A couple months ago, I checked out the Dell Latitude 2-in-1 and was quite happy with the overall package and design of the laptop save for one thing: the price. It was simply too steep compared to the other line-ups and I had lamented on the fact that even their own XPS line is the better buy in comparison.
Today, I had an opportunity to check out the non-business equivalent of the Dell Latitude I reviewed – the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. Was there a large enough difference to warrant the gulf in price for consumers? Let’s find out!
What is the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 7390?
The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is the “flipbook” variant of their mainline Dell XPS 13 series that features the handy ability to turn your laptop into a tablet. Apart from that, the majority of features remain the same when compared to the non 2-in-1 version.
Given Dell’s recent announcement on their commercial product line-ups, it is almost for certain that there won’t be any revision coming soon for their 2-in-1 series laptops.
I’d expect this laptop to be their latest model for quite some time; at least till next year.
Packaging, Design & Build Quality
Like the Latitude we reviewed, the packaging comes with no frills in your bog-standard box. In it, you’ll find 2 boxes. The first of which, unlike the Latitude, that contains the laptop itself which can be used as a makeshift sleeve or carrying case if you so choose.
The second is an accessory box that’ll contain the charger, Dell pen (if you’ve bought it) and complimentary USB C to single USB 3 adapter (more on that later).
Overall, it’s nothing fancy but I appreciate the additional box for some extra protection during shipping and handling.
The chassis, like all of Dell’s premium high-end products, are made from CNC aluminium that feels nice and smooth to the touch and high quality as always. The presentation is plain and simple without any elaborate patterns or designs on the surface of the laptop; just a glossy metal finish on the Dell logo…just the way I like it.
This goes for the bottom of the laptop as well, with simple ventilation grills lining the perimeter of the laptop and another glossy XPS logo in the middle that you’ll probably not see often.
Moving on to the inside, you’ll find the interior to be quite different from something like the Latitude. The XPS series comes with the iconic Gore-Tex thermal padding not unlike the Surface Book I’ve reviewed last year, lining the entire base of the surface. The 10-keyless keyboard now appropriately uses the entire width of the body with pretty good size and spacing for each key which I really appreciate on a laptop as compact as this.
As per with the case of the Latitude, you’d find the same clamshell design on the Dell XPS as well. It works great for what it is designed to do and my comments about it stay the same: sturdy, but shaking it aggressively will cause the hinge to do a 180 which is expected though not an issue practically.
An upside to this comparison is that the updated screen seems to have just have a touch slimmer bezels compared to the Latitude, making the presentation of the laptop just that much better to look at.
At about 1.3Kg, this laptop manages to be even slimmer and more compact than what the Dell Latitude already is; although this didn’t come without compromises which we’ll talk about later.
The tiny ~150g charger it comes with doesn’t add much to the weight at all and because of USB-C charging, you could basically be charger free so long as you can find a place with USB input (or even a powerbank if you want even more mobility in your setup).
As much as I can rave about the good use of space and design for the keyboard, Dell’s engineers weren’t quite up to task at defying physics. Such a thin laptop will surely come with a worse typing experience: the keyboard has almost no key travel at all and as such, doesn’t have much tactile feedback on key presses. Even the sound is noticeably less ‘clicky’ than other cross-switch laptop keyboards. While actuation forces are expectedly low, I often found myself pressing harder to get more feedback on whether I’ve pressed the button or not.
One cool thing to note here is that Dell has integrated the power button into the keyboard itself as an actual key, making it a cleaner and more contiguous design; a nice touch I might add.
Shallow keyboard aside, it didn’t quite interfere with my typing speed so long as I made a mental note to myself to press on the keys harder than usual. On a type racer average of 5 runs, I achieved a respectable 79 WPM which isn’t far off the mark against other larger, more tactile laptop keyboards.
The trackpad control is what you’d be expecting from a premium machine – smooth, indefinitely pleasant to use and precise. The trackpad feels nice to the touch and use and it’s surface area is plenty wide despite the chassis size; no complaints from me.
Unfortunately, the plastic-y material of the trackpad means that you’ll definitely be getting fingerprint oils on it almost immediately after a few minutes of use – an aspect that the Latitude handled well but not so much so in this case. Try to bring a piece of cloth if you can for the trackpad, you’re going to need it.
Tablet mode performance
Just like the Latitude, you can transform this laptop into a tablet as well.
Due to Dell presumably using the same drivers, my experience with using the tablet for drawing or hand gestures has mostly been the same. The same complaints I had with the Latitude is still present in the XPS: palm rejection is slightly wonky when it comes to resting your hand on the screen and writing with the pen. Although to its credit, I did feel that the pen is a touch more responsive when it comes to accurately updating its position on the screen; perhaps due to a better digitizer in the screen itself.
With the glossy screen on the XPS, you’ll be hard pressed to want to use hand gestures though, as finger oils do show up easily on the screen even with minor usage.
Wi-Fi, Connectivity & Storage
Like always, we took the Killer AX1650 chip to the test with our Steam download test where we download some large games over a 5Ghz connection to get a gauge of the download speed. While we didn’t see incredible speeds with the Intel AC9560 in comparison with the Latitude, it still scored pretty well with a 22.8MB/s average with peaks reaching 25.2 MB/s
Connectivity for the machine is quite poor, even within the class of laptops that the XPS competes in. Below is the (really short) list of ports that you’ll find on this laptop:
- 2x USB C w/ thunderbolt 3
- 1x microSD card
No need to double check with the spec sheet or anything, it really does only have connectivity you can count on one hand. The lack of a regular USB 3 port is not ideal as this means that you’ll always need to carry more adapters while on the go. Fortunately, from Dell’s part, they did have the foresight to include a free USB C to USB 3 adapter so you don’t have to buy one if you simply just want to use a mouse.
Still, this is no excuse for the lack of ports, especially when the device relies on USB C charging instead of having a dedicated charging port. Meaning that, without an additional hub dongle, you’ll be left with one measly USB C port for everything else you might need if you want to charge your laptop.
Simply put, even for their target audience who won’t be doing anything intensive on the device to require more ports, 2 is really cutting it on the accessibility front.
I think it isn’t too far out of the question for Dell’s engineers to add another port to this device, be it for video output or even just another USB C port if there really isn’t space internally for anything else.
With 3, you’ll at least not have to bother with carrying around a hub dongle if you just want to use the mouse (adapted via the free one that comes with the laptop), charge the laptop and have it connected to a video output (to an external monitor for example) which is very common in office settings.
Our review unit comes with a KIOXIA (Note that KIOXIA is a new moniker for Toshiba’s SSD rebranding) 512Gb SSD (Model: KBG40ZPZ512G) that about 20% slower than most typical TLC drives at this range.
Interestingly, Dell has opted to use a standard that is smaller than your typical drive format (type 2230 compared to 2280) so look out for smaller format SSDs if you want to replace the internal SSD.
Pricing, Specs and Comparison
Since there hasn’t been much update on new and upcoming laptops in this category, I will once again be comparing with the same contenders that was in my review of the Dell Latitude.
Price wise, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 fares much better at a competitive price bracket than the Latitude and is a welcome sight.
|Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (with pen)||Microsoft Surface Pro 7 (with pen & keyboard)||Lenovo Yoga X1 Gen4 (with pen)||Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1||Microsoft Surface Laptop 13.5” 3 (with pen)|
|Display||4k IPS||1824p||1080p IPS||1080p IPS||1504p|
|Storage||512 Gb SSD||512 Gb SSD||512Gb SSD||512Gb SSD||512Gb SSD|
Performance, Cooling and Synthetic Benchmarks
With the laptop, Dell has gone for Intel’s 10th generation ice lake i7-1065G7 CPU which is no slouch at all with a stated single core turbo of 3.9Ghz and improved Iris Plus graphics to boot.
In our Cinebench R20 benchmark, the i7- 1065G7 maintained an all core clock of 1.7Ghz while keeping temperatures in the low 70s indicating Dell’s effort to keep things cool at the expense of performance.
Cooling for the device is adequate and well controlled and doesn’t seem to inch past the low 70s even under our stress test. Thanks to the thermal control and gore tex coating, the surface of the laptop doesn’t get too hot and you’d be able to comfortably put your hands anywhere for prolonged periods except for the top part of the laptop (where the function keys are).
Fan noise on this laptop is kept at a reasonable level and doesn’t grate the ears with fan whine even while stress testing the device; something which I can certainly appreciate on a business/office laptop.
Don’t expect the slightly better Iris graphics to perform miracles, though. As seen in the benchmarks scores from our timespy benchmark, it is still woefully unequipped to deal with anything remotely modern or intensive such as real time lighting effects and high intensity particles and shadows.
What’s reading a review on The Technovore without the mandatory gaming benchmarks on things not meant for gaming? Nothing but a pile of lies and misery, that’s what.
For this review, I’m going to test at the 1080p equivalent in the 16:10 display format which is 1900×1200. While you may get certain low requirement games running at the native resolution, the majority would render framerates in the teens or single digits. As always, we’ll attempt to maintain a minimum of 30fps to ensure a smooth playing experience.
Just like our Surface Book 2 review running GTA V on it, I’m going to test XCOM: Chimera Squad, a recently released title on the market. Hopefully, this will give you an idea on how it will handle genres that should be playable even if the framerates are relatively low.
Without further ado, let’s get testing.
For indie titles, we continue to see good framerates as expected of non-demanding games. The only thing worth mentioning here is the slight decrease in framerates on Prison Architect, perhaps due to the increased resolution of the game.
Surprisingly, the Iris graphics held up well and even provided a modest boost in comparison to the HD4000 integrated graphics we had on the Latitude. Some games, like Dead Space 2 and Counter Strike Global Offensive, saw massive gains in terms of performance and now reaches very playable framerates so long as you aren’t pushing the quality to the maximum.
As expected, modern titles like XCOM: Chimera Squad is too much for the integrated graphics to handle even at minimum detail level, hovering with an average fps of 21 most of the time. Some scenes can even drop the framerates down to the mid-teens making it barely playable even for a turn-based game. On a good day, you can still see upwards of 30fps during in-game cutscenes or transitions though.
Display & Sound
The dell XPS 13 2-in-1 features an updated Sharp display (Model: SHP14A8, LQ134R1) that is similar to the one found in the Latitude that I got to review some months back. With a display resolution of 2400P, this display is certainly no slouch as it runs above the typical 4k resolution in terms of pixel count.
This revision of the panel has also increased the brightness of the display a fair amount. It is now much brighter at all brightness levels although screen glare is still a problem as the glossy coating doesn’t seem to have been changed from the previous iteration.
As per the more uncommon display ratio of 19:10, expect some compromises just like the Surface Book when it comes to media consumption such as watching videos on YouTube. Videos will be cropped at the standard 16:9 resolution so expect some black bars to fill the unused areas when viewing certain content.
The display honestly reminded me of the original PS Vita with the great OLED screen that came with it, offering great contrast and brightness that makes colors pop without oversaturating in the primary colors like it did slightly on the Latitude. Despite not coming in best-in-class for color accuracy at 60% Adobe RGB and 90% sRGB, I definitely enjoyed the visual quality that this screen can put out.
Feeling a little funky, my choice of song today is The Hustle by Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony that features an instrument-rich soundtrack that plays off each instrument working well with the melody.
From the initial hum of the tune, I could already tell that it’s going to be a decent showing; the hums are pretty bright as they should be although they do lack some soundstage breath coming from the speakers. Going into the iconic hum of the song, the speakers had no problems reproducing the nice catchy tone from the mid-to-high whistling. The follow up with the string and wind instruments are also well done and pleasing to hear although the drums from the song are pretty lackluster without any prominence as a secondary supporting instrument; such is the case with the bass instruments used in this section overall.
Vocals, from the few lines in this particular song, is decent but nothing that’ll blow you out of the water but they’re crisp and sound basically on par with the Latitude.
Overall, I’d give a slight edge to the Latitude I reviewed, though the sound quality is comparable.
On the side note, I found that toggling the default options within the software processing adds some much-needed depth to the soundstage which is lackluster at lower volumes. I recommend just keeping it on in this instance.
Equipped with a 4-cell 51WHr battery, the Dell XPS 2 in 1 is packing a good amount of battery relative to its size. Yet again we put it to the test by running our regular YouTube loop, listening to songs at 50% volume with 50% screen brightness. The results were less than impressive compared to the Latitude; coming in at about 2Hrs 50min of usage which is a far cry from the 6 hours or so from the Latitude.
Charging also takes an average amount of time for a laptop, coming in at 1Hr 45Mins from dead to full. A pretty ok result considering that it isn’t charging from a dedicated charging port.
Like the Latitude, Dell hasn’t made it difficult for you to do minor repairs or upgrades to the device. Just unscrew the 8 torx screws as per normal and the cover should pop right off the back.
Unfortunately, I do not have a torx screwdriver at hand and with the recent business restrictions I wasn’t able to get one for this review. Oh well, tough luck.
In an absolute sense, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is undoubtedly the suggested buy if you’re looking for a 2-in-1 machine. The laptop, in comparison to the latitude, looks even nicer on the inside thanks to the thinner bezels; not to mention the standard Gore-Tex insulation material not present on the Latitude that makes the keyboard and trackpad cooler to the touch under load.
Still, I can’t help but disagree with some of the sacrifices – by and large standard features that Dell chose to forgo in the pursuit of making a thinner laptop. USB 3 is still the peripheral standard for the majority of the past 2 decades and having even one port on the machine means one less needless dongle to carry around when a mouse is required; even just an additional USB C port would save users a lot of hassle that they shouldn’t be experiencing in a premium device.
Besides some minor quips, I can’t find much fault in what Dell has to offer here with competitive local pricing to boot; that’s not often the case for Dell’s pricing besides their monitors which I appreciate.
I’d give the XPS 13 2-in-1 a thumbs up and recommend.
Fantastic productivity laptop that is almost perfect. Key travel is an expected issue and the lack of full-sized USB 3 is a hassle for those who want a dongle-free laptop experience.
|The Good||The Bad|
|Stylish and compact||Poor connectivity (only 2 USB C for general peripherals)|
|Above average battery life||Low key travel on the keyboard|
|Gorgeous screen||Glossy screen finish can be annoying|