Dell changed the Windows laptop market in a single stroke with the launch of the updated XPS 13 back in 2015, ushering in the world of the InfinityEdge display, and moving the entire industry forward. We were fortunate enough to get a chance to check out the precursor to the new XPS 13 back in November, with a review of the XPS 13 2-in-1. Dell had chosen not to rest on their laurels, and the 2-in-1 proved to be one of the best notebooks around if you needed a compact and powerful convertible laptop. Today we are evaluating the traditional clamshell version of the XPS 13, and while it offers many of the same features and design touches, it does so in a more familiar form factor that many customers are going to prefer.

For the 2020 refresh, Dell has made the refreshing move to taller displays, as we saw with the XPS 13 2-in-1. As a result the XPS 13 uses 13.4-inch display panel with a 16:10 aspect ratio, offering more vertical space for getting work done, and some convenient padding to place controls when watching 16:9 content. The larger display fits into a chassis that is actually 2% smaller than the outgoing design, with the new XPS 13 offering a 91.5% screen to body ratio.

This is actually the second time that Dell has refreshed the XPS 13 within the last year. The company previously updated the XPS 13 in August 2019 to use Intel's 10th generation Core processors, but presumably due to limited supply of Intel’s then-new Ice Lake platform, Dell opted to launch that iteration with Comet Lake-U processors. And under more normal circumstances we would have expected Dell to stick with an annual cadence – and thus Comet Lake – for an entire year. Instead, to some surprise, Dell gave the XPS 13 a further mid-generation refresh, launching the Ice Lake-based XPS 13 9300 model that we are reviewing today, and bringing the clamshell XPS 13 to parity with the 2-in-1 version.

The switch from Comet Lake to Ice Lake, in turn, is a significant one. it means the XPS 13 gets Intel’s new Sunny Cove CPU architecture, as well as the much-improved Gen 11 graphics. Dell offers Core i3, i5, and i7 models, with the Core i3 and i5 offering G1 graphics, meaning 32 Execution Units (EUs), and the top-tier Core i7-1065G7 featuring the full 64 EUs on the GPU side. Just as a comparison, the Comet Lake-U only offered 24 EUs of Gen 9.5 graphics, so even the base Ice Lake models still offer a 33% larger (and much newer) GPU than the outgoing models.

The move to Ice Lake also brings some badly-needed LPDDR4X support, which in turn means a 32 GB maximum memory option in the XPS 13 9300, up from 16 GB previously. Although Dell still lists a paltry 4 GB option on their specifications sheet, a quick look at the site shows that, at least in the USA, it appears that 8 GB is the new minimum, and that is a welcome change. Offering just 4 GB of RAM in a premium Ultrabook was always a poor choice, even if it did allow Dell to hit a slightly lower price bracket. On the storage front there is more good news, with 256 GB the new minimum, with up to 2 TB available, and all drives are PCIe x4 NVMe offerings.

Specifications of the Dell XPS 13 9300-Series
  General Specifications
As Tested: Core i7-1065G7 / 16GB / 512GB / 1920x1200
LCD Diagonal 13.4-inch
Resolution 1920×1200 3840×2400
Brightness 500 cd/m² 500 cd/m²
Contrast Ratio 1800:1 1500:1
Color Gamut 100% sRGB 100% sRGB
90% P3
Features Dolby Vision Dolby Vision
Touch Support with or without touch Yes
Protective Glass Corning Gorilla Glass 6 in case of touch-enabled model
CPU Intel Core i3 1005G1 (4MB cache, up to 3.4GHz)
Intel Quad Core i5 1035G1 (6MB cache, up to 3.6GHz)
Intel Quad Core i7 1065G7 (8MB cache, up to 3.9GHz)
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics
Intel Iris Plus Graphics
RAM 4 - 32 GB LPDDR4X-3733 DRAM (soldered/onboard)
Storage 256 GB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD
512 GB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD
1 TB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD
2 TB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD
Wireless Killer AX1650 Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.0 (based on Intel's silicon)
Killer AX500 Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.0 (based on Qualcomm's silicon)
USB 3.1 2 × TB 3/USB Gen 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C
3.0 -
Thunderbolt 2 × TB 3 (for data, charging, DP displays)
Cameras Front 720p HD webcam
Other I/O Microphone, 2 stereo speakers, audio jack
Battery 52 Wh | 45 W AC Adapter (USB Type-C)
Dimensions Width 295.7 mm | 11.64 inches
  Depth 198.7 mm | 7.82 inches
  Thickness 14.8 mm | 0.58 inches
Weight non-touch 1.2 kilograms | 2.64 pounds
touch-enabled 1.27 kilograms | 2.8 pounds
Launch Price Starting at $999.99

Dell has gone all-in on USB-C with the new XPS 13, with one port on each side of the notebook. Both feature Thunderbolt 3 with 4 lanes, as well as power delivery for charging. The lack of a Type-A port may inconvenience some, but Dell does include an adapter in the box to assist. Wireless is the Killer AX1650, which based on the latest Intel AX200 wireless adapter – and with Intel purchasing Killer this partnership seems like it is not going anywhere.

If you read our review of the 2-in-1 version of this laptop, you will undoubtedly notice a lot of similarities. As they are from the same product line, that is not an accident: Dell has now refreshed their entire XPS series of laptops with a similar design philosophy. Let’s take a peek at what is new.

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  • Deicidium369 - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    Leaks from Lenovo show Tiger Lake Core i7-1165G7 (not even the top end part) obviously besting the ancient Vega (AMD's choice) and equaling the MX350 - and with only 4 cores only being outran by 17% - double the cores for 17% lead - and when you factor in the flagging GPU - what's the Renoir's advantage again?
  • gescom - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    Huh, let's wait for amd 5x00 cezanne, shall we?
  • Deicidium369 - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    Ice Lake is almost a year old. Comparing the latest AMD with an almost year old design should be a win for the newer part. the most appropriate comparison is 2020 vs 2020. That would be Tiger Lake
  • gescom - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    Tiger Lake Q4 2020 vs
    amd cezanne Q1 2021.
  • s.yu - Saturday, July 18, 2020 - link

    You think it's the effort? So they haven't been putting all their effort into 10nm?
  • Spunjji - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    As always for a Deicidium post about AMD, Lots Of Citations Needed.

    "Problem with AMD is they are still trying to get Skylake levels of performance"
    - They already matched that clock-for-clock with Raven Ridge (at lower clocks, hence lower overall performance), and they have now exceeded it with Renoir.

    "Intel has well moved on from that architecture"
    - Not really. I'd accept this if they had Sunny Cove or better across most of their range, but they absolutely do not - not even in notebooks, let alone the entire market.

    Tiger Lake looks like it'll be a good release, when it arrives in quantity. Problem is that we're talking about today, not Jam Tomorrow.
  • Santoval - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    It is still unclear if Tiger Lake will be a high volume release or a low volume release that will need to be released along perhaps Rocket Lake-U/Y, rehashing the way Ice Lake was released along with Comet Lake-U/Y. It should be higher volume than Ice Lake but maybe not high enough to fully supply the U/Y market on its own.
  • Deicidium369 - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    Well Ice Lake shipped in greater numbers than all of the Ryzen Mobile - so high volume is a relative term. Ice Lake was going to be low volume and relatively niche. Tiger Lake is high volume (not high volume like the Ice Lake SP Xeon) compared to Ice Lake U.

    I was surprised to see the 1065G7 in an Inspiron class machine at Dell - I had thought it was only the XPS class machines.
  • Spunjji - Monday, July 20, 2020 - link

    @Deicidium - Of course it shipped in greater numbers than Ryzen Mobile! Intel are ~35X the size of AMD - you'd kind of hope they'd be shipping products in larger absolute numbers. I was talking about Sunny Cove as a proportion of Intel's product range, and I was pretty damn clear about that. It's telling that you flipped metrics under discussion to suit your argument.

    "Ice Lake was going to be low volume and relatively niche" - says who? Why? To what end? You're pointing to the results of a sub-par product launch (by Intel's historically high standards) and claiming it was the plan all along. It's just like the AMD fanbois who used to laud the FX 9590's 5Ghz clock speed as if it was an achievement, rather than the best they could salvage from what they had.

    You said Intel have "moved on" from Skylake. That's untrue and will remain the case until Rocket Lake, Ice Lake SP and Tiger Lake are out. At that point in time (and not before) Intel will be fully competitive in all areas on a technical level. I'm genuinely interested to see how Sunny Cove on 14nm looks - there's no reason to believe it won't be solidly competitive with AMD on performance, but power draw and die size might not be quite so flattering.
  • Santoval - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    "Problem with AMD is they are still trying to get Skylake levels of performance, but Intel has well moved on from that architecture. Intel is solid as they come in ultralights/ultrabooks."

    That's a very bizarre statement for quite a few reasons :
    1. AMD are not targeting Skylake performance levels. When they designed the original Zen they had in mind Cannon Lake - level performance (Intel semi-released a single semi-disabled Cannon Lake 2-core Core i3 in low volume and now they trying to pretend they never did) and when they designed Zen 2 (according to CTO Mark Papermaster) they were targeting it against Ice Lake - not knowing it would be limited to 4-core low power parts. AMD never had Skylake in mind because they never expected Intel would be stuck so many years with it.

    2. Intel have not "well" moved on from Skylake at all. They *just* did, at the beginning of the year (still in low volume, hence the dual release with Comet Lake-U/Y, which was the bulk of the release), with low power 4-core mobile parts and they are *still* stuck with it in the form of Comet Lake. Until Comet Lake is replaced by Rocket Lake Intel are still stuck with Skylake, still fabbing and releasing CPUs with an μarch they have been using, reusing and re-reusing and re-re-reusing since 2015. In which parallel universe would that be regarded as "well moved on from that architecture"?

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