Hardware Laptops Reviews

New Dell XPS 13 9370 review: Still the best ultraportable in the world?

Yes. That’s the answer to the question posed above, because the new Dell XPS 13 9370 really is a stunning ultraportable that you’ll want to buy. Here’s why.

Reason #1: Stonking speed

This is a quick laptop. It has no right to be. It weighs a shade over 1.2kg, yet can pack in a brilliant Intel Core i7-8550U processor. I apologise if that looks like a meaningless series of numbers (you may want to read our guide to Intel’s numbers), but trust me – it’s brilliantly quick.

Part of the reason is boring. Because Dell provides plenty of ventilation and cooling for the processor, it’s rarely throttled for performance. I pushed it for 30 minutes with some intense benchmarks and, while the fan noise did kick in, it roared along.

And don’t think that it’s noisy – in general use, the new Dell XPS 13 9370 is a whisper-quiet machine.

Reason #2: Brilliant battery

This Dell can chug along when it needs to. I played a video and it kept going for a remarkable 10 hours and 58 minutes. That really is a brilliant result. When you factor in its bag-friendly size, this is an incredibly portable device.

Reason #3: Super screen

new Dell XPS 13 9370
Pics don’t do it justice: the screen looks fabulous

As ever, the XPS 13 includes a lovely, bright display. I measured its maximum brightness at 480 candelas, which is so darn bright you should wear sunglasses. It’s also got excellent colour accuracy, contrast is superb and it covers almost all of the sRGB gamut – in short, you can trust it to display your photos and films look amazing.

You may have noticed that Dell is pushing its “cinema-quality” visuals in poster ads, and for once the hype is justified. Beautifully shot shows such as Netflix’s Altered Carbon look fantastic, and the audio sounds great through the side-mounted speakers.

Note that Dell appears to be pushing the Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) screen rather than the 4K display we’ve seen on previous XPS 13 machines, but that’s fine by me – it means system text doesn’t go ridiculously small.

Reason #4: Killer keyboard

Okay, “killer” is over-egging it. I couldn’t think of another “K” to keep the alliteration going. But it is a nice-feeling keyboard, with plenty of travel in the keys and – in general – a sensible layout. The only annoyance is that Dell shaves millimetres from the oft-used apostrophe, so I sometimes found myself hitting the semi-colon or hashtag instead.

Reason #5: Open OS

Ubuntu on new Dell XPS 13
Dell implements Ubuntu extremely smoothly on the XPS 13

Want to run Ubuntu Linux instead of Windows 10? And shave £50 off the price in the process? Then all you need to do is ask. Literally. Initially, I couldn’t find the Linux variations of the XPS 13 on the Dell website, but if you phone up or chat to an online salesperson they’ll point you in the right direction (or just keep pressing Next on the configurations screen).

As I write, there are four versions of the Dell XPS 13 with Ubuntu on the Dell website, all of which use the most powerful Core i7-8550U processor. Depending on the amount of RAM and storage, these currently cost between £1,299 and £1,849.

What’s more, Dell does an excellent job of making Ubuntu work well. While battery life isn’t as good (around six hours in my tests), everything else works just as well as on Windows.

Reason #6: Cracking connectivity

new Dell XPS 13 9370 ports
1 Speaker | 2 microSD slot | 3 USB-C 3.1 with PowerShare DC-In & DisplayPort | 4 Headset jack | 5 Noble lock slot | 6 2x Thunderbolt 3 with PowerShare, DC-In & DisplayPort | 7 Infrared camera | 8 Battery gauge indicator | 9 Speaker

This one’s a little contentious. Dell has jettisoned the old-style USB port (called Type-A) and embraced the newer format, USB-C (read our guide to USB types for more info). But it’s done so in such a way that I have to commend the move.

For a start, it bundles an adapter, so it’s not as if you have to pay £30 for the privilege of plugging in your printer. For another, two of the USB-C ports support Thunderbolt 3, which means you can hook up a 4K screen without a problem. Or a superfast storage device. (I love Thunderbolt 3.)

If you have the cash, I thoroughly recommend buying a Thunderbolt docking station too. That way you can keep your XPS 13 connected (and powered) via the docking station, and then disconnect one cable when you need to take it on your travels.

Reason #7: Vast value

Prices start at £1,249 for the new Dell XPS 13 9370, but as always with Dell it’s worth looking for deals. These may be publicly available, but it’s always worth getting in touch with a salesperson via the online chat to see what deals are on offer.

Even without a discount, the prices compare well to similarly specified ultraportables, whether that’s from Apple, Asus, HP or Lenovo.

Reasons not to buy?

The new Dell XPS 13 9370 isn’t yet the perfect ultraportable. Dell still hasn’t found a way to move the webcam from below the screen, so video conferences involve fine shots of my chin(s). Not everyone will appreciate the loss of the old-style USB ports, and note there’s no space for an old-style Ethernet port.

This isn’t the most beautiful laptop in the world either. It’s stylish because it’s so slim, and due to the edge-to-edge display, but you can only buy it in silver grey (with black internals) or rose gold (with white internals). Although I hate myself for being so boring, out of those two options I’d only choose the grey.

new Dell XPS 13 9370
Take the silver-grey pill and you get black internals; take the rose-gold pill, and you get white

Also note that it doesn’t include a touchscreen. Probably not a big issue – and Dell does include a less powerful 2-in-1 touchscreen version of the XPS 13 – but it makes it a little less flexible than, say, the Microsoft Surface Book 2.

Dell XPS 13 9370: Should you buy it?

new Dell XPS 13 9370
The new Dell XPS 13. You should probably buy it.

If you’ve read this far, then the answer is probably “yes”. Earlier this year I saw heaps of laptops at CES, the world’s biggest tech trade show, but none were good enough to persuade me that they’ll take the world’s best ultraportable crown from the Dell XPS 13.

Read this next: Why did Dell put the webcam beneath the screen in the Dell XPS 13?

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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