The best Dell XPS 13: How to choose among three great thin‑and‑lights

PCWorld|July 2020

The best Dell XPS 13: How to choose among three great thin‑and‑lights
Three different XPS 13 models, three distinct choices.
GORDON MAH UNG
You’ve set your sights on a Dell XPS 13. The only problem: Which one do you buy? The XPS 13 7390 clamshell or its 2-in-1 version, or the “new” XPS 13 9300? All three are great laptops—ignore the model numbers, which are confusingly nonsequential—but there are key differences.

We’ll walk you through the models and weigh their strengths and weaknesses. What’s your priority? Versatility? Performance? Connectivity? Overall value? We’ll call a winner for each, and you can skip to the section that interests you most by clicking a link on the left.

Note that this story is based primarily on the high-end XPS 13 models Dell sent us to test. We do have some advice for those looking at lower-cost XPS 13 versions—check out the budget XPS 13 section for more.

Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 7390 (left) is slightly heavier than the XPS 13 7390 (right.)

ALL THE DELL XPS MODELS EXPLAINED

There are three Dell XPS 13 models to choose from at the moment:

XPS 13 2-in-1 7390: A fresh start

The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 7390 was a complete redesign. As a convertible, it can function as a laptop as well as a tablet, or in A-frame “tent” mode for presentations.

When the XPS 13 2-in-1 7390 debuted in the fall of 2019, it was the first laptop based on Intel’s most advanced 10th-gen, 10nm Ice Lake CPUs, and it was the poster child for the Intel’s lofty Project Athena (go.pcworld.com/ ioat) aspirations too.

Besides the 360-degree design, it has pen support, a 16:10 aspect ratio screen, advanced copper vapor chamber cooling, and a new MagLev 2 keyboard. It also made a few hard choices to achieve its thin profile, such as a soldered-in permanent SSD. The laptop has been one of the fastest Ice Lake laptops. Read our full XPS 13 7390 2-in-1 review (go.pcworld.com/xp90).

XPS 13 7390: Moving to a six-core CPU

The Dell XPS 13 7390 is essentially an internal upgrade of the previous XPS 13 9380 (go. pcworld.com/xp80; remember, the model numbers make no sense), but it was still a major change as it moved to Intel’s 6-core Core i7-10710U CPU over the previous model’s 8th-gen quad-core Core i7. The full review of the XPS 13 7390 is here (go. pcworld.com/90xp). The XPS 13 7390 offers the fastest multi-core CPU performance, but its graphics are nothing special.

Dell XPS 13 9300: Shiny and new

The Dell XPS 13 9300 (yes, it really went from 9380 to 7380 to 9300) is the latest iteration of the famed XPS 13, bringing the bezel-less look of the XPS 13 2-in-1 7390 to a traditional clamshell laptop. Like the XPS 13 2-in-1 7390, it uses the 10th-gen Core i7-1065G7—a step forward in generation but for some, a step backward to quad-core when its predecessor offered up to a six-core part. Read our full review (go.pcworld.com/xp00).

Three ways they’re basically the same: weight, ports, networking

Because these models are closely related, there are some criteria you don’t need to worry about much, because they’re basically the same.

If weight matters to you, the XPS 13 9300 is the technical winner at 2.65 pounds—2.8 with the optional touchscreen. The older XPS 13 7390 comes in second at 2.7 pounds, and the XPS 13 2-in-1 7390 is third at 2.9 pounds (thanks to the beefed-up hinges and glass touchscreen required of a convertible laptop). Obviously, we’re talking about a few ounces.

When it comes to connectivity, the XPS 13 models focus on the future. The XPS 13 7390 gives you the most, with its two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a USB-C port, and a microSD port. The other XPS 13 laptops simply lack the USB-C port. Obviously, we all wish there were an old fashioned square USB-A port, but none of them have that. All three laptops use Intel Wi-Fi 6 hardware, also known as 802.11ax.

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July 2020