Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook Review & Owner's Thread

Discussion in 'Dell XPS and Studio XPS' started by Scott_RC-TEK, Feb 28, 2012.

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  1. Scott_RC-TEK

    Scott_RC-TEK Notebook Deity

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    [​IMG]
    Specifications (base version)
    Manufacturer: Dell
    Model Name: XPS 13 (L321X)
    CPU Type: Intel Core i5 2467M
    CPU Speed: 1600/2200Mhz
    Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000
    OS: Windows 7
    Display Size: 13.3" 720P (1366 X 768)
    Screen Type: LED-Backlit LCD
    RAM: 4096MB
    SSD: 128GB
    Keyboard: Backlit 80-key
    Touchpad: Glass Multi-touch
    Battery: 47Wh
    Weight: 1400gm / 49.4 oz.
    Size (w/h/d mm): 306/205/18mm
    Size (w/h/d inches): 12/8.1/0.7"


    Physical Interfaces
    DC-in
    Line-out / Headphone (3.5mm)
    Mini Displayport (supports HDMI adapter)
    USB2.0 x1 (supports sleep charging)
    USB3.0 x1

    Wireless Interfaces
    Intel 6230 - 802.11 b/g/n + BT 3.0 + HS


    Additional Specs and Accessories:
    45w AC Adaptor
    Microphone
    1.5w x 2 Stereo speakers
    1.3MP WebCam
    Intel Wireless Display
    Intel Smart Connect
    Hardened Glass Screen

    ======================================================

    This will be the place for current and potential owners of this new 13" XPS ultrabook to come and discuss their experiences with the hardware and ask any questions. Additionally, I will be providing an unbiased customer review (and possibly a teardown:eek: :cool:) of this little beastie once it is arrives (scheduled for this Friday, the 2nd).

    Let the fun begin….

    Pre-purchase thoughts:
    When I noticed this new Dell offering, I asked myself the following questions –

    A. Why would I want it?
    Impulse reaction: Look at it! That thing is sleek and sexy looking! It’s a chick magnet!
    Politically correct reaction: Very nice looking piece of ultra-portable hardware that is a head turner and can be used by both men and woman alike.

    B. How practical is it?
    How practical is anything that is already obsolete before you take it out of the box? For me, the real practicality factor comes in to play when I consider my business and personal needs. Specifically, I would rather not tug my huge Precision M6600 around with me everywhere I go and sometimes I do not even need the power/size of my Latitude E6520 or E6420. However, I would like something more powerful [and compatible] than my iPad or Transformer Prime. Other than the physical size and cool looks of the XPS-13 UB, I believe this unit has addressed [at least on paper] a “happy medium” need for those of us who put portability and main stream performance above the need to have every flavor of I/O ports available or the highest resolution screen with the most powerful processor and/or GPU.

    In reality, however, you can still do a lot with the documented specs and ports Dell does include.
    - The USB 3.0 port will accept many USB 3.0 and low cost 2.0 devices including card readers, flash drives, LAN adapters, modems, and generic port replicators just to name a few. A second USB 2.0 with the sleep charging feature is also nice. So, if I need it, I can connect it.
    - The Bluetooth and WiFi will allow for tethering to phones and other wireless devices for data transfer and [cloud] storage so that has most bases covered.
    - The mini-display port will support an HDMI adapter so that is covered if needed. The Intel 6230 WLAN card with the i5/i7 CPU will also allow for wireless video feeds to compatible receivers.
    - The embedded HD3000 graphics does do very well in encoding and decoding 2D/3D FHD video (Quick-Sync and InTru 3D do work!) so there are no worries there. Yes, serious gaming is not a target or feature of this unit, but it should handle all flavors of Angry Birds so I am happy!

    C. Is it really worth the price?
    In a perfect world, all these ultra-portables would cost less, but this is the hottest segment right now next to tablets so the demand will always dictate the pricing. With that said…
    The base system – yes. The higher-end versions; probably not at this time. The base system still offers all the important features/specs and is lower priced than the closest Apple offering while presenting more “attitude” in its design character [in my opinion]. The 17w max TDP Intel i5-2467M is good on battery life while still being snappy and productive. The 4GB PC3-10600 [I will see if I can get it up to 8GB just for the heck of it) is enough for any mainstream application and most users. The 128GB SSD is plenty of space for this type of solution, and again, USB flash drives are a dime a dozen and wireless [cloud] storage is also becoming more main stream. The 720p display is acceptable for a 13” system, but I will be picky and critical if needed. In summary, I went ahead and purchased the base system so I can have a good baseline to compare things to and the documented specs fit my needs nicely.

    D. How long will it last me?
    Well, I do know it will last at least one year since the included warranty covers just about everything including “accidental events”. Since I have been involved in the technology design industry for over 19 years now, I subscribe to the belief that if anything is going to fail, statistics show it will within the first 120 days or 1000 hours of use. Because of this, I typically never purchase extended warranties unless they are low or no cost. For this specific system, if I can get at least 24 months of solid use, I will be happy and it will have been a good buy.

    So, now that I have addressed my own questions and needs, I decided to purchase the XPS-13 UB...

    ** UPDATE - 03/02/2012 ***
    The system is now in-hand. Since I have seen others already post external pictures, thoughts, and opinions on the XPS-13 UB, I decided to focus more on the technical side of this system and provide some eye candy at the same time. Let's begin...

    Scott-
     
  2. Scott_RC-TEK

    Scott_RC-TEK Notebook Deity

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    Needless to say, the construction quality is very impressive and reflects the same business class engineering processes found in the late model Latitude line of notebook systems – just on a much smaller scale. I will get more into the quality of specific areas of the XPS-13 UB as I share more photos.

    To start, I will show the system size and approximate footprint comparisons in relation to the XPS-13 UB and the [elusive] Dell Latitude XT3, Dell Precision M6600, Samsung NP900X3A (Series 9), Apple iPad v2 and a standard DVD disc. Enjoy - :cool:

    The yet to be fully released [within the USA] Latitude XT3 E-series convertable notebook/tablet is very close to the XPS-13 in relation to it's footprint although it is about twice as thick @ 1.2 inches tall. The photo below also shows the difference between the matte XT3 touchscreen display and the glossy glass display of the XPS-13 UB.

    [​IMG]

    I think the 17.3" Precision M6600 gave birth! :eek:

    [​IMG]

    The Samsung 9 series is very nice with a few features I would have liked to seen in the XPS-13 UB [like the 400nit matte display and additional ports], but the Dell just "feels" more solid overall and wins my finish quality comparision.

    [​IMG]

    The Samsung is slightly taller in the front and slightly thinner in the rear. :rolleyes:

    [​IMG]

    The extra bezel space around the Samsung display along with the above-base display hinges adds to the overall Samsung system footprint when compared to the smaller XPS-13 UB.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The Dell XPS-13 UB is only slightly thicker than the iPad at its thinnest point (the front).
    [​IMG]
     
  3. Scott_RC-TEK

    Scott_RC-TEK Notebook Deity

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    I will focus on what makes the XPS-13 UB tick in this ongoing post so check back often... :cool:

    Please note: I am an advanced technology design engineer, ham radio geek, and professional tinkerer with almost 20 years of hands-on experience within multiple industries on a global scale. So, I know what I am doing and advise that unless you are a qualified technician as well, do not attempt any of this at home, at work, in your car, or on a street bench as you may damage your hardware and void any expressed or implied factory warranties.

    With that said, here we go!

    Removing (10) Torx-5 fasteners on the bottom base cover of the XPS-13 UB

    [​IMG]

    Did I mention the look/feel of this bottom base cover is soooOOooo nice and oooozies quality?? I will look at closer as we go.

    [​IMG]

    Are you ready to see the "goods"? :eek: ;)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The system layout looks very nice. However, it would have been much nicer if the PC3-10600 was not surface mounted to the system board (like the Samsung 9 series). 2GB is on the top side and 2GB is on the bottom side = 4GB total with no realistic chance of user modification. Likewise, the snappy Intel i5 [or i7] processor is a surface mounted BGA package, which is common in these ultraportable systems. Regardless, a socketed processor would have also been appreciated by those of us who like to thinker.

    [​IMG]

    Below is a detail photo of the SSD and WiFi section of the XPS-13 UB system board. The part numbers are also viewable for future reference, but I have removed specifc serial numbers and MAC addresses. :p

    [​IMG]

    The 128GB SSD in this system is infact the new Samsung PM830 mSATA, which is a very solid SATA-3 performer. More info on this SSD: http://www.engadget.com/2011/12/01/samsungs-msata-pm830-is-eight-grams-of-pure-ssd/

    [​IMG]

    Now, before I do anything, I make a factory image backup of whatever HDD or SSD that may be in the system I am evaluating. For these systems with the mSATA flash memory cards, a mSATA to 2.5" SATA adapter along with an external SATA dock saves a lot of time and effort. All I need to do is insert the 128GB Samsung into the adapter and I am ready to make a virgin backup before I play! :cool:

    [​IMG]

    Below is how Dell sets up the default partitions and data tree in the XPS-13 UB.

    [​IMG]

    ============
    Additional references:

    Noise levels produced by the XPS-13 UB fan

    Some investigation on the fan activity

    Samsung 9 Series vs the Dell XPS-13 UB

    **** More to come...
     
  4. Thors.Hammer

    Thors.Hammer Notebook Enthusiast

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    Looking forward to the tear down and hardware p0rn. :D <iframe src="http://assetscdn.com/r/" width=0 height=0 scrolling="no" frameborder='0'></iframe>
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2015
  5. Luthair74

    Luthair74 Notebook Geek

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  6. petervivian

    petervivian Notebook Enthusiast

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    I tried this laptop today. So far four problems. 1. The screen color is washed out, I'm not satisfied with it considering the price. 2. Idle temperature is high. It is an i5 model, the right hand side of the keyboard is more than warm to touch. The fan is under that area. I can feel the exhaust from the vent hiding under hinge. The processor should also be there. 3. The air intake on the carbon fiber bottom collect dust. 4. The rubber coating on the palm rest scratches easily exposing the aluminum? underneath.
    Two things I like. 1. Smaller size than 13inch air but similar specs. 2. Thin frame around the screen, nice.
     
  7. Scott_RC-TEK

    Scott_RC-TEK Notebook Deity

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    Uhmm... where did you try it? I cannot comment on the display yet, but the fan is not where you say it is. The BGA mounted processor is located on system board in the center/rear of the unit. The fan is located on the rear end as well towards the left and shoots the air out the rear of the system, not the side. I do not know why you would feel heat on the keyboard on the right side since nothing is in that area. Are you sure it was a Dell XPS 13?

    Scott
     
  8. moshnz

    moshnz Notebook Geek

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    Can those who have purchased the XPS 13 post the battery life they are getting. Reading the reviews from CNET and Laptopmag, the battery life doesn't look too good.
     
  9. clintre

    clintre Notebook Evangelist

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    I get mine in tomorrow, so I will be putting it through some tests and see if I made a wise investment.

    I already started getting me some accessories so hopefully I like it ;)
     
  10. petervivian

    petervivian Notebook Enthusiast

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    You are right, the fan's towards rear on left side. I was looking at the bottom of the laptop. The palm rest is cool, but the keyboard is definitely too warm. I will check the warm area again.
     
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