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Dell XPS 13 Plus (2023) review: Futuristic-looking productivity machine

The Dell XPS 13 Plus (2023) definitely shouts premium and gets all your daily tasks done. But poor battery life and an expensive price-tag hold it back

The Dell XPS 13 Plus (2023) starts at starts at  <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>1,99,990 and comes in just one colour scheme.
The Dell XPS 13 Plus (2023) starts at starts at 1,99,990 and comes in just one colour scheme. (Imaging by Narender Pal Singh)

There’s no doubting the fact that Dell makes some of the best laptops seen on the market today. I’ve used plenty of their laptops and have mostly come away impressed. The Dell XPS 13 Plus (no, I didn’t get to use the first-gen model last year) is unlike any other laptop I’ve tested from the company before.

For 2023, Dell has updated its futuristic take on a laptop with the latest chips from Intel. With this second-gen ultrabook, you get a boost in performance while still retaining the haptic touchpad, OLED display, unique keyboard (this is where the surprise comes in!) and much more. The laptop is available in just one colour - Platinum.

The 2023 refresh of the Dell XPS 13 Plus will be turning heads just as much as its predecessor in 2022. Is that enough for Dell to sell its slice of the future?

A sleek productivity machine

The laptop is sleek, no doubt. From the moment you turn it on you realise just how smart and fashionable this machine is. Unlike most other laptops, the screen stretches from edge to edge (what Dell calls InfinityEdge), and the display pops with rich colours.

The XPS 13 Plus is made from a single block of aluminum, lending to a thinner and lighter chassis and giving that premium feel to it. The laptop comes in at 1.24kg and is just 0.6 inches thin. That’s remarkably light for any ultrabook and just about matches the MacBook Air.

The extremely narrow bezels really lend to the futuristic look. But that’s not where things get crazy. There is a capacitive touch function row, where one can switch between media keys or function keys with ease. Look at the bottom of the keyboard and that’s where your eyes will light up. Yes, the palm rest is just a single piece of glass without any parting lines.

Whether you like it or not, there is no visible trackpad. Yes, read that again. The touchpad is borderless and haptic.

Where the laptop wins

When was the last time you used the F-keys (F1, F2, F3 and so on) on your laptop or desktop? Almost never, right? I asked a number of people and no one responded in the affirmative. Do you also remember Apple and the failed Touch Bar? Apple tried to let any app use the Touch Bar and introduce their own customisations. Dell has a smarter implementation and I couldn’t be happier.

The top row of the keyboard that houses the capacitive function keys allows you to control the volume, and brightness, mute the microphone, and other controls. In fact, one has to press the Fn key to get the F-keys that one usually sees on a keyboard.

The “zero lattice” design with minimal gaps between the keys looks attractive. It’s cramped, for some, but for me, it felt nice to tap on. There’s minimal key travel, but satisfying feedback on each key press. The fingerprint reader is built into the power button on the top right-hand side of the keyboard.

The hit-or-miss invisible trackpad

The borderless, buttonless, and invisible trackpad takes a lot of getting used to. It relies a lot on muscle memory, which isn’t exactly a good thing. I love how ultra-modern it looks. The haptic feedback is quite good, when you get used to it. At times you may miss the edges, but that’s a minor annoyance.

We’re all used to having defined edges around the touchpad and hence this takes a lot of getting used to. But, in my time using the laptop, I rarely missed a click. Even accidental clicks were minimum. Maybe I’m more careful with my palm placement while typing.

The future is here, but at the moment, it doesn’t beat some of the best keyboards and trackpads that are already out there.

There is no visible trackpad on the laptop, which is part of a futuristic design.
There is no visible trackpad on the laptop, which is part of a futuristic design. (Dell)

Let’s talk about performance

An ultra-thin and featherweight laptop is all good until you realise that it can’t house the most advanced hardware out there. You must be thinking that it surely has to have some compromises. But Dell has you covered, for the most part. The CPU is the one major change from last year’s model. You now get Intel’s 13th-generation P-series processors. They are 28W parts and are designed for premium laptops. They sacrifice battery life for better performance.

The 2023 model of the Dell XPS 13 Plus comes with 16GB of RAM (there's also a 32-GB RAM variant available) and a Core-i7 processor as a standard. I hardly played games and I never edited any videos in my time with the laptop. During that time, I wasn’t constrained by the performance. I did all my normal daily activities and the laptop didn’t disappoint. Neither did it heat up. I was watching YouTube videos, and sports on OTT apps, browsing Google Chrome (with 20+ tabs open), listening to Spotify, attending online meetings and more.

What disappointed me was the ultra-performance mode. It didn’t really improve the performance, and instead, turned up the heat and made the fans louder.

This laptop isn’t meant for gaming, as there is no dedicated GPU. Nonetheless, for casual gaming, the laptop was decent. But fire up any more advanced game and the laptop will just give up. The XPS 13 Plus does beat the likes of the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED (a favourite of mine), but not many of the other competitors.

Battery life is a letdown

As good as the XPS 13 Plus might be at getting the job (the job it is designed to do) done, it lacks in the battery department. Let’s just say it like it is. The maximum I got from the laptop was a shade under five and a half hours. That’s lower than most of the ultrabooks I’ve tested over the last 12 months. That’s it. There isn’t much more to say here.

Here’s a quick rundown of things I wasn’t able to talk about in detail:

- There’s an old-school 720p webcam instead of an ultra-modern 1080p one.

- There are just two Thunderbolt 4 ports. One on each side of the laptop. There is a dock, for more ports, but that’s an accessory and not a standard.

- The laptop features dual stereo speakers, which are loud and crisp, up to 80% volume.

- Two options for the display. A 13.4-inch OLED touch display or a 13.4-inch UHD+ touch display. Both with 60Hz refresh rate.

Are you willing to buy a slice of the future?

The invisible trackpad isn’t something that is new but it feels like now is the time for it to become mainstream. Back then it felt like a prototype, today it is fully fleshed out.

With that in mind, are you willing to spend a minimum of 2 lakh on this laptop? The Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 starts at 1,99,990. That’s a lot of money, no doubt.

I want to give two thumbs up to the XPS 13 Plus, but the poor battery life and the not-so-good 720 webcam kept me away from doing so.

The display is gorgeous (OLED screens are the best), the design is sleek and modern, the performance is solid, and the keyboard is nice to type on. With the extremely narrow bezels, you’re getting a good deal here.

But can a laptop that prioritises looks over everything else ask for 2 lakhs of your hard-earned money? The answer frankly is no.

Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist. He posts @IMSahilBhalla.

Also read: Honor 90 review: A mid-range smartphone that feels premium

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