Dell XPS 13 2018 hands-on: the 'smallest and most powerful laptop for its size and class' — and it is HOT

Actually it's not, due to advanced thermal management technologies. We've got a hands on and full spec…

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Since changing its look, Dell's XPS 13 has been one of the best laptops of the last three years. It's one of the main challengers to the various MacBooks for those wanting a powerful laptop that is also all about premium materials, zingy screens and tasteful design flourishes. 

And let me tell ya, I've seen the 2018 model, and it delivers.

The latest model comes in HD and UHD versions and houses a choice of Intel 8th Generation Quad Core processors. While it might not feel like a huge leap forward from the (already pretty oomphy) previous one in terms of innards, it is actually now "twice as powerful" as the first ever XPS 13, which only dropped in 2015. Which goes to shows you that all those seemingly minor processor improvements actually add up pretty quickly.

We can take it as read nowadays that a laptop costing over a grand is going to be powerful enough for most non-gamers' needs, but laudably, Dell really tries to push the envelope, and is claiming that the new XPS 13 is the most powerful in its class, the smallest 13-incher ever ('a 13-inch laptop in an 11-inch case!') in terms of total surface area, and also has the best battery life of any such device at up to 20 hours for the HD model and 11 for the 4K one.

The longevity is attributed in part to Dell's Battery Manager and the performance is aided by GORE Thermal Insulation. This is used for insulation on the Mars Rovers and Hyper Velocity Particle capture in the Stardust Probe, whatever that is, and now sucks heat out of your XPS 13 when it's working hard.

But never mind all that butch stuff. More importantly, the new XPS 13 comes in a choice of silver or, even better, rose gold with a white interior. When I met Dell late last year they suggested the latter was aimed more at women but I think it's okay for fellas to enjoy colours other than black or grey these days, isn't it? 

While the silver model is all machined aluminium, the rose gold and white XPS 13 has an aluminium exterior, but the white portion is made from 'a new crystalline silica material with the white colour literally woven in, like a fabric, in nine composite layers.' 

Nice, huh? But it's not just attractive, it's tough. 'To ensure durability, the alpine white glass fibre weave has titanium oxide coating for a pearlescent sheen and UV and stain-resistant protection to prevent yellowing or staining over time. In fact, if you get a pen mark or other stain on the white interior you can just wipe it off. And with a heat resistance superior to metal, woven glass fibre also stays cooler to facilitate longer performance.'

I've put all that in quotes because when I was briefly shown the XPS 13, I didn't think it would be polite to mark it with a pen or expose it to sunlight.

The screen is also described as 'best in class', and for the first time there's a 4K UHD option – the previous model only ran to QHD. 

On the downside, the extreme thinness of the bezel means the camera is still just above the hinge, so as to take the most unflattering video possible. The laptop is also still weirdly hard to open – with no indentations in the edges, you need 2 hands to prise its jaws apart. Oh well.

The power button has moved from the right hand edge to the keyboard, and can optionally include a fingerprint reader. 

Dell XPS 13 9370 (aka the 2018 model) in silver is available today on Dell.com and John Lewis, from £1,229. 

XPS 13 9370 in rose gold is available from February, from £1,669. 

Dell XPS 13 specifications

Processor options 8th Generation Intel Quad CoreTM i5-8250U (6MB cache, up to 3.4GHz) or i7-8550U (8MB cache, up to 4.0GHz)

OS options Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit or Pro 64-bit or Ubuntu 16.04 (fingerprint reader, Waves MaxxAudio and Cortana not supported)

RAM options LPDDR3 4GB-8GB Dual Channel SDRAM at 1866MHz or 16GB Dual Channel SDRAM at 2133MHz (On Board)

Graphics Intel UHD Graphics 620

Display options 13.3-inch UltraSharp 4K Ultra HD (3840x2160) InfinityEdge touchscreen

100% sRGB 13.3- inch FHD (1920 x 1080) InfinityEdge touch display, 72% colour gamut

13.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) InfinityEdge display, 72% color gamut

All with 400-nits, 1500:1 contrast ratio, anti-reflective 178° wide viewing angle - 89° / 89° / 89° / 89°

Storage options 128GB SATA, 256GB PCIe, 512GB PCIe, 1TB PCIe SSD

Camera widescreen HD (720p) webcam with 4 array digital microphones; Windows Hello compliant infrared camera; Far Field Cortana capable

Battery 52WHr battery (built-in, not user replaceable)

Connectivity 802.11ac (2x2), Bluetooth 4.1, Miracast capable, 2x Thunderbolt 3 with PowerShare, DC-In & DisplayPort, 1x USB-C 3.1 with PowerShare DC-In & DisplayPort, microSD card reader headset jack, Noble lock slot

Dimensions 7.8 -11.6 mm x 302mm x 199mm, from 1.21 kg

Fingerprint reader (optional) Windows Hello compliant fingerprint reader in power button