Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook Review

A few weeks back, my awesome friends at Dell asked me if I had gotten myself a Dell XPS13 Ultrabook yet, and if not, was I interested in getting one?  I of course responded with the fact that they must not know me as well as I thought they did, as I am ALWAYS down for some new tech toys!  Shortly thereafter it was sent and I was basking in Ultrabook glory!  Although Dell approached me first with this device, it does not mean that I wasn’t already chomping at the bit to get my hands on one.  Because I was.  It did not disappoint!  As full disclosure, they did provide me the ultrabook, but I was under no obligation to write/video or talk about it in any way.  Dell just loves me, and that’s that.  😉  The feeling is totally mutal, cause I mean really… have you SEEN this picture of me sitting with Michael Dell!?!

So, on to the actual computer!  You can see my full review in the video located above, but I’m also going to type out my thoughts for those that don’t really feel like watching me.

First impressions:  This computer is LIGHT and SMALL.  When I opened up the box, I don’t know what I was really expecting from at 13 inch computer, but I am so used to working on my 15 inch computer that this felt extremely tiny, and super light.

First, I took in the outside of the machine.  I noticed 2 USB ports, one on either side of the ultrabook.  Accompanying these ports was a headset jack (both for headphones and a microphone) on one side and a mini DisplayPort on the other.  This means that the device does NOT have an HDMI connection.  I also noticed a lack of an ethernet port.  I know that in order to accommodate the size of the machine you have to leave some things out.  I’m ok with having wifi only on the laptop (but would have liked to see included in the package a USB to ethernet adapter).  Something else I would have liked to see in the package is an external DVD drive.  If you are purchasing this from Dell’s website, these are all options though.  You can buy the adapter for the ethernet port, the mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter, and an external DVD drive.  Again, I’m ok with these items NOT being integrated into the main build of the ultrabook if it means that it’s going to be ultra portable.  I RARELY use my DVD drive in my main laptop.  The other thing I noticed it was lacking was an SD Card reader (again you can purchase this as an attachment), but I almost always take images from my camera by just popping out the card and putting in my laptop.  I use this constantly, and would have liked to have seen it in the main chassis of the ultrabook.

There is a vent along the bottom of the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook, and when I had read about that, I was concerned that there wouldn’t be enough room for the air to really move away from the machine.  There are long rubber feet along the bottom that make the computer feel sturdy when placed on a desk, and raises it up a bit so the air can escape from the bottom vent.  I am still a bit concerned that it is on the bottom, and the machine does get a bit warm, but upon examining the computer, I really don’t see another place it could go.  The sides are so thin that a vent on the side would almost have no room.  Definitely something for the designers to think about.  Maybe more of a wrap around vent would be better, where it starts on the bottom and then moves around and takes some of the side as well?

When you open the device there is a nice magnetic “tug” you feel.  I really liked this, because it felt very secure.  I didn’t feel like the laptop would just open if I turned it the wrong way, or if it was bouncing around in my bag.  (not that I make my laptops bounce… I’m actually quite a stickler about protecting my devices)  I did have issues opening it with one hand though, but that may be more of a testament to how much of a weakling I am.   The bottom also has this nice looking checkerboard pattern to it that makes it easy to grip.

Once opened the computer has a sleek black wrist rest, keyboard and touch pad.  The touch pad is very large, and is not separated by buttons at the bottom.  Although you can still right and left click as though they were different buttons.  They keyboard isn’t “clacky” and has a back light so you can see the keys when you are working in the dark.  I especially like this when I’m tweeting away during The Voice.

I installed Windows 8 on the ultrabook, cause I’ve been dying to check it out, and haven’t felt like setting my computer up for dual boot, and was DEFINITELY not going to just full on upgrade my own system.  I’ll be doing a full video review/written review of the Windows 8 on the XPS13 Ultrabook next week.

Boot time was extremely fast.  In the video above I count it out at just about 14 seconds.  I did not time boot up when it had Windows 7 on it, but it is possibly even less than that.  From down to login in 14 seconds is pretty amazing.  It has a solid state hard drive, which definitely helps with that boot time.  The machine I was sent has 4 GB RAM, and an Intel Core i5 Processor.  On Dell’s website you can select a Core i7 if you want a faster processor.

PROS:  Super light and small, but not too small that it loses usefulness.  Sturdy build.  Fast boot and general speed.  Great battery life.

CONS: No SD Card slot, ethernet jack or HDMI port.  Vent probably doesn’t allow for optimal heat release.

OVERALL: So, do I think I will use this as my main machine?  Probably not.  Mainly because the specs on my Dell XPS 15z are better (namely the Core i7 and 8 GB RAM I’m currently rockin), and I’m a total specs fanatic (even if I don’t need them all to be top of the line).  So what WILL I use this machine for?  Definitely it will be my main machine when I’m traveling.  So much more convenient then my honkin 15 inch.  When I’m on the road I’m not using the computer to get a ton of work done, which usually consists of a lot of coding, and signing into servers and workstations.  So when I’m on the road I’m heavily using social media, keeping notes, and writing.  This ultrabook will serve that purpose immensely.   I am also planning to use it as my “down time” computer.  Meaning, if I bust out my main computer during my TV shows, I may end up working.  Using the Ultrabook while I’m watching TV and other things like that somewhat disconnects me from work and allows me to just enjoy the other things (again, such as tweeting during The Voice).

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About the author

Sarah Werle Kimmel

Sarah Werle Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 20 years of her career working as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on local NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX news affiliates, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website

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