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Dell XPS 13 (2020, 11th Gen) review

The Dell XPS 13 with 11th Gen power makes the best laptop even faster

Dell XPS 13 (2020, 11th Gen) review
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

The Dell XPS 13 (11th Gen) makes the best laptop you can buy even better with a fast Tiger Lake CPU and a stunning bezel-less InfinityEdge display.

For

  • Stunning design
  • Gorgeous, immersive display
  • Comfortable keyboard
  • Great overall performance

Against

  • Blurry webcam
  • Slim port selection
  • Battery life could be better
Dell XPS 13 (11th Gen) specs

Price: $979 (starting)
CPU: 11th Gen Intel Core i3/i5/i7
RAM: 8GB/16GB
Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB SSD
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus/Intel Iris Xe
Size: 11.7 x 8.2 x 0.5 inches
Weight: 2.9 pounds

At this point, it’s hard to imagine the Dell XPS 13 getting much better. This near-perfect notebook has sat at the top of our best laptops rankings for years, thanks to fast performance and a gorgeously sleek design that Dell has made thinner and more bezel-less with every iteration. 

But laptop processors are always evolving, which is why the latest Dell XPS 13 has gotten even faster thanks to Intel’s new 11th Gen CPUs and integrated Xe graphics. Combine that with the stunning 4-sided InfinityEdge display introduced in this year’s model, a wonderfully portable design and a comfy keyboard and touchpad, and you have an even better version of the ultimate laptop. 

However, as you’ll see in our Dell XPS 13 (11th Gen) review, there are a few quirks to be aware of before you buy the latest version of Dell’s flagship laptop. And thanks to new competition from the amazing MacBook Air M1, the battle for the title of best laptop has never been this contentious. 

Dell XPS 13 price and availability

The new Dell XPS 13 is available now and starts at $979. For that money, you get an 11th Gen Intel Core i3-1115G4 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and Intel UHD graphics. 

Stepping up to a $1,077 configuration gets you a Core i5 processor with Intel Iris Xe graphics, while bumping up to the $1,322 model we reviewed will get you a Core i7 CPU, a bigger 512GB SSD and a touch display. If you want to go all out, there’a a $1,616 model that includes 16GB of RAM and a 4K screen. 

The XPS 13 comes in silver and black by default, but you can get the stunning Arctic White variation for an extra $50. Other optional upgrades include up to a 2TB SSD and a 4K Infinity Edge display. 

Dell XPS 13 design

The Dell XPS 13 with Tiger Lake is the fourth modern XPS I’ve reviewed this year, and I’m still not tired of getting my hands on Dell’s best-in-class design. This thing is as compact, lightweight and gorgeous as premium laptops get, with a slick aluminum outer shell and a gorgeous Arctic White interior that makes most competitors look boring.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Tiger Lake XPS 13 features the same updated design that Dell rolled out earlier this year, which is a very good thing. Dell’s latest InfinityEdge display is as close to bezel-less as the company has gotten on an XPS, and that’s with a proper webcam placed up top.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The new XPS 13 feels wonderfully tiny and lightweight at 11.7 x 8.2 x 0.5 inches and 2.9 pounds, which is more svelte and almost as light as the new MacBook Air M1.

Dell XPS 13 ports

The XPS 13’s slim design comes at the expense of a slim port selection, consisting of just two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, a microSD card slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

You do get a USB-C to USB-A adapter out of the box for connecting older accessories, but you’ll likely need to spring for a dongle or USB-C hub if you’re the type to use lots of peripherals and monitors with your laptop.

Dell XPS 13 display

The 13.4-inch 1920 x 1200 display on the new XPS 13 looks as gorgeous as ever, thanks to Dell’s latest InfinityEdge design that cut down the chunky bottom bezel from the 2019 model. As a result, the latest XPS 13 offers a truly immersive, near-borderless viewing experience complete with a whopping 91.5% screen-to-body ratio.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

When watching The Witcher on Netflix, I saw rich greens, yellows and pinks burst off the screen as Geralt chatted up Stregobor the wizard in a lush outdoor oasis. I could also make out tons of fine detail, from individual bits of stubble in Henry Cavill’s ridiculously chiseled face to the tiny creases on his leather armor. 

Dell’s latest laptop gets plenty bright, registering a strong 469 of brightness on our light meter. That beats out the Asus ZenBook Flip S (375 nits), as well as Apple’s latest MacBook Air (365 nits). 

The new XPS 13’s gorgeous real-world color performance was largely reflected on our tests, as it covered a strong 97.9% of the sRGB color gamut. However, both the ZenBook (160%) and MacBook Air (114%) did even better. 

Dell XPS 13 audio

The XPS 13’s speakers can get loud enough to fill a small room, but you’ll want a dedicated audio device for serious music listening or binge watching. The twirly guitars, soft rollicking drums and pleading vocals of Julien Baker’s “Faith Healer” came through decently clear at medium volume, but the song became unpleasantly buzzy once I cranked things all the way.

The energetic pop rock of Tigers Jaw’s “Warn Me” fared a bit better at full volume, as the warm distorted guitars, cracking drums and intertwining vocal harmonies all shone. But again, the track sounded muddier than I’d like it to on full blast. 

The XPS 13’s MaxxAudioPro app is enabled by default, and gives a boost to the laptop’s overall audio output while providing things like a customizable EQ and head-tracking for optimal positional audio. The app significantly enhances whatever you’re listening to, as the laptop’s music output sounded even softer and tinnier with it off. But you’ll still want to spring for the best computer speakers or best headphones if you want to hear your favorite songs and shows at full quality.

Dell XPS 13 performance

Armed with Intel’s new 11th Gen Tiger Lake CPUs, the new XPS 13 delivers some of the best performance we’ve seen from Dell’s already blazing notebook. The latest XPS 13 chewed through my usual multitasking load without a single stutter, even as I bounced between more than a dozen Chrome tabs while listening to music on Spotify and chatting on Discord and Slack for hours on end.

So just how big a bump does Tiger Lake provide? The new XPS 13 scored 5,254 on the Geekbench 5 general performance test, which is a notable improvement from the 4,847 we got from our 10th Gen model and beats our 11th Gen powered Asus ZenBook Flip S UX371 (3,880). Dell’s laptop doesn’t quite measure up to the 5,896 we saw from Apple’s new M1 chip on the latest MacBook Air, however.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Our XPS 13’s 512GB SSD performed solidly on our file transfer test, copying roughly 5GB of files at a speedy 806 MB per second. However, our Zenbook Flip S’ 1TB drive turned in a faster 1,296 MBps.

Dell’s laptop wasn’t the fastest on our Handbrake video editing test, taking about 18 minutes to convert a 4K video to 1080p. That’s faster than the ZenBook’s 22 minutes, but the MacBook Air completed the test more than twice as fast at 7 minutes and 44 seconds.

The PugetBench Photoshop test proved to be a similar story. The latest XPS 13 turned in a solid 588 in the photo editing benchmark, but fell behind both the 10th Gen model (656.7) and the 652 we saw from the new MacBook Air.

Dell XPS 13 graphics

The new Dell XPS 13 packs Intel’s new Iris Xe integrated graphics, which showed some notable improvements from the integrated Iris Plus graphics found in previous-gen laptops. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The bump to Xe delivered some nice gains on the 3DMark Fire Strike test, scoring 3,598 versus the 2,837 we saw on our 10th Gen XPS 13 with standard Iris Plus graphics. That’s in line with the 3,351 we got from our Tiger Lake ZenBook S, which also saw similar improvements compared to 10th Gen machines. 

However, other results were mixed. The XPS 13 ran the Civilization VI: Gathering Storm game at 15.7 frames per second, which is actually lower than the 18.7 fps we got from our 10th Gen model and a fraction of the 36 fps we saw from Apple’s new M1 MacBook Air. 

Dell XPS 13 keyboard and touchpad

The latest XPS 13 keyboard is a joy to type on, with smooth, bouncy keys that allowed me to work comfortably for hours at a time. I jammed away at Dell’s keyboard at a speedy 104 words per minute with near-perfect accuracy on the 10FastFingers typing test, and never felt any discomfort throughout.

Dell XPS 13 (2020, 11th Gen) review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The XPS 13’s 4.7 x 3.2 touchpad was just as intuitive, allowing me to easily scroll through web pages, pinch to zoom and perform multi-finger gestures without any resistance. Dell’s latest laptop features 9% larger keycaps and a 17% larger touchpad than the previous generation, so you’re getting even more real estate for hammering out documents and emails all day long.

Dell XPS 13 webcam

The XPS 13’s webcam quality is fairly standard for a laptop webcam, which is to say that its disappointingly blotchy and blurry. I’m impressed that Dell was able to cram a 720p camera into the laptop’s tiny top bezel, and it does have infrared support for instant facial logins via Windows Hello. But if you want to look clear in an age of constant video calls, you’ll want to spring for one of the best webcams and not rely on the XPS 13’s built-in camera.

Dell XPS 13 battery life

The latest Dell XPS 13 lasted for 11 hours and 7 minutes on our custom battery test, which consists of endless web surfing over Wi-Fi on the new Microsoft Edge browser.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While that will get you through a full workday and then some, it’s less juice than we saw from the 10th Gen XPS 13 (12:39) using a slightly different version of our test. And it doesn’t hold a candle to the incredible 14 hours and 40 minutes of endurance we eked out of the new M1-powered MacBook Air. 

Dell XPS 13 verdict

The Dell XPS 13 (11th Gen) largely makes the best laptop around even better, bringing even better speed and better graphics performance in most situations. That’s coupled with the many subtle improvements Dell already made to the XPS 13 this year, including a truly bezel-less InfinityEdge display and an even more comfortable keyboard and touchpad.

Dell XPS 13 (2020, 11th Gen) review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

However, a handful of performance quirks hold the XPS 13 back from being truly perfect. While it’s 11-hour battery will be more than enough for most folks, the 10th Gen XPS 13 lasted even longer. And our benchmark tests revealed some areas where Tiger Lake hasn’t quite delivered the kinds of gains we’d expect from a new generation. 

If you want even faster performance and batter battery life (and don’t mind switching to macOS), the new MacBook Air with Apple’s blazing M1 processor is well worth a look. But the latest XPS 13 still absolutely shines during everyday use, and remains the best Windows laptop you can buy today.