Most people today can do everything they need from a phone. So, the big question is probably not ‘what notebook should you buy’ but ‘do you need one’? My answer is a resounding ‘yes’, because I need a decent keyboard to write on and a larger screen to view text when I’m editing. Commuting to and from work by train, I often use an iPhone to write blog posts (and it’s surprisingly productive with the Google swipe keyboard), but for longer sessions, and for editing, I’m left craving for a notebook. The iPad might seem like an obvious solution, but Apple takes the view that the iPad is primarily a touch device, not something for sustained keyboard use, and their iPad keyboard covers reflect this philosophy, prioritising lightness and versatility (as a screen stand) over a more ‘robust’ or ‘pleasant’ typing solution. So, it’s back to the trusty notebook—and if you want a cheap notebook the market is flooded with them, with devices like the Acer Aspire ES1-132 and up… but, the chances are, you’ll want to use something more ‘luxurious’ if you’re typing and staring into a screen for hours at a time. That’s where the Dell XPS 13 comes in.
Now we’ve dispensed with the prologue, the next question arises: does the XPS 13 deliver? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. It has a decent keyboard, something I’m struggling to say for Apple’s current notebook ranges, and a good QHD (not quite 4K) resolution screen (which is more than the MacBook Pro 13 inch). The XPS runs Microsoft Word very smoothly, but so does the Acer Aspire ES-1 132, which retails for £1,000 (plus change) less. It’s video editing, photo processing, and (surprisingly) web browsing where the extra CPU oomph comes in handy over a cheaper notebook. The XPS is a nicely designed computer, but the finish is not quite as seductive as an Apple MacBook/MacBook Pro. This XPS has a sharper screen (with touch even) than the MacBook Pro, but the screen it not as bright and it has a less impressive colour gamut. If you’re serious about editing photos or video you should opt for the 15 inch XPS, which not only has a slightly larger screen but it also supports full Adobe RGB, and comes with a video card to boot. The downside is the extra weight. For me, the form factor of the 13 inch XPS hits the sweet spot. It’s nestled right there in-between the diminutive MacBook (wonderfully light, but relatively low powered), and the MacBook Pro, which is slightly heavier than the XPS—and the Dell is significantly less expensive than either of these, especially when purchased with one of Dell’s online special offers, which crop up fairly regularly.
The XPS runs Windows 10, which isn’t such a terrible thing—the difference between Mac and Windows is often exaggerated. I enjoy features, and modes, of both operating systems. Thankfully, Windows 10 is moving away from the ‘Metro’ tiled interface. You can customise tiles to delete the most irritating ones, and essentially use it as a straightforward app launcher. The advantage of going with an Apple notebook, on the other hand, is the seamless integration between the OS and the hardware. This XPS, which I’m writing this post on (along with an iPhone 6S), has Windows updates, updates for individual apps (which have to be manually actioned), and Dell’s own system / hardware extensions (which are updated through their support program). It’s a tad messy—I don’t think anyone in their right mind would call it an ‘elegant’ solution. But it’s working fine… so far.
So—in short—the Dell XPS is a solid choice. Whether you need a Core i7 chip in a notebook with 16GB of RAM is a debatable question. The word ‘excess’ comes to mind, but no one can deny the fact that this is a great machine for word processing. It’s possible to type on the near silent XPS keyboard without waking a sleeping baby (something which can’t be said of a MacBook Pro) and it has a beautifully sharp screen with decent battery life. The XPS should continue to be a speedy device a few years from now. Another bonus with the XPS is the upgradable M.2 NVMe solid state drive, built-in USB-3, SD card reader, and USB-C.
To sum up, the Dell XPS hits a lot of sweet spots, specs-wise and price-wise. And while the Dell branding might not be as alluring as a shiny Apple logo, nor the attention to the fine details quite on a par with Apple, this is still a great machine.