Dell XPS 13 Plus hands-on: A classic rediscovered for CES

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The Dell XPS 13 has long been our favorite Windows laptop, to the point where it’s hard to imagine how this nearly perfect notebook could be improved. Maybe that’s why the company decided to rebrand it instead.

Meet the Dell XPS 13 Plus: A new laptop that revamps the long-running XPS design while making some promising changes. We got a chance to spend some time with this charming new member of the XPS family, and we’re still impressed — but not without a few concerns.

Dell’s new laptop is set to launch in the spring with a starting price of $1,119, but in the meantime here are some initial thoughts.

Mike Andronico/CNN

The XPS 13 Plus immediately grabbed our attention with its completely redesigned interior, sporting a clean, minimalist look that somehow looks like the standard XPS 13. The keyboard is now truly edge-to-edge, with large keycaps with no spaces between them. The physical function keys are gone, in favor of a series of capacitive LED icons that you’ll tap when you need to change the volume or brightness. There’s not even a visible touchpad anymore!

Fortunately, these somewhat bold design changes don’t really hinder the experience of using the XPS 13 Plus, at least in our limited time. The keyboard feels as sharp as we’ve come to expect from any XPS machine, and we appreciate how big the keys are this time around. Scrolling and clicking felt very natural, despite there being no visible limit to where the touchpad starts and ends.

We’re most conflicted about the function row. The capacitive touch controls seemed responsive enough, but we still preferred the click of a physical key—something that made a big difference on the new 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pros that eventually abandoned the Touch Bar. . And while Apple’s Touch Bar was the least customizable, the light-up function controls on the XPS 13 Plus appear to be fixed in place, simply shifting between the “F” key and the media controls when you press the function button. go.

Mike Andronico/CNN

New interior aside, the XPS 13 Plus looks a lot like an XPS – and that’s a very good thing. Dell’s flagship laptop is very travel-friendly at just 0.6 inches thick and 2.73 pounds—and it looks sleek in both platinum and graphite. The notebook’s nearly borderless InfinityEdge display looks as smooth as it does on the latest XPS 13, though Dell says it’s removed some layers from the screen for both lighter weight and better clarity.

The XPS 13 Plus now has up-firing speakers hidden under the keyboard, which we’re eager to test out with our favorite music and movies. Unfortunately, the XPS 13’s slim port selection doesn’t improve for the Plus model—there’s still only two Thunderbolt 4 ports here, and the microSD card slot is gone from previous generations. That latter part may not be important to everyone, but it’s safe to say that you’ll probably reach for a USB-C hub if you use a lot of the accessories.

Mike Andronico/CNN

To sport a new design, the XPS 13 Plus is one of the most powerful Dell laptops yet. This is the first XPS 13 model to feature the new 12th generation Intel Core processors, promising a significant jump in performance and battery life. The XPS 13 was already impressive on both fronts with the older 11th-generation processor, so we’re curious to see how the bump in power will help the XPS 13 Plus take on newer rivals like the 14-inch MacBook Pro.

Dell also says the XPS 13 Plus has bigger fans that will allow for 55% better airflow (ideal for actually working on your lap) and an Express Charge 2.0 feature that will get you a notebook in less than an hour. Will give juice up to 80%.

Mike Andronico/CNN

It’s tough to improve on a laptop like the Dell XPS 13, but we’re excited to see where Dell is going with the XPS 13 Plus. Its bigger keyboard is both a stylistic and practical improvement, and its more minimalist design just looks good. It’s as light and thin as we’ve come to expect from an XPS – although we wish the port selection didn’t stay equally thin.

Still, we’re looking forward to testing the XPS 13 Plus’s revamped design, more powerful processor, and better speakers to see if it can land on our best laptop list when it arrives this spring for a starting price of $1,199. Is.

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