no more laptop

In case you weren't sure - this is a very bad sign.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I am one of the Dell XPS13 Ambassadors to use their new Ultrabook and tell you what I think.  After the World Domination Summit, I took the XPS13 home, loaded up my Dropbox and my Google Chrome favorites/saved settings, and after a couple of hours syncing files, my new laptop was pretty much ready for business.

The timing couldn’t have been better.

After about a week of use, I found a software registration code I hadn’t saved in Dropbox, and went to turn on my old PC to retrieve it. (Yes, really, I’d made it over a week not even using the old laptop, and I hadn’t even opened up my backup software either.)

Sadly, my old laptop – perhaps sensing its new-found lack of usability – decided to finally call it a day.

Initial Impressions of the XPS Ultrabook

dell xps 13

The Dell, enjoying some summer sunshine on my back patio.

In searching for a replacement laptop, I was immediately drawn to the Intel Ultrabook line because of the full-features and low eight/size, a priority for me as I’m often traveling, working on site with a client, or cranking out great content in a Portland coffee shop.

When I first got handed my XPS, I was surprised at how light it was light it was – not much heaver than my iPad. Also, it is so-omfg-thin. If it didn’t have an aluminium frame, I’d be afraid of bending it, but it feels quite sturdy and in fact, if ever attacked, I’m pretty sure the Dell XPS would make a fantastic defensive device.

Despite the small size, the keyboard is very comfortable, even moreso than my old machine; the trackpad in the middle has sensitivity settings for the corners, so when you brush it when your hand it doesn’t active – how clever. I turned mine way down because on the default setting wasn’t quite enough.

I like the backlit keyboard, and I love the screen size. To be honest, I was a bit worried about it at first; the screen, which maximizes every spec of space in the small frame, is a landscape frame and I’m a bit used to a square shaped screen. However, I’m already used to this size and really like it – I can tell the display technology has changed a lot in 5 years, as everything is much more crisp, and its decent reading even with a bit of glare on the glass on a sunny day.

A couple of photos to try and illustrate the iPad comparison – as you can see they’re very comparable.

ipad collage

XPS vs iPad. Not that dissimilar.

Is a ultra-thin laptop practical?

Clearly, this laptop is perfect for road warriors and traveling folks – even if traveling means taking your laptop over to work at the kitchen table. 🙂 But is it practical? Very.

  • Memory and Storage:  I have about 15,000 Chrome tabs open at the same time, and the memory doesn’t seem to be flinching.  And my entire Dropbox downloaded and I have about 75% empty space left.   Click here to find out all the technical stats, worth reviewing if you feel you need a lot of space or run some hardcore programs that might need extra memory.
  • External Drives and Dongles:  This is where you feel it when it comes to the ultra-narrow frame; the machine is limited to just a couple of strategically placed USB slots and a Mini Displayport.  While that works fine for me, I’ll need to get a dongle to ensure I can hook up to overhead projectors for presentations (those of you with Macs will be familiar with this problem).  The same goes if you need an external CD drive or anything.  I don’t think it’s a problem, just something to plan ahead for.
  • Battery: I think this is the only spot where I might feel a twinge of disappointment.  I’m not complaining considering my old laptop had about 4 minutes of spare battery time; the XPS 13 claim almost 9 hours of batter life, but in my tests running a “normal” load of applications, I’m only seeing about 6 hours.    This is consistent with other reviews I’ve seen, and frankly,  I’m pretty happy with 6 hours.
  • Speed:  Operating speed is fantastic, but when you really see the XPS’s true colors are the startup and sleep times.  The machine awakes from sleep by the time you open the lid – about 4 seconds for me.  Cold bootup (which I don’t do often – I admit I am an over-sleeper laptop wise!) is maybe 15 seconds.  It doesn’t leave you enough time to grab a fresh cup of coffee so don’t let it hurry you.
  • Support:  I’ve had a couple of interactions with @DellCares as I think my wireless mouse had a bit of a glitch with the trackpad, but all got sorted out with a driver upgrade.  In most cases I got a response via Twitter within the hour, so I think you’re in good hands with the Dell.

Is the Dell XPS in your Future?

dell xpsHow do you decide in the Dell is for you?  First, you should consider if the Ultrabook is for you.  These laptops are light, thin, fast and functional.  But if you need lots of ports or extreme memory and hard drive space, you aren’t going to get that.

If you decide the Ultrabook is the way to go, you’ve then got to make a tough choice, because I think all of the current Ultrabook makers are doing a great job.  Second question is, what are your priorities?

For me, I am on my laptop all day, so I need a comfortable keyboard and nice screen.  But I’m also on the road a lot, so I needed something very sturdy and practical while being a bit more lightweight than my old machine.

I looked at several of the options (here’s a full Ultrabook list) and the Dell kept coming to the top of my list for the quality and functionality – not to mention that it is one sexy laptop!

If you’ve got questions about the Dell – or about laptops/Ultrabooks in general – give me a shout in the comments!

Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador of the Dell XPS 13, but the opinions (and the photography) represented here are my own.  As previously mentioned, I had decided to purchase the XPS 13 prior to being invited into Dell’s ambassador program.