Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review: Dell’s flip-top Surface Pro competitor

Alex Kidman 22 February 2017

Quick Verdict
If Dell is your brand of choice when it comes to laptops, you could always opt for the regular XPS models, which share fundamentally the same feature set, save for that rotating hinge lid.

Strengths

  • Extremely portable
  • Great keyboard
  • Multiple form factors
  • Good productivity performance
  • Included stylus

Could be better

  • Ordinary battery life
  • Tricky hinge
  • Not all modes are useful


Dell’s updated XPS 13 features a solid swing-back hinge and is a great option for mobility-focused productivity workers.

There’s no shortage of 2-in-1 options on the market, whether you favour a more fixed, laptop-esque design or something with a removable screen or keyboard, such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 or updated Surface Book. Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 borrows from its XPS heritage, taking essentially the chassis from its existing XPS laptop line and including a hinge that allows a full 360 degrees of movement for the display screen.

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Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 specifications

ModelDell XPS 13 2-in-1
Display13.3in
Resolution3200x1800
Weight1.24kg
Front cameraHD Webcam
Processor7th Generation Intel Core i7-7Y75 Processor
Memory16GB
Storage512GB
Battery46Whr
SoftwareWindows 10 Home
Price$2,798.99

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Design

The XPS 13 2-in-1 uses the same "infinity edge" display found in the regular XPS series. What this means is that it has an exceptionally small bezel around its 13-inch display. In turn, that gives the XPS 13 2-in-1 an extremely small and thin profile, more akin to most 11-inch laptops.

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The overall design is definitely very "Dell" in that it has an almost corporate look to it, with solid edges around the aluminium body frame of the XPS 13 2-in-1, but the smaller chassis size means that it’s still portable and not too conservative in its looks.

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Dell XPS 13 2-in-1: Why you’d want one

  • Extremely portable: That size difference gained by having such an exceptionally small bezel does add up over a day’s usage, and especially over a day’s carrying time. If you do regularly travel the XPS 13 2-in-1 won’t take up much space in your carry-on bag, but it will deliver a solid, large screen experience that you otherwise wouldn’t get in a laptop of this size. Comparing it against a 2015 Apple MacBook Air, the Air seemed gargantuan by comparison.
  • Great keyboard: Dell doesn’t have the best track record with keyboards, and to some extent this is a personal preference issue. But with many manufacturers opting for much flatter keyboards, as with the new MacBook Pro or the Surface Pro 4’s removable keyboard, the XPS 13 2-in-1’s keyboard almost feels luxurious. From a productivity standpoint, you can definitely hit it hard with minimal noise and good response.
  • Multiple form factors: The entire point of buying a 2-in-1 laptop is that you don’t just want a device where you flip up the screen and you’re done. The combination of the touchscreen and the rotating hinge gives the XPS 13 2-in-1 the ability to work in both tent and full tablet modes on an ad-hoc basis. Windows 10 has done a lot to remove the issues that made it a less-than-stellar touch environment, depending on your app usage.
  • Good productivity performance: The underlying 7th gen Core i7 processor on the review sample of the XPS 13 2-in-1 performed perfectly adequately for the kinds of processing tasks most productivity users are likely to throw at it. Yes, if you push it for high resolution video editing or any kind of intense gaming purpose it’s likely to struggle, but then those use cases aren’t typically a good match for this style of system.
  • Included stylus: The XPS 13 2-in-1 is effectively Dell’s take on the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, right down to the inclusion of a stylus pen for on-screen work. If you find that kind of tool useful in your work Dell’s stylus works nicely enough.

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Dell XPS 13 2-in-1: Why you might not want one

  • Ordinary battery life: Making a laptop small and thin means there’s really not much space to squeeze in batteries, and that often has a negative effect on overall battery life. Running full screen 1080P looped video on the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 saw the battery conk out after 6 hours 25 minutes of playback time. By way of comparison, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 managed 8:26 in the same test, and Samsung’s Galaxy TabPro S lasted 11:10 under the same circumstances.
  • Tricky hinge: It’s a small thing, but an important one. The front of the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is flat, which gives it a nice sense of style. The downside here is that it also makes it tricky to open with one hand, which you could well want to do if you’re using it on the go.
  • Not all modes are useful: Just because you can turn the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 into a tablet by flipping its head around doesn’t mean that this is a particularly useful thing to do. An 11-inch tablet is already pretty large, but because the keyboard isn’t a removable part, it also means that it forms a quite substantially heavy tablet as well. You might use it for a short period if you had to, but the best way to use the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 remains in its laptop configuration.

Who is it best suited for? What are my other alternatives?

If Dell is your brand of choice when it comes to laptops, you could always opt for the regular XPS models, which share fundamentally the same feature set, save for that rotating hinge lid. If you don't want to meet the XPS 13 2-in-1's premium asking price, something from Dell's Inspiron lines, which range down to much more budget-friendly price points, could be a good fit.
If what you’re after is more in a laptop with fully removable keyboard option, consider the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book, or perhaps Samsung’s Galaxy TabPro S.

Where can I get it?

Dell sells the XPS 13 2-in-1 directly through its web site. As with all things Dell there’s a degree of customisation depending on your precise needs. The model tested with a 512GB SSD, 16GB of RAM and an Intel Core i7-7Y75 CPU sells for $2,798.99 online at the time of writing, with cheaper options available if you step down the storage and memory tiers.

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