Inside the XPS 13’s sturdy shell you’ll find much the same silicon as in many competing 13-inch Ultrabooks, including a mid-range Haswell-class processor (specifically, a Core i5-4200U, with an integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU) and a128GB SSD. But this model comes with 8GB DDR3/1600 memory, instead of the more typical 4GB.
The display does have one glaring downside: It’s very reflective. I was in a coffee shop one early morning, tapping away on the XPS 13, when the rising sun peeked over the rooftops behind me. The screen reflected so much light I could have used it as a mirror. I quickly changed seats.
Fortunately, Dell embedded a blue LED on the key to alert me when it’s been activated. Finally, as a writer I often use the Home and End keys to quickly navigate documents. The XPS 13’s keyboard forces me to press three keys at the same time to use those functions.
Too few ports
You’ll want to carry at least a USB thumb drive with you. And since there’s no hardwired ethernet port, a USB-to-ethernet adapter will be essential for those times when your only Internet option is wired. Sony’s VAIO Pro 13 is equally small, but its engineers managed to squeeze an SD card slot into its chassis. Dell gives you an LED battery-life indicator, instead. (Come on, Dell, it’s simple enough for us to hit Fn+F3 to check battery life.)
On the bright side, both USB ports are the always-on type that let you charge your smartphone or other battery-operated gadgets even when the laptop is otherwise powered down. I’m also happy to report that the XPS 13 is outfitted with Intel’s Wireless-AC 7260, a dual-band, 2x2 adapter that supports the 802.11ac networking standard and provides Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.
We measured the XPS 13’s performance using our all-new Laptop WorldBench 9 test suite. This machine’s more-powerful sibling, Dell’s XPS 15, is our new comparison system, so it earns a score of 100. The XPS 13’s WorldBench 9 score of 69 indicates that it delivers 69 percent of the performance of the XPS 15, which we reviewed in December, 2013.
That’s a very good score: It’s better than the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro’s score, and it’s on par with Sony’s VAIO Pro 13. The XPS 15 we’re using for reference packs a Core i7-4702HQ, a 512GB SSD, 16GB of DDR3/1600 memory, and a discrete GPU—and it costs a kilobuck more than the XPS 13.