Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review: The best laptop around learns a new trick

Dell’s XPS 13 is one of the best laptops on the market. We like it so much, we even made it one of our top picks for both 2016 and 2015. This year, though, Dell is changing things up a bit with an all-new model: The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1.

Yes, Dell has turned the XPS 13 into a hybrid laptop-tablet thanks to a new 360-degree-hinged display. The PC maker also lopped off some of the XPS 13’s already slim chassis and added a new webcam to the mix.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 does have a few quirks, namely the odd placement of the aforementioned webcam and a slower processor than the standard XPS 13. But overall, the XPS 13 2-in-1 ($1,299 as tested) is a solid offering that’s nearly as good as its stablemate.

Cutting the fat

Dell’s original XPS 13 is an attractive, well-built machine. So it’s nice to see that the PC maker didn’t alter much of that system’s DNA when it came time to build the XPS 13 2-in-1. The laptop’s aluminum lid features an understated Dell logo, while its carbon fiber palm rest gives the system a unique look and feel that’s durable, but smooth to the touch. At 12 x 7.8 x 0.54 inches, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is slightly slimmer than the standard XPS 13, which measures 12 x 9.3 x 0.6 inches. Both laptops weigh 2.7 pounds.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 360-degree touchscreen folds smoothly, but is sturdy enough to prevent any unnecessary play when in laptop mode. Like its predecessor, XPS 13 2-in-1’s gorgeous InfinityEdge display sports ultra-thin bezels that makes it feel like you’re holding nothing more than a screen when using the system in tablet mode.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 side view.
Dell made a thin laptop even thinner with the XPS 13 2-in-1.

I use a MacBook Air 13-inch (starting at $999) as my daily driver and the size difference between it and the XPS 13 2-in-1 is quite noticeable. The XPS isn’t just shorter and slimmer than Apple’s (AAPL) offering; it weighs less, too. It’s not as if the Air weighs a ton, either. But every ounce counts when you’ve got a bag that’s already overflowing with pens, unopened bills and random deodorant sticks — don’t ask — like mine.

That said, the MacBook comes with a more powerful processor, so if you’re looking for a system with more oomph, you’ll probably go with the Air.

The closest competitor Apple offers to the XPS 13 2-in-1 is the standard 12-inch MacBook (starting at $1,299), which is narrower, thinner and lighter than the Dell. However, the XPS can also be used as a tablet, which is more useful than saving a few extra tenths of an inch.

A tablet with no edges

The XPS 2-in-1’s 13-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 display is absolutely gorgeous, though not as sharp as the optional 3,200 x 1,800 panel. Still, movies looked clear and colors were radiant. The notebook’s screen is also exceptionally bright, making it easy to view if you ever happen to use it out in the midday sun.

Using the XPS 13 2-in-1 as a tablet is a bit odd at first, though. The slate is pretty wide in portrait mode, which makes holding it feel a bit uncomfortable when you’re not resting it on your lap or a table. I did, however, like flipping the display over and using the keyboard as a stand to watch movies while making dinner.

The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 in tablet mode.
The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is a bit large for a tablet, but its screen certainly is gorgeous.

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