The Dell XPS name is synonymous with being the gold standard for laptops, and that applies to their offshoot hybrid series — the Dell XPS 2-in-1.
The newest iteration of the device invariably sees itself equipped with newer specs, but how does the convertible laptop function as a whole?
Design and build
The Dell design language is mostly consistent across all their laptops, and the Dell XPS 2-in-1 is no different.
A clean silver finish is used to wrap the body of the laptop, with the iconic Dell logo stamped right in the middle of the top cover. No fancy shapes or colouring; just simple, sleek and minimalistic design.
The silver colouring only applies to the exterior though, a black carbon-fibre-like aesthetic is used for the keyboard deck.
The pattern isn’t just for looks; it has a soft, textured feel to it which does feel good when typing on. Unfortunately, it seems to be prone to hand grease over time, showing off a rather unpleasant and dirty look if you let it accumulate.
Its aesthetics may seem simple on the whole, but that does not mean that the laptop is constructed as such. A lot of attention has been put into the build of the Dell XPS 2-in-1. Despite it being a thin and light laptop, the entire device feels tough and rigid, giving off a feeling of assurance when handling it.
One real gripe I had when using the Dell XPS 2-in-1 was getting to using the laptop. There’s no substantial groove where the lid meets the keyboard deck, so there were occasions where I had trouble getting my fingers to grip onto the lid to lift the laptop cover. Compounding that, the laptop can’t be opened with a finger — a feature that has since appeared on the regular XPS laptops.
These aren’t issues that are terribly important to laptops in general perhaps, but in terms of convenience, Dell certainly could have done a little better.
Similarly, the port selection is a little lacklustre. Only two USB-C ports are provided, with one on each side; a necessary evil to keep the thin design aesthetic. If you are already a convert to the adapter lifestyle, that’s great; those should suffice. But otherwise, if you only have USB-A compatible devices, it looks like you are going to need to start adapting to using an adapter.
On powering up the laptop, the sight is beautiful.
Greeting you is the new near bezel-less 13.4-inch display. Companies often talk up the small bezels on their laptop products but often neglect the substantial chin on their screens. Dell is so far the only one who lives up to its promise of delivering a near-borderless laptop, with razor-thin bezels surrounding the entirety of the screen — it makes other laptops look distinctively last-generation.
The absence of a normal chin, of course, leaves more space for the display, and it takes full advantage of that. Now you get more screen real-estate, which is great not just for regular browsing and watching content but also for when you go into tablet mode, which allows more space to do stuff on the screen.
The screen itself is top of the line. Our unit came with a UHD+ (3840 x 2400) display resolution, and it looks stunning. Every detail is crisp and clear, with colours showcasing vividly on the screen, owing to the high brightness from the display.
That same high brightness helps detract from the shortcoming of having a glossy finish—a necessity for the touch screen, but susceptible to glare. Dealing with the glare is less of an issue with the Dell XPS 2-in-1, though you would need to increase the brightness level to cope with it, which will eat up your battery life a little more.
Keyboards are another critical aspect of a laptop, but unfortunately, the one that comes with the Dell XPS 2-in-1 does not rate quite as highly as its display screen does.
If you are at all familiar with the butterfly keyboards on the Apple line of laptops, the feeling of using the Dell XPS 2-in-1 would be evocative of it.
It isn’t quite the same exact sense of feeling; Dell has an ever so slightly deeper key travel. But the keyboard doesn’t ever feel that satisfying to use; the clicky sensation detracts from the whole typing experience.
The touchpad fares better. Included in the system is a substantially sized touchpad, with ample room for your fingers to travel onto when using. There is also satisfying feedback with the click when pressing on it. So If you are mainly a touchpad user, you should generally be delighted with the Dell XPS 2-in-1’s implementation.
As mentioned above, this year’s Dell XPS 2-in-1 comes with the latest specs, namely the new 10th Generation Intel processors. Customisation is perhaps a little lacking, with only the i7-1065G7 variant available to be chosen on purchasing, but it is a powerful component in its own right.
People who use editing or rendering software will most likely be satisfied on the whole with the performance. It isn’t quite as fast as a specialised laptop unit would be, but it still performs to a well-enough standard to be considered a good option.
Needless to say, less intensive workflows like from productivity applications or web-browsing also function very well on the Dell XPS 2-in-1, with no slowdown detected even when multitasking with various applications.
Thermals as well are relatively issue-free, with the device not getting too hot under load when using such software. The only nit-pick would be the noise of the fans. It isn’t the loudest around, but it is just a tad noticeable, even if you aren’t doing anything necessarily taxing on the laptop.
On the issue of gaming, you should be reasonably happy with what you get if you keep your expectations in check. The Iris Plus Graphics is enough to provide a reasonable amount of playability for less intensive games, like say Counter-Strike or Overwatch. But the heavy hitters like Doom: Eternal and Death Stranding will be hard to run on, even on the lower settings.
The 2-in-1 Experience
All of the things that have been mentioned thus far can be applied to other laptops as well. But this device has a unique 2-in-1 feature that makes it stand out. So how is it like?
Well, in transitioning to the tablet mode itself, Dell has also applied the same level of construction from the body of the device to the hinges, with a feeling of sturdiness that does not have you worry about it breaking off.
That level of sturdiness also helps if you want to have the device stand on its own, with the keyboard deck able to act as a stand due to the sturdy hinge.
On to using Dell XPS 2-in-1 in tablet mode, it functions exactly as advertised, though it takes some getting used to. Touch responses are smooth and similar to what you will get on a dedicated tablet device or smartphone.
Less smooth would be the navigation. There does not appear to be a way to be able to change settings on the fly while in tablet mode. So if you need to adjust brightness, you are going to have to either delve deep into the control panel controls just to tweak it or change it back to laptop mode to use the keyboard controls to fix it; overall it is frustrating.
There is an optional pen that you can purchase to use alongside the Dell XPS 2-in-1, helping to ease some aspects of the navigation process like providing write to text functionality. It functions relatively responsively as well and will no doubt be a hit with people who look to use the device as a tool for illustration.
Beyond its usefulness for drawing though, there isn’t much else the pen is capable of. I’ll be hard-pressed to recommend it as an additional purchase if you don’t foresee using it for that purpose, especially since the pen itself comes at a hefty price tag.
If you are a user who is concerned with how long your laptop can last, rest assured that the Dell XPS 2-in-1 is a machine made for endurance.
On our battery tests where we had the laptop running at a reasonable brightness level (60%) and doing productivity tasks, we were able to squeeze around 9 hours worth of use out of it before the battery died.
The battery also charges back up relatively quick — around two and a half hours or so. Not quite a quick charge, but a decent time considering how much battery life it gives.
Like its regular laptop counterparts, the Dell XPS 2-in-1 is a formidable piece of machinery that provides the highest-end experience for a user. Small shortcomings hinder what would have been an otherwise perfect all-round device, but the result is still a hybrid laptop that can match up and even function better than many others in the landscape.
Photos by Darren Chiong of the DANAMIC team. Additional visuals courtesy of Dell.