It takes a few months for a gadget to reveal its true colors.
After working as a journalist for the last 18 years, I know I have to give products some time. Do they really last that long on a charge? Will the gadget work reliably even during my busy schedule? Too often, a device that seems promising will fail to impress after a few weeks.
That's why I like the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 so much. I've been testing a silver-and-white version that is small and compact, yet runs fast enough for some indie games I'm testing right now and even a few higher-end games. It has lasted all day on a charge without any hiccups (rated at almost 17 hours), so it's reliable enough that I can safely bring it with me on a writing session without bringing a charging cable.
I like how Dell finally moved the webcam so that it is now above the screen rather than below, yet the XPS 13 lid is still thin and durable and the screen extends almost all the way to the edges. I tested several Skype calls over my two-month test and kept asking the caller if they could hear me. The answer was always: loud and clear.
So about those indie games. I'm not as into the full-bore shooters these days with incredibly realistic graphics (although The Division II is quite stunning). I prefer subtle games like Far: Lone Sailes that capture my attention through intricate, story-driven gameplay and make long plane rides more bearable. The game is still visually impressive, and on the XPS 13, it looked crisp and ran super smooth.
Just to rattle off the specs of the system I tested, which is important to know: My unit costs $1,597 and uses an Intel Core i7 processor (Dell says it is 2.5 times faster than the previous-gen), has 16GB of RAM and a 512GB solid-state drive. The touchscreen display runs at 1920 x 1200 pixels and, as I mentioned, I'm reviewing the white version with silver on the top and bottom. The XPS 13 feels solid in your hands like it won't break over time.
The Dell XPS 13 has some serious competition this year, though. I'm currently testing the Google Pixelbook Go which as a totally different purpose in life. It's also a clear contender for a top-end laptop, but mainly because it's so portable, runs Chrome OS so it is fast and reliable and because I loved the keyboard so much. I'm also a major fan of the new Microsoft Surface laptops and the new Apple Macbook Pro 16-inch.
However, the Dell XPS 13 edged out those models after relying on one again and again for my work. I knew it would be fast and able to handle all of my apps, and I knew it would likely be almost fully charged. I liked how small and compact it is and yet the smaller size didn't negatively impact my typing speed. It's hard to visualize, but the laptop width is only 11.67 inches yet the display is 13.4 inches diagonally. It weighs 2.9 pounds, so it felt light in my laptop bag. The keyboard just worked perfectly for me.
The more I looked into the XPS, the more I liked it. The laptop supports the lastest Wi-Fi 6 standard for fast wireless networking. It supports the Dell Premium Active Pen for taking notes (the laptop folds all the way around to become a tablet). It never felt hot to the touch like many slim notebooks, mostly thanks to the new fan design. Dell says the laptop will last almost 17 hours for the Full HD+ version I tested (and around 11 hours for the 4K UHD model). Once you check off all of those boxes--lasts long, fast typing, speedy--it becomes obvious that this is an exceptional laptop, besting the other models I've tested.
As always, I like to point out any "gotchas" with a gadget I'm testing. I will say the price is a bit steep. That Google Pixelbook Go I mentioned, which works just as well as the XPS 13 for typing up documents and checking email, costs $649. You can basically buy two of them. Keep in mind, the Pixelbook Go does not run desktop apps.
I do often need a laptop that supports high-end apps for video editing chores, and I mentioned how I'm testing indie games quite often. The Dell XPS 13 gets the nod this year for that reason--my app choices have changed slightly. (If you must know, I have started experimenting with making some YouTube videos.) For an all-around multi-purpose, everyday laptop that does exactly what I expected, the Dell XPS 13 is my top pick.