The Bottom Line
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Kaby Lake-R has arrived to replace Kaby Lake in the mobile CPU segment. Dell has renamed their award-winning XPS 13 to New XPS 13. While the original XPS 13 uses a dual-core 7th generation mobile processor with a maximum Turbo of 3.1GHz and base of 2.5GHz, the New XPS 13 uses a quad-core 8th generation mobile processor with a Turbo of 4GHz and base of 1.8GHz. The cache also went from 3MB to 8MB, while TDP has stayed mostly the same except for some TDP up and down frequencies and wattage ratings.
That means Intel was able to pack in double the cores, more than double the cache, and higher single-core Turbo boost speeds into basically the same power package, which means these new mobile processors should dominate the competition, which at the moment is basically older Intel-based notebooks.
Let's see how the new 8th Generation of mobile Core processors performs in an award-winning design from Dell.
Our configuration is the best one Dell has to offer. It comes with a Core i7-8550U processor which has four cores and eight threads with a 4Ghz boost 1.8GHz base and 8MB L3 cache. It also comes with 16GB of LPDDR3 at 2133MHz (the site says 1866Mhz, and it's wrong). We have the model with the 13.3-inch UltraSharp QHD+ (3200x1800) InfinityEdge touch display.
Our model comes with a 256GB M.2 drive and a Killer WIFI card. The unit weights 2.9lbs and is 9-15mm (wedge) height/11.98" width/7.88" depth. It comes with a 60WHr battery, comes with two 1W speakers, Thunderbolt 3, and a 720P webcam.
The New XPS 13 starts at $799, but our configuration closer to $1549.
Dell's box is simple and very basic, and while the notebook is well protected, it still uses minimalistic packaging.
There aren't many accessories; you get a 45WW AC/DC power supply, AC cable, and some manuals. The power adapter is rated 19.5v at 2.31a which is roughly 45W. The adapter can maximize cable management, which is a handy feature.
It's fairly difficult to photograph silver against a white background, but I was able to get some decent shots. The notebooks CNC milled metal enclosure is both stunningly elegant and utilitarian as it won't easily pick up fingerprints like black rubber or plastic. The bottom of the notebook features an XPS cover that hides model and regulatory information. Two very large rubber feet help the notebook stay on a slippery surface without sliding. The vents we see on the bottom of the notebook are for air intake, as the output vents are at the rear of the notebook.
There is almost nothing at the front of the notebook other than a status LED or two. The rear of the notebook hides vents, if you open the screen, the vents are easily seen. It's a novel way to hide cooling vents, and the same as the original XPS 13 we reviewed many months prior. The left side of the notebook features the DC power jack, Thunderbolt 3.0/USB 3.1 type-C, USB 3.0, combo headphone/microphone jack, and battery level button with LED indicator. A small vent slit exposes where the left side speaker is. We see another speaker slit on the right side, an SD card reader, a USB 3.0 charging port, and a Kensington lock port.
The New XPS 13 Touch features a carbon fiber palm rest with a nice large QWERTY keyboard and a simple touchpad. The touchpad felt smooth and a bit rubberized to the touch and was generally accurate and well-tuned.
The 13.3-inch UltraSharp QHD+ (3200x1800) InfinityEdge touch display we have on our model features vibrant colors, but glare can be a big issue, especially if you are outdoors. The touch capabilities of the display are very useful.
Physical Overview Continued
The QWERTY keyboard is laid out like any other keyboard, and there are a good number of function keys. The keys are of a decent size so that people with larger fingers won't have trouble typing away. A discrete fingerprint sensor is located on the right side of the opened notebook.
A small 720P camera is located below the display on the left side of the screen. Regulatory information can be found on the underside of the XPS tag cover on the bottom of the notebook.
The InfinityEdge display offers an extremely thin bezel, and because of its thin size, the camera had to be moved to the bottom.
The notebook opened up roughly 120 degrees, and it's extremely thin. The notebook's keyboard is backlit with white LEDs, but it's hard to see their light unless you are in a dark environment.
The notebook's bottom was easy to remove, and you get easy access to the M.2 slot, battery, and WIFI card, although you don't really need to mess with either of those devices. The SSD is a Toshiba KXG50ZNV512G 512GB NVMe based drive.
The WIFI/BT card is a Killer 1535, and it's rated for 867Mbps, and it's a very high quality and solid performing M.2 based WIFI/BT drive. The speakers are very small, but pack kind of a big punch for their size.
Software and BIOS
Pressing F12 on boot up will bring you to a boot menu where you can do many things such as diagnose problems, flash your BIOS, recover the OS, or enter the BIOS. The UEFI BIOS has a mouse, but keyboard control is also present, and the BIOS/UEFI looks more like a Windows program than a BIOS/UEFI.
You can monitor battery level and health and easily configure boot options. Although, you can't really add in any other internal storage device.
Everything from audio control to keyboard lighting and the ability to disable the touchscreen is available.
Secure boot is enabled by default. There isn't much software installed on the notebook, but you do get WAVES MaxxAudio Pro software.
Dell Update compliments the rest of the notebook's software. Dell Customer Connect allows you to reach out to Dell, or rather for Dell to reach out to you.
Dell Power Manager allows you to control your battery and charging options. You also have Dell Digital Delivery where the software you purchase from Dell shows up.
System Performance Benchmarks
CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks
These benchmarks are run using default settings and configuration.
AIDA64 AES and HASH
Handbrake 4K and 720P Transcoding
UNIGINE Heaven 4.0
The i7-8550U provides the XPS 13 with an excellent performance boost over the i7-7500U. In applications where more cores are preferred, the double cores of the 8550U show their strength. However, it does seem that when frequency matters, such as in games, and more than one core is used, the 7500U is actually slightly better.
We see this in games when all two or four cores are being stressed all the way, and that is where the 8550U has a lower clock speed. However, the XPS 13 isn't really a gaming machine, so it's of little consequence.
System IO and Battery Performance
System IO Benchmarks
Internal Storage Read Test:
Internal Storage Write Test:
ixChariot Network Throughput:
We see that sequential read is much better on the new SSD, but all other storage tests took a small hit. However, the drive is still extremely snappy, and we didn't notice a difference in experience, most systems with an SSD feel the same for most use cases. Network performance is excellent as it was on the previous XPS 13, the Killer 1535 is an excellent WIFI card.
The battery performance is excellent, and just like the XPS 13 from before it has some of the best battery performance in our charts.
The keyboard actually doesn't get that warm going from idle to a very heavy synthetic load. I was surprised temperatures weren't that much higher, but that could be because of the fan, it's active a lot.
While we typically see exhaust vents go colder, in this case, the vents sit on top of the PCB, so the temperatures we see are actually from the PCB components heating the PCB. The exhaust vents cannot be easily seen, but they sit at the rear of the device and blow at the hinge, and we see the side with the CPU blower get warmer than the rest.
While the notebook stays very cool, the fan can ramp up often, and you will hear it if the load is heavy enough.
What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts
Here are key points about the Lenovo New XPS 13 Touch.
Kaby Lake-R: Kaby Lake-G is the first microarchitecture of Intel's 8th Generation Core line up, and it basically adds two more cores to most of the U-series SKUs that were previously only two cores. The i7-8550U used in the New XPS 13 offers two more cores than the XPS 13 with the i5-7500U we reviewed many months prior, the CPU also has a faster Turbo speed compared to its predecessor. It does have a lower base clock, but that's to compensate for offering double the cores in the same power and heat package. Many applications have started to use more cores while at the same time people are multitasking more than ever, so this upgrade to a quad-core with Hyper-Threading at the i5 level is great for prospective buyers.
Exceptionally Thin Yet Durable: The XPS 13 has always been the perfect size for a true notebook. It's super portable, easily fit in bags, and you can actually use it when you take a coach flight and have limited space in front of you. I am quite shocked at how something so thin can be so quick and offer so much performance.
Thunderbolt 3: With Thunderbolt 3 onboard, the XPS 13 offers the latest and greatest when it comes to type-C ports. Many devices are moving towards type-C, but many of those devices support different type-C technologies, as the connector can support everything from USB 3.0 to DisplayPort, and at the top, Thunderbolt 3. Thunderbolt 3 includes pretty much all the types of connectivity offered by the type-C port, and it also functions at up to 40Gbps, which is very fast.
All Day Battery Life: The original XPS 13 we reviewed months ago had excellent battery life, and the new one retains the excellent battery life of the original while offering more cores and processing power. You can get away with leaving your charger home if you leave for the whole day.
Camera Placement: Because Dell uses their Infinity Edge display, which provides an almost bezel-less experience, the webcam has to be placed at the bottom of the screen. In the lower left corner, the webcam is in an awkward position. Many people take selfies from above because it makes them look thinner and hides features they might not want to show off, the XPS 13 doesn't facilitate that.
The New XPS 13 Touch is beautiful, well built, and performs stunningly. In regards to things I didn't like, while the camera placement tops the list, I also didn't care for the fan spinning up so often (even during Windows Update) or for the glare from the QHD+ display. In dark viewing environments and inside a room the display is vibrant and brings media alive, but outside you might be out of look.
The keyboard is exceptionally comfortable to type on, the keys are large, and the carbon fiber palm rest doesn't irritate, but the backlighting of the keyboard is a bit lacking, you can't tell if it's on in a modestly well-lit room.
The performance of the new XPS 13 is superior to that of its predecessor while it maintains the same stellar battery life and features. Some people might feel as though such a thin notebook has to be fragile or slow, and the Dell XPS 13 proves those people wrong. The strong aluminum body and huge centered hinge make the notebook one of the sturdier ones out there, and the new Kaby Lake-R processors add double the cores while maintaining the same thermal design specifications. Dell not only doubled the core but also the price.
While the base price of the XPS 13 is $799 (with Kaby Lake 7th Gen), our model with double the cores (Kaby Lake-R 8th Gen) does cost close to double that, but it brings many upgrades to the table we find worthy of the higher price tag.
The Bottom Line: We were extremely impressed by Dell's masterpiece, and highly recommend it to anyone in the market looking for a great versatile 13" notebook.
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