I’ve been using this brand new laptop for about a week now and wanted to share a short review of the main “pros” and “cons” that I have discovered so far. So don’t expect an in depth review of all aspects of the laptop. There are plenty of great reviews already online. I just wanted to write about the things that have affected me most in the short time I have been using it.
So let’s start with the good bit’s!
The screen is amazing!
I went for the full HD non touch-screen version, which comes with a matte screen. The viewing angles are very good and it dulls any glare very well.
When I was looking for a laptop I wanted it to be ultra portal with the biggest screen I could get. This laptop has managed to fit a 13.3 inch screen inside a 11.6 inch form factor, and it looks amazing with the “infinity” bezel which is approximately 5mm wide around the edge of the screen.
The 1920 by 1080 pixels that are crammed into this small screen, couple with the infinity edge, make the screen feel a lot bigger than it is. You can quite easily fit two windows side by side and be very productive - I currently have “IntellijIDEA” and Sony Vegas installed and have been using them with no problem. However some programs aren’t optimised perfectly for the small screen / high DPI package. For example Photoshop’s icons are very small and I can imagine would be very difficult to touch if you had the touch-screen version.
The brightness is great and colours accurate. In fact I am usually quite happy with the brightness turned only a couple of notches up above it’s lowest settings.
Performance is generally fantastic! It runs all programs I have installed with ease. I play a lot of “Quakelive”, “DayZ” and “Minecraft” and it runs them all very well. In fact on Minecraft it will run on maximum settings with default texture pack and no shaders at 60 FPS. The only down side I have noticed so far is relatively slow rendering in Sony Vegas 9.0. A 10 minute video rendered at 1280 by 720, 30 FPS, rendered in about 30 minutes. So in this respect it is not a desktop replacement.
It is great! Much better than my previous Sony Vaio. I estimate an average of 7-8 hours of general use each day. This is with quite heavy use of Youtube, Social media and programming. I expect with just general word processing and web browsing you could perhaps average something more like 10-11 hours. But either way, nothing like the advertised 15 hours, naughty Dell! Not that anyone actually believed that, right?
Next, some of the bad points that have niggled at me!
The Dell XPS 13 comes with Windows 8.1 pre-installed. Which is an operating system I have never been able to get used to. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t quite get the metro design and lack of start menu. So the first thing I did when I got the laptop was to install Windows 7.
So far everything has worked well on the laptop under this operating system except for the track-pad. It appears that the track-pad’s drivers were only optimised for use with Windows 8.1, which is a real shame. Because Windows 7 is a solid and popular operating system and likely to be used by a lot of people.
So for general cursor movement it works fine. But when attempting to right or left click and it will take multiple pushes before it registers a click, and two-finger scrolling, in a similar fashion, will not register the two fingers right away and will take several attempts before any scrolling will occur and once scrolling is registered, it is not smooth at all. When scrolling up or down on a webpage the scrolling will skip randomly down the page instead of following my fingers as I glide them down the track-pad and it will occasionally jump straight to the bottom or top of the page. Very frustrating Dell, please optimise the driver’s for Windows 7!
This is simply a matter of positioning, and I understand it is something that Dell probably couldn’t avoid. To gain the fantastic “infinity” screen design they had to sacrifice the traditional positioning of the webcam (in the middle of the top of the screens bezel). So they have moved it to the bottom left of the screen bezel.
Unfortunately it isn’t an ideal place for the webcam. It isn’t a massive deal but I feel that if you were intending on using your laptop and video chatting simultaneously then your hands will obscure most of the camera. However, if you stop using your laptop to video chat and remember to move your hands away, you should be fine.
It’s a minor niggle, but I thought worth noting. I do find the image quality very good, it’s just a shame they couldn’t position it at the top of the bezel somehow.
So there you have it. Not a particularly long or in-depth review of the laptop, but some of its few specific features that I noticed regularly and thought were worth writing about. Generally the laptop is amazing and the negatives are not things that would make me want to send the laptop back. The track-pad issue is the main problem that keeps rearing it’s head but I am happy to wait until Windows 10, when I’m sure this won’t be an issue. I do highly recommend this laptop if you are considering it. Just remember it won’t replace your desktop computer, but if your replacing a 3 year old laptop you will certainly notice the performance boost and extra long battery life, as well as the great screen real-estate and back-lit keyboard which, by the way, is great to type on.
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