So, you decided to buy the new XPS 13. Good choice! The 2020 redesign of the XPS formula looks brilliant, from its tighter design to its redesigned keyboard. I was thoroughly impressed when I went hands-on with the laptop earlier this year.
However, with configurations that range from #360,000 to over #720,000, you might be left scratching your head about which configuration to buy. Understandable. I’ve tested hundreds of laptops over the years. Let me steer you in the right direction.
Note: Eventually, you’ll be able to buy the XPS 13 through all your typical retailers, but right now, only Dell’s own digital storefront sells them.
The base model: Core i3, 4GB of RAM, 256GB SSD
My best advice? You should always start by considering the base model, and add on features from there. For the new XPS 13, It comes with a 10th-gen Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD.
Think of it as a MacBook Air competitor. Though it’s the same size as the more powerful models, it has just a dual-core processor and 4GB of RAM. That means it’ll be solid for basic web browsing, word processing, and video-watching. But it does have multitasking limits, and heavier applications like Photoshop or Premiere won’t perform well.
The base model has a “UHD+” display, a 1,900 x 1,200 resolution IPS panel. It’s an odd resolution if you’re used to 1080p. The extra vertical pixels are there to match the extra 0.1 inches of screen space. Unlike previous designs, the new XPS 13 has a 16:10 aspect ratio, which is a bit taller than your average screen. You’ll see black bars on the top and bottom of 16:9 videos, but you’ll also be able to view more of a document or webpage at once, and multi-tasking with two windows side-by-side is easier.
This UHD+ screen is fantastic, measuring at over 500 nits, with super high contrast and great color accuracy. The color gamut is a bit too narrow for professional photographers, but most people will adore this display. The base model’s screen, however, is not a touch screen.
You can make just two changes to the base configuration: An upgrade to Windows 10 Pro or an upgrade to the “Alpine White” color . I love the look of the white interior, and the lighter silver used on the lid, but that will come down to your personal preference.
The quad-core model: Core i5, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD
The primary difference between the base model and the step-up option, is the jump to a Core i5 processor. That doubles your core count to four, which is what most people will want. To match the four cores, this configuration also offers 8GB of RAM.
Overall, this configuration is the best value for most users. It’s powerful enough to handle a wide range of tasks and has enough RAM for multitasking. It’s not a mobile workstation. However, if you’re not planning to handle massive Excel spreadsheets, edit high-resolution photos or video, or perform some similarly demanding task, this model will more than meet your needs.
The Core i5 model still comes with the basic “G1” integrated graphics. Intel does have an Ice Lake Core i5 with “G4” Iris Plus graphics, but to limit confusion, Dell doesn’t offer that option. This means you’ll be limited to older games. All 2020 Dell XPS 13 models have Thunderbolt 3 support, though, so external graphics is an option.
Unfortunately, you’re still stuck with just a 256GB SSD. Though speedy transfer speeds and cloud storage have helped reduced the need for a lot of internal storage, being able to bump up to 512GB would’ve been excellent. It’s likely you’ll need additional cloud storage, or an external hard drive.
A touch screen is also not offered on the Core i5 model, which is a loss for those who prefer to have touch screen but don’t need the power of the Core i7.
The touch model: Core i7, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD
The third configuration adds touch screen functionality to the mix. Though the XPS 13 isn’t a 2-in-1 device, Dell says touch remains a popular feature. Other manufacturers include touch in all configurations, but Dell saves it as a premium feature . The touch screen adds 0.15 pounds of weight which, honestly, you’ll never notice.
This model comes with a powerful Core i7 processor. While the Core i7 does have faster clock speeds and more CPU cache, it’s still maxed out at four cores. H-series Core i7 chips feature up to six cores, and are found in larger laptops like the XPS 15. A six-core Core i7 was previously offered in the 2019 XPS 13 (read more down below), but the newer Ice Lake chips are capped at quad-core.
You’ll still see a small bump in performance over the Core i5 in many applications, but not as large a jump as upgrading from the Core i3 to the Core i5.
The other benefit of this Ice Lake Core i7 processor is its graphics. The “G7” tag on the end of the processor name means it comes with Intel’s improved Iris Plus integrated graphics. I tested Intel’s G7 graphics on the XPS 13 2-in-1, and found it was twice as fast as Intel’s older integrated graphics in benchmarks. You still can’t play modern games at 60 frames per second without reducing resolution below 1080p, but Fortnite was playable at 1080p and Low settings.