Apple hasn't really kept pace with the incredible innovations on laptops lately. The most beloved (and sometimes hated) Big Tech company in history has chosen to focus attention mostly on the iPhone brand, but that has opened up a world of opportunity for Dell.
The new XPS 13 laptop impressed me more than any recent MacBook, and the display is so colorful, bright, and crisp that it's worth the added price compared with bargain-bin laptops from lesser brands.
You notice something right away. Because the display stretches out almost to the edges of the screen (an innovation from at least two years ago, when I saw one at CES), it just seems to pop in a way that a MacBook doesn't.
The 4K display looks crisp and colorful, ironically reminding me of the display on the iPhone X. You feel like you can peel off a Netflix movie or a high-res photo as though it were a high-quality brochure, and it's an engrossing way to work. I loved writing in Google Docs on the XPS 13 because the screen felt warm and clear. Other laptops cause eyestrain or look slightly fuzzy, but the XPS is a joy to use even for long typing sessions.
Dell managed to fit a 13-inch display in a laptop that is the same size as most 11-inch models from other companies, and the company is becoming known for that innovation. This means one important downside, though. The webcam is situated below the screen, because there's not enough room on the bezel. In my tests, it wasn't a huge problem--I strongly prefer it to the old location on Dell laptops where the webcam was off to the side below the screen. Yet, for some Skype calls, the screen pointed up to my chin.
Other than the stunning display (and it really is stunning), the XPS 13 has several other handy perks, some of them helpful in regard to normal business workflow.
I liked the quick battery check indicator on the left side, and the three USB-C ports. (These are the faster, newer ports that work with many Android smartphones and other gadgets. It's even possible to trickle charge a second laptop.)
I've seen a few complaints that the XPS 13 doesn't have a normal USB-A port, but my advice on that is to simply get an adapter. Dell also provides an SD card reader, and you can charge the laptop using any USB-C port. The Dell charger doubles as a backup battery as well, so your charging needs are all accounted for.
The XPS 13 weighs 2.7 pounds, and it seemed light as air during my tests, moving it around in my office, using one at Starbucks for a day, and even bringing one on a flight. I like the keyboard, which has springy keys that are not too springy. I ended up liking the Google Pixelbook a hair better in terms of fast typing, but the two laptops are similar in terms of portability, thickness, weight, and overall build quality. They are my two favorites right now.
That said, the Dell XPS 13 is not perfect. The display is jaw-dropping, but so is the price (and not in a good way). My test machine with 16GB of RAM and a 4K screen cost $2,099. A base model with only 4GB of RAM (no, that's not really enough for Windows 10) costs $999. I also really hate the rose gold color; it's just a little too much like "laptop as jewelry," and if you know me, that's not my thing. I recommend picking the silver model.
I squeaked out a little more testing time, though, watching several episodes of Jessica Jones on Netflix and cranking out a few more articles at a coffee shop. I then found another cool feature. There's a way to sync an Android smartphone or iPhone to the XPS 13 so you see incoming text messages, calls, and notifications. It's called Dell Mobile Connect. Sadly, only Android users can mirror the screen from their phone, though. It's a handy feature if you don't want to constantly check your phone.
Overall, I'm a big fan of the XPS 13: the display, the quality construction, and the great portability. I'm still adjusting to the rose gold color but, in the end, I'll get over it.