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Dell XPS 13 review (2020)

The Dell XPS 13 2020 makes the best laptop you can buy even better

Dell XPS 13 2020 review
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Guide )

Our Verdict

The Dell XPS 13 2020 refines the best laptop you can buy with an even more immersive display and speedy 10th Gen Intel power.

For

  • Gorgeous design
  • Fast 10th Gen Intel performance
  • Vibrant, immersive display
  • Great battery life (on 1080p model)
  • Comfortable keyboard

Against

  • Slim port selection
  • Sub-par battery life for 4K model
  • So-so speakers

More refinement than revolution, the Dell XPS 13 2020 makes small improvements to what’s already the best laptop you can buy. 

The latest XPS 13 comes outfitted with Intel’s latest 10th Gen processors, making it an even speedier multitasking machine for browsing the web, getting work done and doing some light gaming. Dell’s signature InfinityEdge display now sports a trimmed bottom bezel that makes watching movies and shows even more immersive. And more minor touches, such as a snappy edge-to-edge keyboard and a larger touchpad, just make the XPS 13 even more of a delight to use.

As with previous models, the new Dell XPS 13’s svelte design comes at the expense of ports, and you’ll be sacrificing a lot of battery life if you opt for the 4K model. But as you’ll see in our Dell XPS 13 2020 review, Dell’s flagship PC is still the laptop to beat thanks to some smart refinements both inside and out.

Dell XPS 13 2020 Specs

Price: $1,249 (starting)
Display: 13.4-inch Infinity Edge display, 1920 x 1200 or 3840 x 2400
CPU: 10th-gen Intel Core i3-1005G1/i5-1035G1/ i7-1065G7
Graphics: Intel UHD or Iris Plus
RAM: 8GB or 16GB
Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB SSD
Size: 11.64 x 7.82 x 0.58 inches
Weight: 2.64 pounds (non-touch); 2.8 pounds (touch) 

Dell XPS 13 2020: Price and configurations 

The Dell XPS 13 2020 currently starts at premium $1,249, which gets you a 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G1 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD and a 13.4-inch 1920 x 1200 display. Stepping up to the $1,299 model gets you the same specs but with a touchscreen display. Dell typically also sells a $999 Intel Core i3 version of the XPS 13, but it’s out of stock at the time of this writing.

The 4K version of the XPS 13 starts at $1,749, which gets you a 3840 x 2400 touch display alongside 8GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage, a Core i7 CPU and Intel Iris Plus graphics.

We reviewed a $1,749 1080p configuration of the Dell XPS 13, which packs a 1920 x 1200 touch display, an Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and Intel Iris Plus graphics. 

Dell XPS 13 2020: Design 

Dell XPS 13 2020 review

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The Dell XPS 13 2020 makes small but welcomed improvements to the most attractive laptop design out there. Dell’s flagship laptop remains a delight to look at and use, with a feathery 2.8-pound aluminum construction and thin 0.58-inch edges. I especially love the aluminum exterior and arctic white interior of our review model, but there’s also a silver-and-black option if you want something more subdued.

Dell finally managed to squeeze the XPS 13’s webcam to the top bezel starting with last year’s model (bye bye, nosecam), and it looks just as elegant here. On top of that, the company managed to make the bezels even thinner overall (more on that later).

The new XPS 13 features a twin-coil hinge that makes the laptop easy to open with one hand while avoiding any unsightly bulk near the bottom of the display. The XPS 13 was already a gorgeous piece of machinery — Dell just refined the small details this time around.

Dell XPS 13 2020: Ports 

Dell XPS 13 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide )

The latest Dell XPS 13 is pretty lean on ports, so be prepared to have a dongle or two handy if you need to connect a ton of accessories at once. 

The laptop packs two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports for charging and connecting to USB-C accessories (such as monitors). Beyond that, you get a microSD reader and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Dell does include a USB-C to USB-A adapter in the box, which is useful for folks who need to connect legacy peripherals. But if you’re looking to connect a variety of external add-ons to the XPS 13, you may have to spring for a USB dock.

Dell XPS 13 2020: Display 

The Dell XPS 13 2020 chops off the chunky bottom bezel from previous models, for a truly 4-sided 13.4-inch Infinity Edge display that packs a 91.5% screen-to-body ratio. The result is an even more immersive version of one of the most gorgeous laptop screens around.

Dell XPS 13 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide )

With an engrossing screen-to-body ratio of 91.5%, our XPS 13’s 1920 x 1200 display made everything from movies and TV shows to work documents pop with color and detail. I especially love the screen’s deep blacks, which gave text in applications like Slack and Google Docs a distinct, inky boldness that made things very easy to read. The XPS 13’s touchscreen was handy for quickly hopping between chat conversations and Chrome tabs, and pinching to zoom into web pages was a snap.

The XPS 13 is also a great machine for watching movies, as I learned while rewatching the epic final battle of Avengers: Endgame (and trying not to cry at that Captain America scene). Special effects like Iron Man’s orange repulsor blasts or the bright blue thunder of Thor’s hammer bursted with color, and I could make out every little crease, scar and piece of stubble on Thanos’ giant purple face. However, I also noticed that the XPS 13’s screen is a bit glossy -- I saw both my own reflection as well as a few fingerprints near the top of the display when watching the movie in a sunny room. 

The impressive color and brightness I saw while doing work and watching movies was largely backed up by our lab tests. Dell’s lab reproduced 107.5 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which puts it in the same ballpark as the new MacBook Air 2020 (113%) and the HP Elite Dragonfly (117%). 

The 1080p configuration of the XPS 13 turned in an impressive average brightness of 417 nits in our labs, outshining both the MacBook Air (386 nits) and the Dragonfly (373 nits). However, the 4K model is notably dimmer than both the 1080p version and the competition, producing just 301 nits.

Dell XPS 13 2020: Audio 

The XPS 13’s stereo speakers get plenty loud, but provide mixed results when it comes to audio quality. The crunchy guitar riffs of Four Year Strong’s “Crazy Pills” sounded muddy and blown out at max volume, though I was impressed at the amount of bass that came through the laptop’s small speakers.

The more subdued indie pop of Beach Bunny’s “Dream Boy” fared a little better, as the song’s breezy guitars and bright vocals managed to stand out in the mix. But things still sounded too muffled for my liking once I turned the volume up. The XPS 13’s speakers were perfectly serviceable for conference calls and movies, but serious music junkies will want to have a pair of the best headphones handy when it’s time to rock out.

Dell XPS 13 2020: Keyboard and touchpad 

 I’ve been using the XPS 13 as one of my primary work machines for the better part of a week, and thanks to the notebook’s keyboard, I have no desire to stop any time soon. The XPS 13’s nearly edge-to-edge keyboard is a joy to type on, thanks to satisfying, snappy feedback and a soft-touch coating that keeps things extra comfortable. 

Dell XPS 13 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide )

This is complemented by the laptop’s textured, soft wrist rest, which made it easy to hammer away at documents for hours at a time. I blazed through the 10fastfingers typing test at 94 words per minute (roughly my norm) with 95% accuracy, and not once did I cramp up while rapidly crunching on the keys. 

The XPS 13’ touchpad is 17% larger than that of last year’s model, and the extra real estate made it easy to scroll up and down Google Docs or pinch to zoom into web pages without any friction. Common Windows 10 gestures, such as swiping up with three fingers to enter multitasking mode or sliding left to switch apps, worked like a breeze.

Dell XPS 13 2020: Performance 

The Dell XPS 13 2020 line features Intel’s latest 10th Gen processors, including the speedy Core i7-1065G7 U series chip packed into our review unit. Dell’s laptop handled my daily multitasking workload without so much as a stutter, whether I was bouncing between well over a dozen Chrome tabs during a Hangouts call or jumping between Slack and Discord chats while writing in GDocs.

Our XPS 13 turned in a strong 4,847 on the Geekbench 5 general performance test, which nearly doubles the weaker Y Series Core i5-1030NG7 CPU found in our MacBook Air. We tested the Dragonfly on the older Geekbench 4.3 test, where our Dell scored an impressive 19,053 compared to HP’s 14,701.

The 512GB SSD packed into our XPS 13 copied about 5GB of files in a quick 7.92 seconds, for a transfer rate of 627 MB per second. That pulls ahead of the Dragonfly’s 512GB SSD, which lagged slightly behind at 424 MBps. 

You’re not going to be playing the best PC games at high settings on the Dell XPS 13, but the mainstream laptop’s Intel Iris Plus graphics can still handle more basic titles that play nice with integrated graphics. Dell’s laptop ran the racing game Dirt 3 at a smooth 58 frames per second. The XPS 13’s 1080p Dirt 3 performance doubles that of the HP Dragonfly (31 fps), and the laptop trounced the MacBook Air on our Civilization VI test with a score of 18.7 versus the MacBook’s 7.

Dell XPS 13 2020: Battery life 

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If you want long endurance, get the 1080p Dell XPS 13. This version of Dell’s laptop lasted an epic 12 hours and 39 minutes on our web surfing battery test. This makes the XPS 13 one of the longest-lasting laptops around. The 1080p Dell XPS 13 tops the MacBook Air 2020 (9:31) and just barely edges out the HP Elite Dragonfly (12:25).

As with many 4K laptops, the UHD version of the Dell XPS 13 takes a hit when it comes to battery life. The 4K edition of Dell’s notebook lasted only 8 hours and 14 minutes. So you’ll definitely want to keep a charger handy if you opt for the 4K version of this laptop.

Dell XPS 13 2020 review: Verdict

The Dell XPS 13 2020 manages to make our favorite overall laptop even better, largely thanks to an even more immersive display that gives you greater real estate for watching movies and getting work done. The XPS 13 delivers some of the best overall performance in its class thanks to its 10th Gen Intel CPU, and its snappy keyboard and larger touchpad make it perfect for staying productive over long stretches.

As we found in our Dell XPS 2020 review, Dell’s latest laptop also has great battery life — if you stick to the 1080p model. The 4K version of Dell’s laptop doesn’t last quite as long as the competition, and the XPS 13 remains scant on ports for those who use lots of external accessories. But if you can live with those small setbacks, the Dell XPS 13 2020 is the most impressive version yet of the best laptop you can buy.

  • Caspid
    Please elaborate more on the keyboard typing experience. The keyboard is the most important part of a laptop for me. I found the old XPS 13 keyboard satisfactory in terms of layout, responsiveness, and travel, but the new domes and reduced travel are concerning.
    Reply