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You’ll see from our Dell XPS 13 review that we’re fans of this excellent ultraportable, and go on to praise Dell for its wide range of configurations. But that can also be confusing: it may leave you wondering which version of the new Dell XPS 13 you should buy. We’re here to help.
Buying a new Dell XPS 13: retailers vs direct from Dell
The first thing to cover is that you can buy the new Dell XPS 13 direct from Dell, or through a retailer such as John Lewis. Dell will typically send a retailer hundreds or even thousands of a particular specification, and it’s then up to the retailer to set the price.
The advantages of buying from a retailer? First, you could land a rather nice deal. Very, for instance, is selling a configuration for £980 as I write this article. But, if you’re reading it a week later, it may be out of stock.
Buying from John Lewis in particular gives the advantage of an extra year’s warranty. Dell supplies a generous one-year on-site warranty by default, but a second year is never to be sneered at.
There’s much to be said for buying from a bricks-and-mortar shop as well: if something goes wrong, you can take it back to the shop and they’ll arrange to get it fixed. Naturally, if it’s in stock, you can also get your hands on it there and then.
The disadvantages of buying from a retailer are threefold. First, you have no control over the specification. Buy from Dell and you can specify the colour, the processor, resolution of screen, the amount of RAM (also called memory) and the amount of storage.
Second, if the retailer goes bust – just look at Toys R Us – then you don’t have a direct relationship with the laptop manufacturer if something goes wrong in the future.
The third thing to watch out for is old stock.
This will be clearly labelled on Dell’s website, but retailers are less likely to advertise the fact it’s last year’s model. John Lewis makes this more obvious by using the official model number of 9370 for new versions of the Dell XPS 13 and 9360 for last year’s model.
If this isn’t stated, there are other clues to look out for. The first is the weight: it should be listed as 1.2kg or 1.21kg. The second is the processor. If it’s got a “7” in the model number, eg Core i7-7550U rather than Core i7-8550U, then you know it’s last year’s machine.
Choosing the right specification of your new Dell XPS 13
How much RAM? 8GB is the minimum you can buy, and that’s absolutely fine for 90% of people.
Which processor? All the new Dell XPS 13 laptops include an eighth-generation Intel Core processor, but you’ll find some with a Core i5-8250U inside. Again, that’s absolutely fine for the vast majority of people. If you do want a bit more power, though, then you won’t regret choosing the Core i7-8550U.
How much storage? You can choose 256GB, 512GB or 1TB of storage. How much you choose boils down to how much you can afford. I’d love to have a laptop with a 1TB solid-state-drive (note that all Dell XPS 13 laptops come with an SSD, which are faster and more reliable than conventional hard disks). However, I’ve made do with 256GB and store less-necessary data (such as old photos) on an external disk.
Which screen? You can choose a Full HD monitor or a 4K screen. I’d opt for the Full HD. It’s cheaper, doesn’t consume as much power and offers as much detail as most people need on a 13.3in screen. Only choose 4K if you really need the detailed work – the only obvious people who would, that I can think of, are professional photographers and video makers.
Which colour? The new Dell XPS 13 is available in Rose Gold or Silver Grey, but note this only refers to the lid. The Rose Gold version has a white finish inside, while the Silver Grey version has a nicer (to my eyes) black finish. I’ll be honest: I don’t like the Rose Gold version at all, it’s way too Trumpesque for my tastes, but others differ in their views.
Which operating system? You can buy the Dell XPS 13 with Windows 10 Home (again, fine for most), Windows 10 Pro (a better choice for businesses because it’s easier for IT managers to control) and Ubuntu 16.04. I thoroughly enjoyed using Ubuntu with the Dell XPS 13, but there is a learning curve if you’re used to Windows or Macs.
Should I buy a touchscreen? If you hunt around you’ll find the Dell XPS 13 with a touchscreen (eg there’s this one on Very). Personally I don’t think it’s necessary unless you’re buying a 2-in-1 laptop, which means it transforms into a tablet – usually by the screen rotating a full 360 degrees.
Note that Dell does sell a 2-in-1 version of the Dell XPS 13, but it’s considerably slower and was released last year. It’s probably worth hanging on for an update later this year.
Which new Dell XPS 13 model would we recommend?
This will vary over time, but here are the three models we would currently recommend (date of advice: 7 April 2018).
The best Dell XPS 13 for bargain hunters (and most everyone)
Full HD display, Intel Core i5-8250U processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, Windows 10 Home. Aluminium Silver
The best Dell XPS 13 for semi-pro photo editors & videographers
4K display, Intel Core i7-8550U processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, 3-year warranty, Windows 10 Home. Aluminium Silver
The best Dell XPS 13 for business buyers
Full HD display, Intel Core i5-8250U processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 1-year on-site warranty with next-business-day cover, Windows 10 Pro. Aluminium Silver
£1,229 exc VAT from Dell (claim £100 discount with code XPS100SB until 7 May)