Dell XPS 13 Oled Laptop Review

Dell XPS 13 OLED Laptop Review

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Last Updated on January 1, 2022 by Daniel

Dell XPS 13 is regarded as one of the best Windows laptops you can buy thanks to its combination of powerful computing components and a thin, stylish chassis with remarkably thin bezels.

Dell announced in 2021 that the XPS 13 would be available with a 3.5K OLED touchscreen, and after using a review unit, I can tell you that this makes an already great device even better. It’s so good that we awarded it both the Best Laptop Display award and the Best Laptop Overall award in our Guide Awards this year.

The OLED screen in your XPS 13 will cost you a couple of hundred dollars more, but if you’re interested in image quality, keep that in mind. In my extensive testing (read: watching way too many UHD TVs), the XPS 13 with OLED delivers vibrant colors and deep, rich blacks. We’ve reviewed Dell’s newest addition to its XPS 13 line for you here, including a full review of the nearly bezel-free InfinityEdge display.

 Dell XPS 13 review: Price and availability

  • The OLED screen is a $400 upgrade
  • Expect to pay at least $1,650 for an XPS 13 with OLED on Dell’s website

On Dell’s website, you can purchase the XPS 13 with a 4K OLED display right now, and select retailers may also carry it. A Dell XPS 13 with a 2K display and an Intel Core i3 processor costs $979 at the time of writing, but I’d recommend the OLED model. As of publication, you can expect to pay (at least) $1,649 for the 4K OLED display, 16 GB of RAM, and a 512 GB SSD, but you can spend over $2,099 for a model with a maximum of 2 TB of storage.

During publication, our review unit came with the 512 GB SSD, and it would have cost $1,699 at that time. Additionally, the laptop is available in a soft white finish with Dell’s Arctic White paint job. However, you’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth the extra cost – the XPS 13’s default matte black interior is perfectly acceptable.

Dell XPS 13 review: Design

dell xps 13 oled

  • With its thin bezels and slim chassis, the XPS 13 remains attractive
  • The Arctic White option looks great

Our previous Dell XPS 13 reviews have praised the thin and stylish bezels and slim chassis of each variant. This 13-inch laptop has a clean, stylish design with a thin InfinityEdge display and an integrated 4K OLED touchscreen, but not without its flaws.

The Dell XPS 13 with OLED weighs as much as the MacBook Air with M1 and measures slightly smaller, but it still cannot match Lenovo’s thin and light ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga, which is 0.45 inches thick and 2.5 pounds. Nonetheless, the Titanium Yoga is more expensive and comes with a lower-resolution display.

Dell XPS 13 review: Ports

Dell xps 13 oled review

  • Only two Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports
  • The USB-A to USB-C adapter is included, which is a nice touch

As a result of its slim design, the Dell XPS 13 provides only a narrow selection of ports: it boasts one USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 port on both sides as well as a headphone jack and microSD card reader.

There is no USB-A port on this device, so if you are hoping to use a mouse, keyboard, or other accessories more than a couple of years old, it won’t work.

In addition to this, Dell includes a handy USB-C to USB-A converter in the box, a nice touch I wish more manufacturers would emulate.

Dell XPS 13 review: Display

dell xps 13 oled laptop

  • This OLED display is stunning in 3.5K
  • A display with ultra-thin bezels disappears into an inky black

In-person, the 3.5K OLED display on this Dell XPS 13 configuration looks stunning. The native resolution is 3,456 x 2,160 pixels, but it also supports HDR, making films and TV look beautiful on the screen. 

Due to the pixel’s ability to generate its own light, OLED displays offer deep blacks and high contrast ratios. The Expanse, for example, showed gradations of sunlight reflecting off an actor’s face — and Knives Out showed a slit of gold embroidery that caught the light.

It is able to display vivid colors, and it is also able to make reds and golds stand out in dark settings. With a display that covers 117.3% of the sRGB spectrum, the XPS 13 with OLED looks great (and possibly oversaturated). The 15-inch Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 (120.2% of sRGB) has a better representation of color than the 13-inch Surface Laptop 4 (108.3% of sRGB).

Even though you can almost certainly read the text on a 13.4-inch screen thanks to the near-4K resolution, the resolution makes small details stand out against such a large screen. Despite the 3.5K resolution, I find the OLED screen more meaningful.

Despite their disparate resolutions, I was surprised to see how similar the images looked between the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 review unit and the XPS 13. In addition to the sharper picture on the Dell XPS 13, colors (especially greens and yellows) seem a little warmer on the XPS 13 than on the Pro 360, but if I wasn’t scrutinizing them I’d have a hard time telling the difference.

With Dell XPS 13’s InfinityEdge display wrapped around an OLED display, the black bezels are even thinner, almost disappearing into the deep black background. Furthermore, with the brightness cranked up, the screen does little to reflect light.

Since this is a touchscreen, it can potentially pick up smudges and prints over time. Despite its relatively low importance, it’s something to consider when buying a laptop and should be thrown into your bag with the computer.

 Dell XPS 13 review: Audio

  • Exceptional audio performance
  • Bass lacks depth

The Dell XPS 13 is an excellent speaker for blasting music at your desk or on the patio. There’s a small cutout beneath the keyboard deck that reveals speakers that project the sound out to the sides. This allows the laptop to fill the room with sound even when it’s on a table or lap.

The sound quality is also quite good; I am not an audio snob, but I did not find much fault with the Dell XPS 13’s speakers while streaming Pink Floyd’s Welcome to the Machine or The Police’s Spirits in the Material World. Almost all the bass sounds clear but lacks any kick, but treble-heavy things like vocals and power guitar solos sound nice and warm.

 Dell XPS 13 review: Performance

xps 13 oled laptop

  • A powerful i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM make the XPS 13 ideal for everyday tasks
  • Video games, however, are difficult to run on it

Due to its Intel Core i7 CPU and 16 GB of RAM, the Dell XPS 13 reviewed here handled all my daily tasks without a single stutter. Even when I loaded up the tabs to a ridiculous amount (40+) with 3 video streams from different services and a 100GB file transfer in the background, the XPS 13 never froze: CPU and SSD usage never exceeded 50%, and RAM never exceeded 75%.

We tested our review unit using the multi-core CPU benchmark Geekbench 5.4, and it scored 5,420. We saw better results than with the similarly-equipped 13-inch Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 (4,829) and nearly as good as with the larger 15-inch Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 (5,575).

The Dell XPS 13’s SSD offers quite good speed as well, managing to duplicate 25 GB of multimedia files with a transfer rate of 742 MBps. With that speed, the 13-inch Surface Laptop 4 (562 MBps) is much slower and the SSD in the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 is nearly as fast (869 MBps).

Video editing is feasible with the XPS 13, except it isn’t exactly quick. In our Handbrake test, the laptop converted a 4K video to 1080p in 18 minutes, 12 seconds, or less than the Surface Laptop 4 (17:01) and Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 (15:24) did.

Even the XPS 13 can get hot under such conditions: a heat gun enabled us to measure 98.2 degrees on its top row. It never got very hot on my lap while I was using it normally, but I noticed that it became extremely hot when playing 3D games with complex graphics.

Dell XPS 13 review: Graphics and game performance

  • Modern games will not run on most modern systems
  • It is easy to run older games that are less demanding

As for the OLED screen, it hasn’t suddenly turned the Dell XPS 13 into a graphical powerhouse, but it does make games and other apps look great. Since this laptop lacks a dedicated GPU, it will have a hard time running the most demanding computer games – good luck trying to get a decent framerate in Cyberpunk 2077 – but you can still play a lot of older or less demanding games.

XPS 13’s performance dips when you push a game’s resolution past 1080p, especially when playing Fortnite, Othercide, and Into the Breach. In fact, when we ran the graphical benchmark in Sid Meier’s Civilization 6: Gathering Storm, we found that the XPS 13 could run at 1080p at 22.1 frames per second and 3.5K at 14.4 frames per second.

Dell XPS 13 review: Keyboard, touchpad, and touchscreen

dell xps 13

  • Comfortable, sturdy keyboard
  • OLED’s majesty is marred by prints and smudges on the touchscreen

Dell’s XPS 13 keyboard is hard to fault. The keys may feel cramped to those with large hands, and the travel may seem shallow to someone like me. However, I did not encounter any issues in a 10fastfingers.com typing test after using the XPS 13 for a few days. Additionally, an integrated fingerprint reader is built into the top-right key on the keyboard, allowing you to log in and out with a swipe of your finger.

It was equally functional, and when I used it I rarely noticed missing inputs or had trouble using it. During testing, I noticed it “locked up” two or three times and stopped registering input for a few seconds.

It’s easy to touch and swipe on the thick OLED touchscreen with a 3.5K resolution. To make the text on the high-resolution screen more readable, I had to pinch and zoom-in frequently on web pages and documents. As noted above, carry a cleaning cloth with you to prevent smudges and other stains from appearing on your screen.

Dell XPS 13 review: Webcam

  • An acceptable but grainy 720p webcam
  • Windows Hello facial login is supported by IR sensors

Despite its tiny size, the 720p webcam of the Dell XPS 13 produces grainy, unexciting pictures. The webcam in my older XPS 13 was attached to the top of the keyboard, which led to a lot of up-the-nose angles during video calls. I’m still very grateful to Dell for moving it up to the top of the screen where it belongs.

However, an XPS 13 should ship with a 1080p webcam. In spite of the fact that these extravagances are still scarce on laptops, especially 13-inches, the quality of our webcams has never been more relevant than it is now amid a global pandemic.

The XPS 13’s webcam has IR sensors that allow it to unlock using your face for Windows Hello, providing a hands-free (albeit slightly creepy) way to log in.

Dell XPS 13 review: Battery life

  • Batteries last for 8 hours, but that’s not great
  • It does, however, charge very quickly

While the addition of the 3.5K screen is impressive, the battery life is not. The Dell XPS 13 w/ OLED managed to last just over 8 hours in our battery test, which tasks the laptop with endlessly browsing the web over Wi-Fi at a brightness level of 150 nits.

Compared with the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 (10:46) or the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 (13:33), this laptop lasts a bit less time on battery. Mac users will get a much better battery life from the MacBook Air with M1 (14:41) or MacBook Pro with M1 (16:32).

Compared to the Dell XPS 13 with an OLED screen, the Dell XPS 13 with a 4K screen lasted only minutes longer (7:32) and the Dell XPS 13 with a 2K screen lasted hours and minutes (11:07).

In any case, the XPS 13 charges pretty quickly: I plugged it in at 5%, and after an hour, it was 51% charged, which is enough for another two or three hours.

For Against
Comfy keyboard Paucity of ports
Strong performance Battery life could be better
Slim, attractive chassis with beautifully thin bezels Grainy 720p webcam
3.5K OLED display delivers vibrant colors and deep blacks

DELL XPS 13 W/ OLED SPECS

Display: 13.4-inch OLED touchscreen (3,456 x 2,160 pixels)

CPU: 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1185G7

GPU: Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics

RAM: 16 GB

Storage: 512 GB SSD (1/2 TB also available)

Ports: 2 Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports, headphone jack, microSD card reader

Size: 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.5 inches

Weight: 2.8 pounds

Verdict

Our favorite Windows laptop for years has been the Dell XPS 13 and the addition of a 3.5K OLED screen only adds to its appeal. If you don’t care much about image quality, spending an extra couple hundred dollars may not seem worthwhile, but given that the Dell XPS 13’s biggest selling point is its stunning, nearly borderless InfinityEdge display, it’s a worthwhile addition.

It is also a good choice if you wish for something a little larger and more powerful at roughly the same price. The AMOLED touchscreen is nearly as good as the one in the XPS 13 but has better performance and longer battery life. Furthermore, it comes with Samsung bloatware that makes it a larger and heavier 2-in-1. Obviously, if you’re open to using a Mac, M1 laptops have much better battery life than most Windows laptops.

That said, the option to add an OLED display makes one of the best laptops on the market even better. With great performance, good speakers, and a beautiful 3.5K OLED touchscreen, the Dell XPS 13 is a premium Windows laptop that should stand you in good stead for years.