) or a light, silvery Sky color. From the trackpad to the screen hinge to the subtle Dell logo on the back of the laptop lid, Dell has done a really good job in putting this computer together, and in getting it quite as thin and light as it is at the same time.
We like the small rubber rails underneath the laptop for it to sit on, the slightly recessed keyboard, and the minimalism of the aesthetic overall. You can easily pick it up and carry it with one hand, and the lightness of the Dell XPS 13 means that you'll barely notice it in a bag. The screen hinge feels solid and well put together, and even the power cable has a touch of elegance about it.
In use, the Dell XPS 13 really is great to use – although the keyboard is necessarily compact, it never feels cramped. There's also an integrated fingerprint sensor up in the top right corner of the keyboard, making it easier for you to log into Windows. There's also an adjustable backlight for the keys, which is nicely done in a subtle and refined way. We'd say the build, handling, and design are areas where the Dell XPS 13 really excels, and which might make you pick this over something else.
Dell XPS 13 Performance
As we mentioned along with the specs rundown earlier, the Dell XPS 13 comes with a respectable set of specs for everyday computing. Sure, you don't need this sort of power for just web browsing, emailing, and office work, but your life will be better and less frustrating – and you'll be able to wait longer until your next laptop upgrade. Unless you're putting a lot of demands on the Dell XPS 13, you won't notice any lag or sluggishness.
Where the laptop does fall down is in tasks such as gaming, and heavy photo and video editing: if those are important to you, either look elsewhere or get this laptop as a complement to another more powerful computer. In the commonly used PCMark 10 benchmark, we got a score of 4,136 (9,053 Essentials, 6,571 Productivity, 3,668 Digital Content Creation) – which backs up what we've already said. One notable plus point is that the Dell XPS 13 never gets particularly hot on the underside, or particularly loud (even with the fans whirring).
We ran a simple video streaming test on the laptop for one hour: with the audio volume set low and the display brightness set to the maximum, the battery level dropped by 11 percent. That suggests around 9-10 hours of movie watching between charges, with the screen brightness set high – you'll get more if the screen is dimmed. In general use, we were seeing around 5-6 hours of use on a single battery charge, so it'll just about get you through a working day away from the desk.
We did notice some erratic "battery time remaining" estimates in Windows, and an isolated occasion when the battery drained very quickly, which was a little worrying. However, looking around on the web we haven't noticed anyone else reporting this, so we're assuming it was a one-off glitch (and may have been down to something software-related, rather than the laptop itself).
Dell XPS 13 Verdict
We've mentioned the MacBook Air as a competitor for this laptop below, and many people have labeled this as the Windows version of Apple's lightest portable computer. It's an appropriate comparison: both laptops are really well designed, oozing quality in terms of their build and their aesthetics, and offering lightweight computing in a compact package that you can take just about everywhere.
We're not convinced by everything that the Dell XPS 13 offers. The battery life could certainly be better, as could the quality of the webcam and the resolution of the screen. Performance is decent enough for everyday tasks, but you're not going to be able to get through anything really demanding on this laptop, and gaming is out of the question.
Those are the negatives, but there are plenty of positives that in the end tip the balance. It's a laptop that looks gorgeous, that's smooth in operation, that's a pleasure to work on, and that can go to places other, heavier, larger laptops can't reach. In the end that's a pretty appealing deal, and it ensures that the Dell XPS 13 should be appearing on a lot of best laptop lists in the future.
Dell XPS 13 Competitors
Over in Apple land, the Macbook Air M2 is about the same size and price as the Dell XPS 13 – though it runs macOS rather than Windows of course. While the operating system is likely to determine your choice more than anything else, there's a lot to like about the Apple laptop: battery life and processing performance are both great for such a compact laptop, and it stays quiet and cool at all times.
If you're sure you want to stick with Windows, the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 is absolutely worth a look. It gives you the flexibility of a 2-in-1 form factor that can do double duty as a tablet as well as a laptop, it gives you more power than you might expect for something so thin and light, and it has the advantage of a digital stylus that's going to appeal to digital creatives wanting to be able to work anywhere and everywhere.