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Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review: Let’s get small

dellxps13-2-in-1reviewDell XPS 13 2-in-1

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review: Sleek, but is it meek?

The Dell XPS 13 (9365) 2-in-1 convertible wonthet 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.

See it on Amazon

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.

dellxps132in1review

The display on theDell XPS 13 2-in-1 is bright, with rich blacks.

Digitizer: Wacom AES (pen takes one AAAA battery)
2048 levels of pressure sensitivit

Pen: Dell Active Stylus (PN556W)

Processor
7th Gen. Intel i5-7Y54  to i7-7Y75


Graphics
Intel HD Graphics 615​

Display
13.3″ Full HD (1920×1080) or UltraSharp QHD (3200×1800)
10-point Multitouch
Brightness: 400 nits
Contrast ratio: 1000:1
Color: over 100% Adobe sRGB% color gamut
Anti-reflective
Wide viewing angle of 170 degrees
4GB, 8GB or 16GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
SSD: 128 GB to 1 TB
Build: machined aluminum
Gorilla Glass
Carbon fiber palm rest and deck
Steel and aluminum hinges

Dimensions
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)​

Keyboard
Full size, backlit, chiclet, 1.33 mm travel

Pen dimensions
1.9 oz without battery, 7.3 in.
Microsoft Hello fingerprint scanner


Ports
Thunderbolt 3, two USB-C 3.1 ports, microSD, headset jack, Noble lock slot

Battery
46WHr battery (integrated, non-replaceable)

Battery Life
Around 8 hours of mixed use–longer on the HD screen.

 

The full-size keyboard has chiclet-style keys with 1.3 mm key travel.

Power

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.

Portability

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.

Battery Life

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.

User reactions

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.

Color

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.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review

The steel hinges covered in aluminum keep the Dell sturdy.

 

 

Pros

Wacom pen
Has the footprint of a smaller, 11″ computer
Good battery life
Quiet, fanless
Light, slim, portable
Bright display
Comfortable, backlit keyboard
Handles multitasking and light gaming
includes USB 3.1 dongle

Cons

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 Verdict

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 say it’s OK for digital artists but not the most powerful. 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.

See more Dell XPS 2-in-1 reviews on Amazon.

Learn more finding the best art tablet PC for your needs.

end of Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review

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2 thoughts on “Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review: Let’s get small

  1. Alvin

    I have this laptop and I pretty much love it.

    I want to point out that Dell has already issued an optional firmware update to disable the adaptive brightness( thankfully!, I really did not like that ‘feature’. I was severely disappointed when I noticed it).

    The link to the firmware is here:
    http://www.dell.com/support/home/us/en/19/Drivers/DriversDetails?driverId=8GDDH&fileId=3599319157&osCode=WT64A&productCode=xps-13-9365-2-in-1-laptop&languageCode=en&categoryId=AP

    Reply

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