I really liked Dell’s old XPS 13 2-in-1, but it took a rather odd place in Dell’s lineup.
Unless you absolutely need the 360-degree hinge, the regular XPS 13 was usually the better deal as it offered better performance for the price. On the other hand, like many flip-floppy style laptops, the XPS 13 2-in-1 never felt perfect as a tablet due to the exposed keyboard and odd shape.
This year, Dell is taking an entirely different approach to the new XPS 13 2-in-1. And by “different” I mean it’s basically just a tablet now, although it has an optional (gasps) iPad-like keyboard case.
The ‘Folio’ case allows you to hold the screen at three angles (100, 112.5 and 125 degrees). I’ve never been a big fan of these fixed-angle settings, as the angles rarely look perfect to me, but I suppose people eventually get used to them.
Meanwhile, the also optional stylus is attached to the top of the device. Fortunately, the magnet that holds it in place is strong enough that you won’t lose your pen a week after purchase.
The device is powered by Intel’s 12th generation U-series i5 and i7 chips, both with 10-core CPUs. While you might be concerned about the performance limitations of a tablet form factor, it’s been a long time since Intel made such a huge leap between generations.
If you’re coming from an older laptop, this latest generation of Intel chips – which use an ARM-like combination of high-power, high-efficiency cores – is a substantial performance boost; multithread performance has improved by up to 70% at the same power level compared to the 11th gen, not to mention older chips.
While there were compromises with the old XPS 2-in-1 design, I worry about the quirks introduced with the new format.
I personally prefer a Surface-type stand to a keyboard case; in addition to being more adjustable, the brackets are less likely to fall apart under a little pressure or when used in a turn.
On the plus side, the XPS 13 2-in-1 now uses a 3:2 aspect ratio, which is obviously the best aspect ratio.
In case you’re wondering, this isn’t the first time Dell has tried to make an XPS tablet; the XPS 12 was an old thing. We’ll have to see if the new XPS 13 2-in-1 is more successful, but we don’t yet know its availability.
Despite some reservations, I think the move to a tablet form factor is (mostly) for the better, if only to further differentiate the 2-in-1 from the rest of Dell’s lineup. Fortunately, the tablet is good enough – and the price low enough – that the separate keyboard and stylus don’t hurt too much.
Speaking of the rest of Dell’s lineup, the regular XPS 13 – not to be confused with the more powerful XPS 13 Plus – is also getting an upgrade. It’s in a lighter, thinner package than ever before, using a lower wattage processor to keep thermals in check.
Still, it should offer decent performance thanks to Intel’s latest performance boost, and it also supports 5G this time around. The new XPS 13 starts at $999 and is available today.