Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: June 24, 2012
Product Name: XPS 13
Part Number: XPS 13
Warranty: 1 Year Premium / Accidental Damage
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Keyboard & Touchpad

Dell’s chiclet-style keyboard uses standard sized keys and features plenty of room for full sized Shift, Enter and Backspace functions. It is also spill resistant and has a dimmable backlight which is a great accomplishment for such an inexpensive and thin Ultrabook.

Typing on the XPS 13 is relatively easy but there are some latent problems that occur when trying to cram a full sized keyboard into a limited amount of space. Everything feels a bit claustrophobic as the keys haven’t been given much breathing room. This ultimately makes quick, accurate typing difficult. While there isn’t much key travel due to the limited amount of vertical space Dell had to work with, tactile feedback is within an acceptable range so touch typists will be more than satisfied.

The actual finish of the key surfaces leaves a bit to be desired since their slightly glossy faces tend to make fingers slip every now and then, regardless of the concave shapes. Had Dell gone with a slip-resistant finish, we would have been singing this keyboard’s praises.

As with many other Ultrabooks, the function and directional arrow keys have been downsized in order to maximize in other areas but this shouldn’t cause an issue for most users. We also like the fact that Dell located the Power button in a highly accessible location but eliminated its usual glowing LED. Instead the LED is integrated into the XPS 13’s front edge below the touchpad, ensuring it doesn’t distract your eyes from the screen.

For a notebook of its size, the XPS 13 has a fairly large Cypress touchpad but its excellent position ensures an errant palm won’t trigger unwanted cursor moves. Now before we go on, many of you know about how much we detest touchpads with integrated buttons. Typically, they act like a spoiled brat with A.D.D. and seem to have a mind of their own: tell it to do one thing and it does another. But not this time around.

Dell has found a way around the typical poor implementations by giving the touchpad a ton of real estate and distinctly separating the left and right buttons from the touch sensitive surface. Basically, in order to activate either button, you have to actually move your finger to the bottom surface and “click” on it. The tactile feedback really makes it feel like there are two physical buttons while maintaining the sleek look Ultrabooks demand.

The only problem we encountered with this touchpad was a reduction of sensitivity. Sometimes, we tried to double tap the touch-sensitive area and it wouldn’t respond. This was likely a byproduct of over-aggressive palm detection and can easily be resolved by using the included software suite. In addition, Dell rolled out some improved software for this Cypress touchpad about two months ago which seriously improved its performance. We highly recommend you upgrade since our review unit came with an older version.

Upgrade Options

The laws governing Ultrabook upgrading are quite simple: you can’t. In order to save as much internal space as possible, the components are frequently squeezed into place and at times are soldered onto the motherboard. In addition, the Dell XPS 13 features a near-seamless construction that doesn’t allow for easy access to internal components.

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