Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review: Sleek, but is it meek?
The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 convertible won at CES 2017 Innovation Award. The compact 2-in-1 looks similar to its non-pen predecessor, the Dell XPS 13. I was excited to see this penabled (OK, its AES and technically only Wacom EMR is penabled) version, but it does have its compromises for those who hope to put it through its paces for art.
The build quality is sturdy and the device is attractive, though it took me a while to appreciate its subtleties–at first glance it’s another laptop–but then I noticed its thinness, sturdiness, and small bezel. Both have the Infinity Edge, a small bezel that allows the laptop to have the footprint of an 11″ laptop with a 13″ display. This model is slightly thinner than the original. This one is not a detachable, but a convertible with a 360-degree hinge. That makes it easier to type on than most detachables, which tend to have bouncy or loosely connected keyboards (the Microsoft Surface Book being an exception).
Like the Lenovo Yoga line, the XPS 2-in-1 can be set in four poses: laptop, tent, tablet, and stand.
The display is bright with wide viewing angle and rich blacks. The Infiniti Edge gives it a window-like feeling.
Digitizer: Wacom AES (pen takes one AAAA battery)
2048 levels of pressure sensitivit
Pen: Dell Active Stylus (PN556W)
7th Gen. Intel i5-7Y54 to i7-7Y75
Intel HD Graphics 615
13.3″ Full HD (1920×1080) or UltraSharp QHD (3200×1800)
Brightness: 400 nits
Contrast ratio: 1000:1
Color” over 100% Adobe sRGB% color gamut
Wide viewing angle of 170 degrees
4GB, 8GB or 16GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
SSD: 128 GB to 1 TB
Build: machined aluminum
Carbon fiber palm rest and deck
Steel and aluminum hinges
Thickness: 0.32-0.54” inches (with/without keyboard in tablet mode) x 11.98″ x 7.8″
mm. 8 – 13.7 x 304 x 199
Weight: Starting at 2.7 pounds (1.24 kg)
Full size, backlit, chiclet, 1.33 mm travel
1.9 oz without battery, 7.3 in.
Microsoft Hello fingerprint scanner
Thunderbolt 3, two USB-C 3.1 ports, microSD, headset jack, Noble lock slot
46WHr battery (integrated, non-replaceable)
Around 8 hours of mixed use–longer on the HD screen.
Dell’s engineers developed Dynamic Power Mode, which raises the performance of the Y chip while still managing to keep the device fairly cool without fans–it gets warm but not hot. It spits out bursts of energy in a type of Turbo Boost to keep things in balance.
Though Y chips are similar to Core M, Dell has gotten higher performance here. Battery life is quite good, and you can certainly multitask. Dell has succeeded in making a thin computer that cools itself.
But it’s not as fast as competitors Surface Pro 4, HP Spectre x360, or the original XPS 13.
At 2.7 lbs., it’s lightweight, and it only takes up the space of an 11″ laptop. It’s solid, not something you can comfortably hold in one hand.
Good–8 hours on the i5 and up to 10 hours on the i7, both with mixed use.
Drawing on the XPS 13 2-in-1
The Dell Active Stylus glides smoothly and sensitivity is good. Palm rejection works well. Accuracy is good too as is hover range. No issues here. There’s no place to attach the pen to the computer, no magnet, clip, or anything. The Dell Active Pen is a little stubby at 7.3″ but it’s not much of an issue.
The trackpad is nice and smooth and isn’t too stiff. The keyboard is comfortable.
As scenic as it makes the computer, with the image on the display almost melding with its surroundings, the narrow bezel could prove a distraction when drawing. I suspect one reason for the Cintiq’s large bezel is to frame the art and visually isolate it from its environment, as a picture frame does.
If you want to draw at an angle, such as 20 degrees, you can use a separate stand i. Or you could place an object, such as a book, between the lid and keyboard.
The XPS 13 2-in-1 works with the Dell Active Stylus, a Wacom AES pen with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity. I tried the pen on it and found it worked well. The screen is slippery, like most laptops.
In my short time with it I got an error message when trying to open OneNote. Other programs opened smoothly. The Internet worked well, with videos looking sharp on the display, with deep blacks.
When there is less bezel, there’s a pleasant blending into the surroundings.
People who have used this for non-art use seem overall pleased with it. Its design, display, the typing, and the responsive pen have all received praise. The computer was a star at CES for its slimness.
However, one user offering a Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review complained it was impossible to turn off Adaptive Brightness, even if it is turned off in the power settings. I read they may issue a patch for this, but until they do, having it adjust its brightness on its own with no way to stop it would be detrimental to creating art. Update: They have issued a fix–thank you to the commenter who sent this. Here’s the link to the firmware update if you need it.
Tests have shown that thought brighness and contrast are good, color accuracy is not that high. It also doesn’t have Adobe RGB. It does have over 100% of sRGB.
Has the footprint of a smaller, 11″ computer
Good battery life
Light, slim, portable
Comfortable, backlit keyboard
Handles multitasking and light gaming
includes USB 3.1 dongle
Processor not as fast as the fastest for serious digital art
Some users have experienced bugs
Adaptive brightness issue, unless Dell issues a fix
No place to keep pen
Doesn’t come with pen
Pen is a little short
Color accuracy not the best
Cannot remove battery
Front Webcam is below the screen
Need dongles for peripherals
The laptop is innovative in its design both inside and out. It’s aimed at consumers who want versatility, portability, and long battery life.
It’s a fine computer, and the power difference is not enormous compared to other pen convertibles. You can use Photoshop, Illustrator etc. on it but it will not be the very fastest. In concluding this Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review, I can’t say it’s a top choice for digital artists. For that, something at mobile-workstation level is better. It’s fine for moderate art use.
Dell is taking the artist market seriously with the Dell Canvas, a large tablet monitor with an array of innovations and connections to Microsoft. Perhaps Dell will come out with a more art-targeted laptop.
end of Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review