Kevin Bae

Non-Social in a Socially Networked World

Dell XPS 13 (2019). A regular user’s review

About a month ago I purchased the latest version of Dell’s XPS 13 laptop. I previously owned the 2016 version and while there isn’t much difference cosmetically there are some improvements that make this laptop much better this time around and one immensely annoying thing that I absolutely hate.

Let me get the hate out of the way early so I can end on a positive note. The power button. The power button is so spongy that it is hard to tell if it’s been pushed down hard enough to turn it on. So I end up really mashing the damn thing. I don’t know if it’s because they built a fingerprint reader into the button or if it’s just a shitty button. Regardless, a $1,500 laptop should have a solid power button.

The rest of the laptop is great. Here are the specs for the model I bought.

  • 8th Generation Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-8565U Processor (8M Cache, up to 4.6 GHz, 4 cores)
  • 16GB LPDDR3 2133MHz Onboard
  • 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive
  • Intel(R) UHD Graphics 620
  • Windows 10 Pro (64bit)

I got a lot more computer for about $700 less than the previous 2016 version. The machine seems fast (probably because it’s still new) and renders video much quicker than the old model. Granted, my impressions are my feelings on how the machine operates because I’m not running benchmark tests here. But the 8th generation Intel Core i7 seems to do the job well. My impression could also be skewed a bit because I’ve been using a Microsoft Surface Go for the last year and while that machine is good in a pinch it’s not a barn burner in performance.

I especially like the keyboard of this machine. I don’t have my old version any longer to compare but the keys seem to have just the right amount of travel and the space between keys are perfect for my hands. It’s also not exceedingly loud like Apple keyboards of late. I’ve also always liked the soft touch, carbon fiber looking, keyboard deck. It breaks up the monotony of the laptop and is quite comfortable for my palms to rest while typing.

The trackpad is the biggest improvement to me. I’m old-school and wish PCs would get rid of the idea of the mouse buttons as part of one smooth trackpad. I don’t like it because there is not tactile feel as to where the button portions begin and end. This laptop suffers from the same problem. But, the area where I would normally rest my thumb on the button seems to recognize that I wish to use that area as a button better than past implementations. I don’t know if it’s Dell’s trackpad design or if it’s an improvement in Windows. Either way it’s an improvement and I have fewer errant mouse movements while my thumb is on what is supposed to be the left mouse button.

Battery life is a little hit and miss to me. If I’m using it heavy it doesn’t seem like the battery lasts much longer than the 2016 version. All the professional reviews say the battery life is better than the old version. Perhaps I’ve just been using it for rendering video too much in the beginning and need to see how the battery lasts under more typical usage. For instance, this morning I’ve been blogging, web browsing and going through e-mails and the battery meter in the system tray hasn’t moved too much and I’ve been on the machine for about an hour. We’ll see. As I get to use the machine more I’ll get a better feel for the battery.

Web cam in the correct place

The screen is big and bright and is virtually edge to edge. This time they put the web cam up into the top bezel where it belongs People made a big stink about the web cam being in the bottom bezel in past versions but it never bothered me because I don’t use the web cam much anyway. Who cares if someone has to look up my nose. It might be a more favorable angle for me anyway.

What would be nice is if the laptop came in a matte black version or the option for a little color. I hate silver because it looks like a Macbook. If I wanted a Macbook I’d buy one. I also don’t like to buy skins. They never stay on right and if you don’t stick it on just right it looks stupid.

In general, this is a solid update to an already great little machine. Fix that power button, give me mouse buttons again, and allow some color into my world and all my complaints will go away… maybe.