Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (7390) review: Hands-on
Dell’s XPS 13 models have been a regular fixture of our best laptops chart, and at the time of writing the 2019 iteration is sitting in the top spot. We haven’t always been such fans of the XPS line’s convertible versions though, but that might be about to change: the redesigned XPS 13 2-in-1 unveiled at Computex 2019 looks every bit a rival to the core XPS 13, both inside and out.
Packing brand-new Intel internals, a 16:10 aspect ratio, and a design that incorporates the best of the XPS 13 and the XPS 15 2-in-1, this is the first convertible XPS that really feels like it doesn’t offer any compromise over its clamshell cousin.
Price and availability
Dell hasn’t made any announcement about when the new convertible XPS 13 is hitting the market, but we’d expect it will be some time this summer. We also don’t know anything about pricing, but with the regular model starting from £939/$899, we’d expect the 2-in-1 to hit a fairly similar price point.
This looks familiar…
At first glance, the 13 2-in-1 doesn’t look too different from the previous model (released in 2017, then given a specs refresh in 2018), but dig a little deeper and plenty of small changes begin to make themselves obvious.
Perhaps the most obvious thing is the webcam: following in the shoes of its clamshell cousin, it’s finally been moved from the bottom hinge and up into the bezel above the screen. That not only saves you from the less than flattering up-the-nose camera angle, but also frees enough space to shrink the bottom bezel considerably, bringing the screen closer to the keyboard and the reversible hinge.
That helps to make the most of the beautiful display (more on that later) but does come at one small cost: there’s less bezel to grip onto when you flip the device round into tablet mode, though there’s still just about enough space to get your hands round it without accidentally pressing the touchscreen.
Available in black or white, the aluminium body features more metal than before, which keeps things feeling both sturdy and fairly premium, while the whole chassis has been slimmed down enough to keep things light – the base model is just 1.3kg/2.9lbs, though spec options may change that slightly.
Even while the body is smaller, both the trackpad and keyboard have gotten larger. The latter now expands edge-to-edge across the laptop’s body, and uses a revised version of the MagLev tech found in last year’s XPS 15 2-in-1. It’s definitely not a match for the regular XPS keyboard – typing still feels a bit mushy for my taste – but it is improved, and does have the benefit of being almost entirely silent.
It’s hip to be square-ish
A lot of the little tweaks to the 13 2-in-1’s design lend themselves to one thing: increasing the focus on its touchscreen panel. With slimmer bezels and a minuscule webcam, there’s now nothing to distract from the display, which might be why Dell has given it a solid revamp.
You get the choice between HD or 4K for the 13.4in panel, the latter of which also supports HDR 400. There’s also support for EyeSafe, Dell’s new tech which is designed to reduce blue light emissions – helping not only with eyestrain but also with your sleep cycle, and blue light is the type that keeps you awake.
The bigger change is arguably the aspect ratio though. Dell has decided to use the extra vertical real estate to switch from 16:9 to 16:10 for the aspect ratio. It’s not quite the 3:2 you’ll find in some Surface or Huawei devices, but it’s a boxier format that’s well-suited to productivity or browsing the web, saving you some scrolling. That does mean you’ll get more letterboxing when you watch widescreen video content though, which might put you off a little if you’re really looking for a way to watch Netflix from bed.
Either way, the 4K version we got to look at during Computex seemed seriously slick. Dell claims it can pump out 500 nits of brightness, and while we obviously couldn’t test that, it’s easy to believe given how well it held up under the glare of the booth lights. Colours and contrast both looked great, and the 16:10 aspect ratio left the screen feeling much more spacious than its 13.4in measurement would suggest.
Starter for 10
For all the changes outside, there’s actually a lot more that’s different under the hood. That’s because this is one of the first laptops in the world to use Intel’s 10th-gen Ice Lake processors, which use a new 10nm architecture. Dell claims there’s been a 250 percent power jump from the previous model, which is big talk – though obviously we couldn’t really put it through its paces on the show floor.
In theory though it means this should offer plenty of oomph for everything from day-to-day work up to light photo and video editing, with a choice of i3, i5, or i7 chips depending on your needs. Performance for gaming and heavy duty creative work will understandably be capped by the lack of a discrete GPU option, but for anything else this should be more than capable.
If it makes you feel better you can at least spec it up from 4GB all the way up to 32GB RAM – more than Dell’s even putting in its new Alienware gaming laptops – while the SSD storage options cap out at a healthy 1TB.
All that power does require extra cooling oomph, which means that unlike the previous model this is no longer fanless – instead there are dual fans to keep things cool in addition to a slim vapour chamber. That should be enough to keep this running cool, which is especially important given the form factor means it’ll be handheld at times, but does mean that there’ll be a little more noise than before thanks to the fan whir.
We’re also not sure what effect the new chips and cooling will have on battery life. For its part, Dell claims an impressive 16-hour battery life, but naturally we’ll want to test it for ourselves.
Connectivity is also slightly mixed. From a hardware level it’s mostly the usual, with two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports for power and data, a 3.5mm audio jack, and the welcome inclusion of a microSD card slot. Wireless is much better though: in addition to Bluetooth 5.0 there’s also support for Wi-Fi 6, so you should be able to get some seriously snappy internet as long as you’re connected to a compatible router.
We won’t know just how well the new Intel chips perform until we get the XPS 13 2-in-1 into the office for a proper review, but on paper this looks like a very capable machine. Strong specs combined with the best of Dell’s already strong XPS design language mean that not only does this look like a good convertible, it might even dethrone its clamshell cousin from the top of the laptop world.