- Different design stands out
- Solid construction
- Sharp OLED display
- Haptic touchpad can be flaky
- Grainy 720p webcam severely behind the times
- Bottom panel gets hot under load
- Opening lid requires both hands
- Only two ports
Dell took a big swing last year when it introduced the radically designed XPS 13 Plus with its curious touchpad, keyboard and Function row. Dell is now out with the second version that keeps the unusual chassis unchanged, adding only an updated CPU and faster RAM inside. This update to the XPS 13 Plus supplies the same invisible touchpad, flat keyboard with little to no spacing between the keys and Function row made up of touch-sensitive icons instead of physical keys as the original. The excellent 13.4-inch, 3.5K OLED display returns but, sadly, so too does the 720p webcam that was outdated last year.
This year’s model does offer an improvement in one key area: battery life. To put it plainly, the runtime was dreadful on last year’s model. Many ultraportables still offer better battery life, but this year’s XPS 13 Plus is at least approaching average in the runtime department. Battery life is a key consideration for any laptop, but doubly so on an ultraportable that will likely spend much of its time on the move. I’m not completely sold on the XPS 13 Plus, particularly the haptic touchpad, and I still want it to run longer and at a cooler temperature.
Configuration as tested
|Dell XPS 13 Plus (2023)|
|Price as reviewed||$1,699|
|Display size/resolution||13.4-inch 3456 x 2160 60Hz OLED|
|CPU||2.2GHz Intel Core i7-1360P|
|Memory||16GB DDR5 6,400MHz RAM|
|Graphics||128MB Intel Iris Xe Graphics|
|Networking||Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3|
|Operating system||Windows Home 11 22H2|
The and features an Intel Core i7-1360P processor, 16GB of RAM, integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics, a 512GB SSD and an IPS LCD display with a 1920×1200 resolution. There are two display upgrades offered in the US that each add $200 to the cost. Both bump you up to an OLED panel. One features a 3.5K (3,456×2,160-pixel) resolution and rated for 400 nits and the other features a 4K (3,840×2,400) resolution and a 500-nit rating. Our $1,699 test system features the former. We reviewed the XPS 13 Plus in white (platinum), but there’s also a black (graphite) option. The XPS 13 Plus and .
The two changes to the component lineup from last year’s model are a move from a Core i7-1280P CPU to the Core i7-1360P and swapping out the DDR5-5200 RAM for slightly speedier DDR5-6000 RAM this year. Dell stuck with an Intel Core P-series chip, despite the XPS 13 Plus’s tight enclosure. Many thin and compact ultraportables feature a lower-wattage U-series chip. The 28-watt P series occupies the middle ground between Intel’s more efficient 15-watt U series and more powerful 45-watt P series. The first- and second-generation models are so similar that Dell kept the same model number: XPS 13 Plus 9320.
We didn’t see much of a difference in performance going from a Core i7-1280P chip in last year’s model to the Core i7-1360P chip this year, which isn’t surprising since the. The Core i7-1360P is clocked a bit higher but has two fewer performance cores and four fewer processing threads.
As you can see in the benchmark charts below, this year’s XPS 13 Plus finished behind the previous model on most of our tests. It topped last year’s model on only PCMark 10. Its performance generally fell between the Acer Swift Go 14 that features a high-powered Core i7-13700H CPU and the Asus ZenBook S 13 that uses a more efficient Core i7-1355U chip. Meanwhile, a pair of HP Pavilions based on AMD Ryzen U-series chips generally outperformed the XPS 13 Plus, which isn’t a great look for Dell’s ultraportable.
This year’s XPS 13 Plus does offer longer battery life even though it features the same three-cell, 51-watt-hour battery as the previous model. It lasted a little more than seven hours on our online streaming battery drain test when last year’s model petered out before the four-hour mark. Still, competing ultraportables run for hours longer than the XPS 13 Plus.
On the whole, the XPS 13 Plus felt peppy for general Windows use. I multitasked without any lag, but like last year’s model, the laptop gets warm when using multimedia apps or even streaming a video for a prolonged period. The cooling fans weren’t too loud, but perhaps they needed to spin faster because the bottom panel often became hot during use when resting on my person. It’s a laptop that’s better off being used on a desk or table than your lap or belly.
Wait, where’s the touchpad?
The XPS 13 Plus features an adventurous design, starting with its borderless touchpad. The touchpad runs from the left edge of the spacebar to the right edge of the right Alt key, but it blends seamlessly into the rest of the wrist rest. Combined with the keyboard that runs edge to edge with flat keys that have only the thinnest spacing between them, the XPS 13 Plus presents a striking image when you open it up.
I was initially skeptical of the keyboard layout, but I quickly became comfortable typing on it. The keys offer shallow travel but have enough snap to them that they don’t feel mushy. And they are very quiet when pressed. I wish the fingerprint reader squeezed next to the shortened Backspace key could be relocated, but I ended up really liking the keyboard.
My feelings toward the touchpad, however, are not as positive. I don’t mind the borderless design because the touchpad is wide enough that I wasn’t swiping, tapping or clicking beyond its area. What tripped me up with the touchpad is its haptic feedback. Like the touchpads on MacBooks, the XPS 13 Plus’s touchpad doesn’t offer a physical click mechanism but haptic feedback. And I experienced a few haptic hiccups.
The first time the haptics went out, I was alarmed to find myself pressing to no avail on the wrist rest and soon wondered if a system restart would be required to fix it. Within 10 seconds, the haptics returned, and I went on my merry way. My alarm turned to annoyance upon subsequent instances of the haptics freezing up. Each time they returned within seconds, restoring full touchpad functionality, but it certainly stopped the flow of whatever it was that I was doing on the XPS 13 Plus. I also found it challenging to perform drag-and-drop maneuvers with the touchpad. These haptic issues made me wish I was using a regular touchpad with a physical and dependable click response.
The function row of touch-sensitive icons aids the XPS 13 Plus’s streamlined looks, but they lack haptic feedback. Without any physical or haptic response, you can’t just blindly tap to lower the volume or raise display brightness like you would be able to with a row of physical buttons.
Before you get to the laptop’s unusual keyboard, touchpad and function row, you must first open it up. This simple act is a bit more difficult than it should be. In keeping with the streamlined design, the XPS 13 Plus lacks a cutout on its front edge that would help you find enough purchase on the front lip of the display to lift it with a fingertip. The firm display hinge also works against you. More often than not, my finger slipped. I found the best method was to grip each side of the lid and lift with both hands.
One other downside of the aggressively streamlined design of the XPS 13 Plus? It features only two ports. There’s a USB-C Thunderbolt 4 on either side of the laptop and that’s it. And one of the two will be occupied when you’re charging the battery. There’s not even a headphone jack. Dell includes a USB-C-to-USB-A adapter and a USB-C-to-headphone adapter in the box, but keeping track of small adapters is a pain.
No matter what you think of the overall design, you have to agree that the XPS 13 Plus boasts awesome build quality. It’s really solidly constructed. The all-metal chassis is very rigid without even a hint of flex that can often be felt with a thin ultraportable. The 13.4-inch XPS 13 Plus weighs 2.8 pounds, which is slightly heavier than the 13.6-inch M2 MacBook Air that weighs 2.7 pounds. For a more portable OLED ultraportable, the 13.3-inch Asus Zenbook S 13 weighs a scant 2.2 pounds.
High-res OLED display, low-res IR webcam
The 3.5K (3,456×2,160-pixel) OLED display of our test system is excellent. It offers the expected stellar contrast of an OLED with bright whites and absolute black levels. It also exhibits a strong color range. In testing with a Spyder X Elite colorimeter, it covered 100% of both sRGB and DCI-P3 and 97% of AdobeRGB.
Images and text looked so sharp on the 3.5K resolution that I wouldn’t recommend the higher 4K display option unless you needed a brighter display for outdoor use. The higher resolution isn’t needed on such a compact screen and the added pixels will only decrease battery life. The 3.5K panel is rated for 400 nits, and my tests showed it a bit dimmer than its rating with a peak brightness of 369 nits. Each display option features touch support, which can come in handy when the haptic touchpad flakes out.
The 720p webcam was outdated on last year’s model and is now severely behind the times on this year’s version. All but the most budget laptops these days feature crisper 1080p cameras and some higher-end models now offer 1440p cams. The XPS 13 Plus’s webcam produces a grainy image with reddish skin tones. It could be a deal breaker by itself if Zoom calls are a regular part of your day.
One positive about the webcam is it’s an IR camera, which lets you log into the system securely without needing to key in a password. And with the useful MyDell app, you can use the Presence Detection features to lock the system when you walk away from the laptop and wake when you approach. There’s also another feature that will dim the display to help protect your privacy and prolong battery life when you are still seated in front of the laptop but look away. All three of these detection features worked well and would be something I would definitely enable if I bought an XPS 13 Plus.
So, should you buy the XPS 13 Plus? I’d say yes if you’re looking for something that looks out of the ordinary but is also very well constructed. The XPS 13 Plus has the look and feel of a premium ultraportable, but its merely average performance and battery life prevent a stronger recommendation. I also want the haptic touchpad to be more dependable. I liked the look and feel of HP’s premium Dragonfly Pro, and the more conventional HP Pavilion Plus 14 offers a well-rounded package and a slightly larger OLED panel. There’s also the Asus Zenbook S 13, an even more portable OLED ultraportable with a long runtime.
The review process for laptops, desktops, tablets and other computer-like devices consists of two parts: performance testing under controlled conditions in the CNET Labs and extensive hands-on use by our expert reviewers. This includes evaluating a device’s aesthetics, ergonomics and features. A final review verdict is a combination of both objective and subjective judgments.
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|Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 (2023)||Microsoft Windows 11 Home; 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-1360P; 16GB DDR5 RAM; 128MB Intel Iris Xe Graphics; 512GB SSD|
|Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 (2022)||Microsoft Windows 11 Home; 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-1280P; 16GB DDR5 RAM; 128MB Intel Iris Xe Graphics; 512GB SSD|
|HP Pavilion Plus 14||Microsoft Windows 11 Home; 3.3GHz AMD Ryzen 7 7840U; 16GB DDR5 RAM; 512MB AMD Radeon 780M graphics; 1TB SSD|
|HP Dragonfly Pro||Microsoft Windows 11 Home; 2.7GHz AMD Ryzen 7 7736U; 16GB DDR5 RAM; 512MB AMD Radeon Graphics; 512GB SSD|
|Acer Swift Go 14 (SFG14-71)||Microsoft Windows 11 Home; 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-13700H; 16GB DDR5 RAM; 128MB Intel Iris Xe Graphics; 512GB SSD|
|Asus ZenBook S 13 OLED UX5304V||Microsoft Windows 11 Pro; 1.7GHz Intel Core i7-1355U; 32GB DDR5 RAM; 128MB Intel Iris Xe Graphics; 1TB SSD|
|M2 Apple MacBook Air||MacOS Monterey 12.4; Apple M2 8-core chip; 8GB RAM; Apple 10-core GPU; 256GB SSD|