Courtesy of Dell, I received the latest version of the Dell XPS 13 Notebook a couple of days ago. Although I have not spent much time with the machine yet to be able to write my initial thoughts, I have already installed the latest versions of both Lightroom and Photoshop. Both ran just fine together, something I have not been able to do very successfully with my Surface Pro 3. The main reason is RAM – my Surface Pro 3 only has 8 GB of RAM, whereas the XPS 13 has 16 GB. In addition, the XPS 13 has the latest generation Skylake CPU (mine came with a powerful Intel Core i7 CPU), which also sports a faster Intel GPU, so I expect it to be faster at doing everything. Lastly, the machine has a whopping 1 TB of fast PCIe storage, which means that I don’t have to constantly carry an external hard drive with me, since its local storage is sufficient for most of my needs when traveling. Hence, I expect the XPS 13 to be a much superior machine for post-processing work when working in the field.
The first issue I have noticed so far is the power plug – unfortunately, Dell has not changed it for a while now, so it is still the same old power plug that goes on the side of the machine. I wish Dell engineers came up with a better designed power plug, so that it could attach to the machine simpler, perhaps with a magnetic connection like on the Surface Pro. This way, if one were to unintentionally stomp on the cable, it does not bring the machine down with it. In fact, it would be even sweeter if someone came up with a way to charge laptops from each side! How many times do you catch yourself moving around just to accommodate the direction of the power cable? I know such a design would take more space, but it would be really convenient. Another potential issue is lack of an HDMI output. Looks like Dell wants its XPS 13 users to purchase an optional accessory to be able to output HDMI from the laptop, which is not that big of a deal, as long as the accessory works well. Still, some people might not like the idea of carrying another accessory and cables in their bags.
A definite plus I see is the availability of two USB ports and a Thunderbolt port. Yes, you heard that right – this little puppy has a Thunderbolt port on its side! I have not seen many PCs with it, which is definitely new, but welcome, since the number of Thunderbolt devices on the market is increasing dramatically. With the ability to transfer up to 40 Gbps, Thunderbolt is a pretty sweet option to put on any machine, let alone a compact travel laptop. And by the way, if you have a monitor with a Thunderbolt port, you should be able to output video without the third party accessory. I cannot verify this 100% yet, but hoping to be able to find out by the time I do the review.
I am planning to travel with the XPS 13 extensively in the next 3-4 months, so expect a review fairly soon. As before, I will be providing benchmark data and comparisons with a number of Microsoft Surface Pro alternatives, as requested by our readers.