Dell are back at it again, with the release of their brand new 2020 Dell XPS 13 9300 ultra portable laptop. The laptop itself this time round has a larger display in a small body, making the Dell XPS 13 laptop look even sleeker than last year’s model. We’ve been lucky enough to test one out, and we wanted to share our thoughts with you.
The chassis is made completely from metal, which gives it a flair of premium that we can now come to expect from Dell. On top feels incredibly smooth, and despite what you might think, is unfortunately prone to fingerprints. But don’t let that deter you from this pretty looking laptop. This is definitely one of the best looking ultra-book sized laptops on the market that’s for sure. It’s also one of the thinnest too, measuring at just over 14mm at its thickest point. It’s also surprisingly light considering it feels like a chunk of metal in your hands.
Down the left hand side you can find a Thunderbolt 3 input as well as a mciroSD card slot too for transferring images and video from your devices. The right hand side also has a Thunderbolt 3 input as well as a headphone jack. What’s nice about having two Thunderbolt 3 inputs is the fact it comes supplied with a dongle, which has a standard USB Type-A input on the end, so you can get away with plugging in more traditional devices. It also means that you can keep the laptop powered too, as this relies on one of the Thunderbolt inputs. It’s also capable of transmitting an image to a second monitor through the Thunderbolt port if your external monitor is compatible. But unfortunately, the lack of ports means you’ll be carrying around dongles with you if you need a more universal connection like a USB Type-A, SD card reader, Ethernet or a HDMI input for a monitor. The edges of the laptop are double anodised to minimalise scratches as much as possible too. So even if you miss the ports with your chargers while you’re scrabbling around the sides, there shouldn’t be any damage if you skid the Thunderbolt charger across the edges.
Opening the laptop again you can feel the premiumness of the device. There’s very little flex to the screen section itself, and the hinge feels very solid. Just to let you know at this point, that we were sent the black version to take a look at, which uses a soft to touch carbon-fibred pattern that promises not to get hot when in use. Granted, this was pretty true. I never felt any heat on my wrists when typing on the keyboard. What stands out as soon as the laptop is opened, is the fact there’s very little when it comes to bezels. The left and right edges of the keyboard are pretty much non-existent, and even the gap between the top of the keyboard and hinge is pretty skinny. It just heighens the fact that this laptop is as sleek open as it is closed.
The keyboard itself uses very low-profile keys which unfortunately aren’t mechanical, but they do offer a very firm and solid typing experience on the laptop. They’re not stiff as such, but they’re solid and pronounced and require very little effort to press. Typing out this review was definitely a pleasant experience. The trackpad as well is a decent size, with an increibly smooth surface. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite hit the Macbook Pro level of smoothness or even size, but it comes close. One thing that did let the Dell XPS 9300 down though in terms of its interface was the power button-come-fingerprint reader. We’ve tested a couple of laptops from Honor and Huawei over the past few weeks, and their fingerprint readers were super accurate. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the Dell, and instead, I tried to unlock it for the designated tries you get given, but ultimately came down to using my pin when I ran out of tries.
But, with all Dell laptops, the screen is where its at. Dell definitely have an edge over pretty much all over Windows notebook manufacturers. It is definitely one of the brightest, the most colourful, the most vivid and all other display buzzwords you can think of. It’s literally one of the best hands down. The display itself on our model as a 3840 x 2400 resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate – which by the way is a little bigger than a standard 4K display – so unfortunately, it’s not going to turn heads when it comes to eSports performance, but when you’re watching your Netflix and Amazon Prime programs, you’re not going to complain. However, don’t read too much into the screen’s resolution performance. Sure it’s sharp, but it’s close to a 4K resolution on a 13-inch screen, which is a little bit counter-intuitive. I would have preferred a lower resolution if it meant a smaller ticket price. And whatmore it hits 100% of the sRGB colour gamuts and 90% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut. And at 500nits of brightness, using the laptop outside isn’t too much of an issue. It’s also touchscreen too, and for the most part is reactive with finger presses. However, I can rarely see the point of touch screens if it’s not in a 2-in-2 note book style where the screen folds back onto the rear of the laptop.
The same though unfortunately can’t be said about the sound. Being a laptop you can expect sound not to be as good as a separate set of speakers, but Dell putting their speakers on the bottom is just a bad move, especially as there’s ample space on the top between the hinge and the top of the keyboard. The webcam is in a decent place above the screen too within the top bezel, although its quality is purely passable. It’ll get you through a Zoom meeting with your friends or colleagues, but you can tell the quality is rather grainy, the natural light of my window was over exposing one side of my face, and leaving the rest of my face in a slight shadow, and it’s sounds alright. There’s not much more I can say about the webcam, it works, it’s there, and unfortunately, there’s no security flap, so chances are you paranoid out there are going to cover it up anyway.
Under the hood you can find an Intel i7-1065G7 with 16GB alongside. There’s a 1TB SSD storage solution as well which is more than generous if it’s going to be used as a work laptop for you Word and Excel documents. However, it uses Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics so gaming is near non-exisant, although I was able to play a game of CS:GO, although I had to downscale the resolution to 1920×1200 and stick all other graphical settings on medium or disabled. With this I was achievinng anywhere from 30 – 45fps. As I said before. If you’re a casual gamer, it’s fine. But if you take your games seriously, or are moving towards wanting eSports performance, you better look elsewhere.
So running a couple of benchmarks on the laptop yielded some decent results. PCMark 10, responsible for measuring various work processes gave us a score of 3,848 with particularly strong scores in web browsing and app start ups. However it did fall down in its video and photo editing scores. But, saying that, I used Photoshop a handful of times and had no issues. So take those scores as you will. What was also unsurprising is the fact that the Timestrike benchmark in 3DMark 10 gave us a score of 809, but Firestrike gave us a score of 2,248. So as I said before, if you’re wanting to play lesser graphical performance games, go for it. We had to run CS:GO at a lesser quality, but if you’re a MOBA fan, then League of Legends again at lower graphical settings shouldn’t be an issue for you. And finally we ran a Cinebench benchmark to test its CPU multimedia performance and ended up with a modest score of 1,288pts
The battery life on the Dell XPS 13 9300 laptop is also pretty decent, with us being able to test the laptop over several days at a couple of hours at a time and only reaching for the charger after our final test. Dell are claiming this laptop can last you all day, which I am confident is backing up as a statement. Sure if you’re pounding video content on a maximum brightness screen, then it’ll last a lot less. But if you’re a 50% brightness kinda guy, who taps away at work documents all day, then you’re going to have a smile on your face.
There’s no denying that the Dell XPS 13 9300 is a superb looking laptop physically, and for the most part, its specs can hold its own in what is now a really crowded market. I was super impressed with how fast I could zip between apps, and the fact I could partake in some light gaming, would make a train ride significantly more entertaining on a commute to work. The screen though is where it shines the brightest, literally. Its quality is absolutely wicked, and if you’re a media buff, you’re going to love this laptop. Dell also offers as usual, various different builds coming in at different prices. The 9300 we looked at would retail at around £1,500 here in the UK, but if you wanted a lesser spec, lesser processor as well as less RAM, then you could pick one up for as little as £1,300. But that depends on what you need a laptop for, doesn’t it.