Short test report Dell XPS 13 (2022): reduced performance, keyboard, Infinity Edge

The excellent Dell The XPS 13 series has had the same look for several years. A stir was definitely in order. To tie in with Intel’s new 12th-generation P- and U-series chips — with the former honed for more demanding productivity users and the latter aimed at thin-and-light designs — Dell has split the lineup into two. There was the oddball XPS 13 Plus (7/10, WIRED Recommends) and a redesigned XPS 13.

The P-series-powered XPS 13 Plus was successful at making potentially gimmicky innovations an actual step forward, but its performance flattered to deceive. For the U Series XPS 13, the new look has added a splash of color, with Sky and Umber options. Gone is the signature carbon fiber, and there are more significant changes elsewhere – not all for the better.

One step forward, two steps back

Photo: Dell

My first impressions of the new Dell XPS 13 left me both excited and intrigued. This laptop has been one of them, if not the best thin and light productivity device of the past decade, but the design had gotten old. The new look smacks of a marriage between Dell’s traditional style and Microsoft’s Surface Laptop vibes – a great-looking piece of kit in its own right, despite the horribly chunky bezels. However, some other build decisions hurt the new XPS 13.

Dell still calls this screen Infinity Edge, but it no longer removes the bottom bezel in the same way. It was a small touch that made this 13-inch laptop’s screen feel much bigger on the inside than a device this size should be able to cram. The Full HD display on my review model wasn’t great either, with brightness falling short in well-lit areas. The colors don’t excite, with a slightly faded look, but solid accuracy and crisp detail keep this a good panel overall.

Then there are the ports. The previous model didn’t have many more ports than the new XPS 13, with two Thunderbolt 4, a headphone jack and a microSD card slot. But the latest version has ditched the last two, making this latest XPS 13 a device that will outperform even the MacBook Air in a playful way. In any case, the two ports are located on opposite sides of the laptop.

Aside from the color change, the exterior of the Dell remains largely the same: I’ve been longing for an updated Dell logo for a while, but no luck. Nevertheless, the weight and thickness have been reduced… a bit. It drops from 2.65 lbs (1.2 kg) to 2.59 lbs (1.17 kg) and 14.8 mm to 13.99 mm. A small difference, but the combination makes for a more portable feel than its predecessor, and it’s a pleasure to carry around.

However, not everything is equally pleasant with the keyboard. The backlighting is patchy and, more importantly, the typing experience is shallow. The keyboard has long been an area where rivals have gained the upper hand on the XPS 13, even in recent years when it was one of the best, but not the best. But this year is by no means the best, with a real lack of travel and disappointing feedback. Dell also refuses to work wonders with the trackpad. It’s quite small. Granted, there’s not much room left, but rivals have managed to cram larger pads onto their 13-inch devices. The pad’s click is somewhat satisfying and responsive, but nothing to write home about.

You stand for below par

Photo: Dell

In recent years, it’s been easy for reviewers like me to offer advice on specs for a solid productivity laptop – devices that are ideal for a student or worker with no higher power requirements and who value portability. “Nothing serious. I just do a little bit of multitasking and have a lot of browser tabs open,” I’ve often been told when asked for advice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *