The best Dell XPS 13: How to choose among three great thin-and-lights

Three different XPS 13 models, three distinct choices. We'll help you decide.

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Which XPS 13 is best for battery life

Our battery life test loops a 4K video file in airplane mode, with earbuds attached and the brightness set to 250 to 260 nits. With modern CPUs, that’s pretty much cruise control, as the CPU idles down while the integrated graphics does most of the work. The 12 hours or so of battery life is actually realistic doing that.

Your mileage will greatly vary based on what you do. If you switched to doing Microsoft Office work for the entire time, we’d probably slice off two to three hours from that projection. Browsing might slice off three to four hours, depending on the websites and how strong the Wi-Fi signal is. If you run a GPU- or CPU-intensive chore, expect maybe two hours of battery life at most.

What will have more of an impact on overall battery life than the CPU or laptop you pick is the resolution of the screen. Most of the laptops in the 12-hour range have standard-resolution screens such as 1080p. Higher-resolution 4K and 4K+ screens have about four times the pixels, creating more work for the laptop's backlighting—at the expense of battery life.

If you look at our chart below, it’s no surprise: Laptops with the 4K panels get significantly less run time. Take the Dell XPS 13 7380, for example, and go with an FHD screen, and we’re certain battery life will jump up to the 12-hour range.

Winner: Any XPS 13 with a standard-resolution screen

dell off xps 13 battery life IDG

A laptop’s screen resolution usually has more of an impact on battery life than the CPU model or laptop model.

Which XPS 13 is the best value

We looked at Dell.com and configured all three laptops for what we think are very decent specs: top-end Core i7 chips, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD, and standard-resolution screens without touch. 

We do admit it’s a little unfair to the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 7390, as there is no option without touch. Its price as configured with Core i7-1065G7 and FHD+ touchscreen is $1,700 on Dell.com.

The Dell XPS 13 9300 with Core i7-1065G7 and FHD+ display is $1,600 on Dell.com.

The best value is this: the XPS 13 7390 with Core i7-10710U and FHD non-touch screen for $1,250 on Dell.com.

Winner: XPS 13 7390

Which budget XPS 13 is the best

While most of our performance analysis looks at the higher-end configurations, we do have advice for those shopping on a budget. We compared the three cheapest configurations of the XPS 13 and found the best deal to be the XPS 13 7390. For $900 on Dell.com, you get a quad-core Core i5-10210U, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB SSD.

The runner-up in budget configuration is the XPS 13 2-in-1 7390 for $1,000 on Dell.com. Just understand the compromises, starting with a step back in performance to a dual-core Core i3-1005G1 and anemic G1 graphics. The 4GB of RAM is tight today, too.

The most expensive “budget” model is the XPS 13 9300. For $1,200 on Dell.com you get a quad-core Core i5-1035G1 with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The G1 graphics is nothing special, but if all you’re doing is browsing the web, using Microsoft Office and using Zoom video, most of these will work just fine. Note that Zoom video conferencing requires a quad-core CPU with Hyper-Threading to do its nifty virtual background trick. 

dell xps 13 9300 front Gordon Mah Ung

Dell’s XPS 13 9300 gives you Intel’s most advanced CPU in a traditional clamshell.

Which XPS 13 should you buy?

A laptop is a very individual purchase, which means we can only go so far in declaring a "best" XPS 13. After going through all the major criteria, however, we can see certain trends that can help steer your decision.

The Dell XPS 13 7390 offers the best overall value, perhaps obviously given that it's a slightly older model. You're not giving up much except in performance and screen quality.

The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 7390 comes out strong in multiple categories. It's the most versatile because it's convertible, and it also has a gorgeous display and solid performance.

The Dell XPS 13 9300, the latest model, is the most expensive. However it also offers a spectacular display and strong performance. 

In all cases, we would suggest you think carefully before choosing the 4K display option. The extra pixels will tax your performance and battery life heavily. If you actually travel with this laptop, sticking with the 1080p display will save you much angst. 

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