Hands on Dells Awesome New XPS 11, XPS 13, XPS 15

Hands on Dells Awesome New XPS 11, XPS 13, XPS 15

Earlier today, Dell held a press conference near its new Dell Venue NYC event space – which will be open to the public for a few weeks, by the way, so if you’re in the area and want to see just about everything Dell makes up and close, you can, for free! – where the company announced a line of new tablets, notebooks, and hybrid machines.

We’ve always been fans of Dell’s XPS products around here, and it looks like the new models won’t do much to change that. Let’s tackle these guys from largest to smallest.

Dell XPS 15

The new XPS 15 looks like Dell took the successful XPS 13 and up-sized it a bit in every direction. Despite having a huge, machined aluminum top, you won’t need to worry about these laptops looking like nothing so much as another MacBook clone. The bottoms are made from carbon fiber to turn the weight and heat transmission down a notch.

Dell’s major selling point for the new XPS 15 (actually, 15.6) is its 3200×1800 display, called Quad HD (HD is 1600×900, and this equals four of them, get it). While we’ve seen these ultra high resolution panels on PCs before, such as some from HP, as well as Lenovo’s new Yoga Pro 2, Dell is claiming that the XPS 15 is the first 15-inch notebook to successfully incorporate one of them into a shipping product.

The nearly six megapixel display is really quite nice to look at – but more importantly, Dell is the first company we’ve seen that has managed to scale the non-Metro part of Windows to work at high resolutions. Everything looked normal-sized – just sharper.  The company was quick to point out for those of you who like to keep score that the display packs in around half a million more pixels than the Retina display on the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

That’s true, it does – but you won’t notice those extra pixels in normal usage, and despite the fact that Dell used some pretty good IPS panels in these notebooks, there are still color casts and shifting at various viewing angles (something that you don’t often see on the rMBP).

Coming in at 4.45 pounds, that carbon fiber seems to be helping out with the weight problem. The whole chassis felt study and resisted bending; the keyboard on both the XPS 15 and XPS 13 did an admirable job of resisting flex.

The XPS 15 will offer Intel Core i5 and Core i7 Haswell CPUs as well as 500GB HDDs or SSDs and at least an NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M (we aren’t sure if you’ll be able to get different GPUs in other configurations). It’ll be available on 18th, 2023, starting at $1,499.99.

Dell XPS 13

We’ve seen the XPS 13 before, but Dell’s gone and made it even better. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Dell shrink a larger display down into a smaller form factor – this time the company is claiming that the new 13.3-inch XPS 13 feels more like an 11-inch notebook. To be sure, it certainly felt like it was more on par with an 11-inch MacBook Air or Zenbook than their larger siblings.

Fitting in at under 3 pounds, the XPS 13 again brings carbon fiber into play to shave off a few more ounces, with magnesium for the palm rest and Corning’s Gorilla Glass NBT for the edge-to-edge glass display. Dell expects the 13-inch model to get around ten and a half hours of battery life.

Again the machines felt mostly sturdy, though the display’s hinges were a little wobbly (we’ll chalk this up to pre-production units, however, and save any real concerns about build quality for our upcoming review). The display itself features a 1920×1080 resolution and 800:1 contrast ratio with an optional touch screen.

You’ll be able to pick up one of these bad boys starting in for $999.99.

Dell XPS 11

Surface who? Dell is targeting the XPS 11 at some of the same userbase that Microsoft is with the Surface Pro 2. Weighing 2.5 pounds, this 2-in-1 copies some of Lenovo’s ideas for the Yoga line with a 360 degree hinge. That means that you can use the XPS 11 as a regular notebook, in an aisle display, or folded flat, just like a tablet.

I drew some similarities to Microsoft’s Surface products because of the XPS 11’s keyboard. It’s permanently attached to the machine, but it doesn’t feature any moving keys. Instead, it has a surface more like the Surface’s Touch Cover, with keys artificially separated by color and design rather than physicality.

The keyboard is backlit, and reasonably responsive. I’ll admit that I didn’t like typing on it at first, especially since i found it hard to make sure the space bar was activated when it needed to be – but I suspect that this is something anyone who buys one could get used to after a few days.  Dell built sound and haptic feedback into the keyboard, so you won’t be blindly hammering at the keys without any idea if the machine registered your key press.

The sound effects for the keyboard are a little annoying; it would be nice to mellow the hollow knocking sound a bit. Like the other XPS machines, I found the display hinges to be a little weak on this model, but I’m convinced that part of this is simply due to the machines pre-pro nature.

Dell gave the XPS 11 a pretty outstanding display, packing in an astonishing resolution of 2560×1440 (which is depressing to think about, considering the monitor on my desk offers me the same resolution, and it’s much larger). Everything looked crisp and just ludicrously clear. The XPS 11 scores the touchscreen by default as well as something Dell is calling True Color viewing for delivering proper color despite an environment’s various lighting challenges.

If all goes as planned, the XPS 11 will hit store shelves and online starting on the 18th, with a beginning MSRP of $999.99.

It’s clear that Dell has worked hard to come up with a suite of innovative new products, some of which are iterative follow-ups to the previous generation, and some of which simply aren’t. Among the other products introduced today included a pair of Android tablets and a pair of Windows 8 tablets, both of which we’ll delve into more depth tomorrow.

For a company who has never enjoyed critical success with its smartphone or tablet designs, it seems like Dell might finally be on to something that can make the marketplace sit up and take notice.

And there’s more to come. Now that Dell’s shareholders have approved the privitization offer, Dell will eventually be able to operate more nimbly than before, and without having to publish any sort of data for the investors. We might see them take even riskier moves in the future – Dell used to pump out some pretty incredible designs, and it’s nice to see that they might have found that spark again.

Be sure to check out our image galleryfor more hands on images as well as Dell’s own PR photography of the new XPS 11, XPS 13, and XPS 15 Windows 8.1 notebooks.






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