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Dell XPS 13 Plus copies the worst thing about the MacBook Pro — the thing Apple killed

Dell XPS 13 Plus two colors
(Image credit: Future)

By its name, you would think that the Dell XPS 13 Plus is better than the regular XPS 13 in pretty much every way. Well, you do get more power in a very portable design, but there's also a surprising number of trade-offs in this new laptop, which goes on sale this Spring starting at $1,199.

The worst part is what the XPS 13 Plus copies from the MacBook Pro 13-inch, a feature Apple killed for the MacBook Pro 14-inch.

Now, to be clear, the capacitive touch function row on the Dell XPS 13 Plus is not the exact same thing as the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro. Dell's version is much more stripped down with touch sensitive keys for volume, brightness and other shortcuts. And the menu does not vary based on the app that you're using. You simply toggle between the shortcuts and F keys with a simple key press.

Dell XPS 13 Plus touch function row and keyboard

(Image credit: Future)

Dell made this head-scratching design decision because it wanted to use the space normally taken up by the physical function row to deliver more power in this chassis. And it's a sizable jump in performance on paper, as the 12th gen Intel Core CPU inside the XPS 13 Plus is rated for 28W, up from 15W on the current XPS 13. 

But there's something that just looks cheap about these touch keys, and I suspect many users would prefer physical keys instead. On the plus side, I like that the keyboard goes from edge to edge and offers a good amount of travel (based on my hands-on impressions), but if you look beneath that there's another design quirk.

The XPS 13 Plus is so minimalist Dell decided not to include any physical lines to demarcate the touch pad. So you don't really know where it starts and ends unless you touch it. The pad uses Piezo technology (small actuated motors) to deliver haptic feedback, and at least that works well.

Dell XPS 13 Plus ports

(Image credit: Future)

There's more bad news. The Dell XPS 13 Plus loses a couple of ports versus the regular XPS 13. First, there's no headphone jack. This isn't a huge deal as many of us have moved on to use the best wireless headphones and best wireless earbuds, but I'm sure there's some users who are holding on to wired headphones. 

Another bummer is the lack of a microSD card slot. This particular omission is annoying because you would think that the added oomph of the 28W processor inside the XPS 13 Plus would appeal to creative pros like photographers that might otherwise choose a MacBook Pro. It's dongle life for you, my friends.

As with any laptop, we're not going to pass final judgement until we've had a chance to fully test and review the Dell XPS 13 Plus. But at least on the surface Dell has taken what was the best laptop and added a new version that's faster, but arguably worse in a few key ways. 

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.