Dell has laid down its markers and entered the Ultrabook arena, launching a 13-inch model as part of its XPS brand. The new Dell XPS 13 is light, portable and powerful and has some interesting details that we're really excited about.
First up is design. Sure, it looks a lot like the MacBook Air, but that seems to be the Ultrabook norm. What we especially like is the use of premium materials. The aluminium lid is partnered beautifully with the 13.3-inch 1366 x 768 display, which is edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass. At 300 nits it's pretty bright too and looked sharp and vibrant when we got our hands-on it.
Flip the notebook over and you'll find a carbonfibre base. Cyclists beware, not only is this notebook going to be slim and light enough to take on the move, but it's constructed from the sexiest material on the road. It measures 6mm at the thinnest point, rising up 18mm and has a footprint of 316 x 205mm, surprisingly small for a 13.3-inch model. It weighs 1.36kg.
But sitting between these two sections, the deck of the XPS 13, is something of an oddity. The backlit chiclet keyboard is lovely and the glass trackpad is as silky smooth as one you'll find on a MacBook, but the rest of the deck has a slightly tactile feel to it, which is different.
We've only spent a short period of time with the Dell XPS 13 so far, but we can appreciate the attention to detail that has gone into it. There are no stickers, which liberally adorn the palm rests of most notebooks, instead you have a (removable) metal panel in the bottom of the XPS 13 giving its Windows credentials.
Around the side of this Ultrabook you'll get a push button battery life indicator. Connectivity isn't the widest of the Ultrabook clan - there is no Thunderbolt here - but you do get USB 2.0, USB 3.0, DisplayPort and a 3.5mm headphone jack, along with the usual wireless options.
Internally you'll get a choice of Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, 4GB of memory and graphic courtesy of Intel HD Graphics 3000. It's SSD all the way too, with a choice of 128 or 256GB drives.
A smart feature of the Dell XPS 13 is Intel Smart Connect Technology. This will wake up and connect to a friendly Wi-Fi connection when the laptop is in standby to update applications like email, meaning you can come down in the morning, lift the lid and find you're already up to date. It can be disabled if you don't like it, but it sounds like an interesting feature we're now used to from smartphones.
In our brief play with the XPS 13 it proved to be fast to start and open applications, but we can't verify much more on the performance front until we've spent longer with it. It felt solid and free from flex. The keyboard gave us a nice action and the trackpad didn't immediately throw up any problems, so it's a great start for the first Ultrabook from Dell.
It's slated for a mid-March launch and prices are yet to be announced, but talking to a Dell spokesperson has lead us to believe that it’s not going to be ridiculously expensive.