Monday, September 25, 2023

Dell’s New XPS 13 Adds Alder Lake CPUs, But This Is More Than Just a Spec Bump

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Dell today launched the 2022 revision of its XPS 13 with Intel’s latest 12th-generation Alder Lake CPUs that add more cores and hybrid architecture, while saying the new version is the thinnest and lightest 13-inch XPS ever. The new laptop is 13.9mm thick (0.55in) and weighs just 2.59lbs, compared to its predecessor’s starting weight of 14.80mm (0.58in) and 2.64lb for a model without touch screen. The new XPS 13 is available today in the US and Canada, starting at $999 with Windows 11 or $949 for an Ubuntu 20.04-equipped Developer Edition.

The flagship XPS 13 has gone from a taste of the future of laptops when Dell introduced the InfinityEdge thin-bezel design in 2015, to a little stale a few years later, and now good enough to deserve our review that mentions the latest iteration. “everything a Windows laptop should be” on its way to multiple “Best PC Laptops” rankings.

To avoid accusations, the line is getting old again and Dell is splitting more options with the XPS 13 Plus that kicked off the year with a touch bar, flat keyboard and slightly more powerful P-series CPU options, as well as a new 2022 XPS. 13 2-in-1 announced today that it will replace the old thin and foldable design with a tablet + folio keyboard case.

image: Dell

On the outside, the new 9315 model looks like the 11th-generation CPU-powered 9310 that debuted in 2020 before adding an OLED display option last year, but the differences should show up as soon as you open it.

Dell says it has “removed unnecessary steps, fewer finishes and materials” on the new laptop, which retreats to a contrasting interior to highlight the “curated and premium” CNC-machined aluminum that is now the star of the show, both from inside and out. It’s a familiar look, but pretty clean in the air (grey) or umber (brown) tinted aluminum finish, and hopefully it retains the sturdy design plus solid keyboard and trackpad we’ve been praising in 2020. Other details like the fingerprint sensor/power button and Thunderbolt 4 ports on either side remain unchanged.

More notable changes are inside, addressing some of the weaknesses we mentioned on the 9310, with a poor webcam, speakers without bass and a keyboard that could get hot under load. The internal layout has been redesigned to accommodate Dell’s smallest motherboard ever, which is 1.8x smaller than the previous model, leaving room for larger speakers and other technology. The spec sheet mentions using that space for a larger battery, but it lists the new model’s unit at 51 watt-hours, compared to the 9310’s 52. It now also has a single-fan design instead of double.

We’ll have to review the new model to see what the new chipset and design make of those changes, which could be an area for the new Alder Lake CPUs inside to shine. As we explained before, this generation of Intel chips is better positioned to take on the competition from AMD, Apple and everyone else by using a setup similar to many ARM-based CPUs, with more cores that are split between those built for performance or energy efficiency.

At launch, Dell lists two 10-core CPU choices of Intel’s i5-1230U or i7-1250U with Iris Xe graphics, RAM choices of 8 GB, 16 GB or 32 GB, and SSDs in 256 GB, 512 GB or 1 TB . According to Dell, the most energy-efficient i5 model can stream Netflix continuously for up to 12 hours, or 11 hours on the most efficient i7 configuration, and up to 6 hours on a model equipped with the i7 chip, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD and 4K playback.

Dell XPS 13 9315 in Umber

Dell XPS 13 9315 in Umber
image: Dell

As for displays, there is no new OLED-equipped version available now, with choices such as a 4K UHD+ (3840×2400) touchscreen or FHD+ (1920 x 1200) in both touch and non-touch configurations. This year it includes support for WiFi 6E, but built-in 5G is reserved for the upcoming 2-in-1 version. The aluminum in the frame is low-carbon to reduce its carbon footprint, while this year’s model comes in new packaging made from “100 percent recycled or renewable material”.

The webcam has also been updated, separating the infrared and RGB sensors in ways the company says will make you look better in low light, and while Dell finally put the camera in the right place a few years ago, it is still limited to 720p. True or not, this model also adds Dell’s ExpressSign-In technology that uses a proximity sensor in conjunction with the Windows Hello webcam with facial recognition to detect when you’re sitting in front of the laptop and automatically log you in, such as lock it also when you walk away or dim the screen to save battery while watching something else.

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