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As PC fan boy No. 42, I cannot lie: Apple’s MacBook Air 13 has always had us whupped. It sports a slim and light body, and battery life is damn good. Not anymore! The new iteration of the 13.3-inch Dell XPS9350-4007SLV Touchscreen is an ultraportable laptop that gives you the bragging rights and performance to match its looks.
The sleek build and brilliant QHD+ touch screen carry over from last year’s Dell XPS 13 Touch model, but to spice things up, it adds a sixth-generation Intel Core i5 processor and the first USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support we’ve seen on a laptop. It is our new Editors’ Choice for high-end ultraportable laptops.
On the new Dell XPS9350-4007SLV, you can talk of a beautiful screen in a tiny space. The system is constructed from machined aluminum, clad in a bright-silver top lid and carbon fiber on its palm rest. It has the same dimensions as last year’s Dell XPS 13 Touch model, measuring 0.6 by 12 by 8 inches (HWD), although it is lightly heavier (1.6 ounces to be specific) at 2.8 pounds.
The system is weightier and slightly thicker than the LG gram 14Z950, which weighs 2.08 pound and measures 0.5 by 12.8 by 8.9 inches, although its keyboard and lid have a sturdier feel, with none of the noticeable flex that is distinct in the LG laptop.
Most Apple users will feel the burn, though, in the XPS 13’s panel. For a 13.3-inch screen, a QHD+ (3,200-by-1,800) resolution is nothing short of excellent. The system features a near-invisible bezel that greatly minimizes distractions, whether you’re working on large spreadsheets or watching movies on Netflix.
From what we’ve seen so far, the bezel design and higher-resolution display certainly outshines rivals like the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the Lenovo LaVie 360, both of which appear a bit dated in comparison. However, Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 P20W-CST3N02 has a higher-resolution display (at 3,840 by 2,160), but that convertible-hybrid laptop’s other features are less impressive.
The touch screen is very responsive and the full-size, chiclet-style keyboard and one-piece touchpad are comfortable to use. The keyboard deck is solid with no flex; key travel and overall feel are top notch. The keys are backlit, as you’d expect on a premium system. Multitouch gestures are supported on the wide touchpad, if you don’t want to use the touch screen.
It is now clear that the MacBook Air has lost its luster, considering that Thunderbolt upgrades usually appear first on Apple machines like the latest MacBook Pro, but now we have the same in a Windows PC. This means that you can connect the system to Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C devices natively, and it will also interface with a DisplayPort monitor, HDMI-equipped displays, Thunderbolt (1 or 2), and USB (2.0 or 3.0) devices with an adapter.
Dell offers a pocket adapter (bought separately) that connects USB-C to Ethernet, HDMI, USB 3.0, and VGA, as well as a desktop Thunderbolt 3 dock, for which pricing has not been confirmed. Other ports include Power (USB-C isn’t used for charging on this laptop), a headset jack, a USB 3.0 port on the left side, and an SD card reader and another USB 3.0 port on the right side. For wireless connectivity, there’s dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Our review unit was outfitted with a sixth-generation Intel Core i5-6200U processor with Intel HD Graphics 520. In case you need more processing power, you have the alternative of the Dell XPS9350-5340SLV, which is the same model, only that it comes with an Intel Core i7 processor.
In our tests, the XPS 13 returned a good score of 2,450 points on the PCMark 8 Work Conventional test, which is slightly lower than competing systems like the Lenovo HZ550 or the Toshiba Satellite Radius 12. However, on multimedia tests the system eschewed the competition, although it didn’t match the MacBook Air 13-inch’s multimedia scores.
The Dell XPS9350-4007SLV comes with 8GB of memory and a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD). That’s plenty of space for many home users who stream music and videos instead of storing them locally. As a ritual, we had to test its gaming potential. 3D gaming performance in our tests was bad news for gamers. Honestly, that was expected since the integrated Intel HD 520 graphics card is not designed for gaming.
A surprise from a premium laptop, as most competing laptops come with some sort of dedicated graphics engines. With the Dell XPS 15, you really need to keep the settings down and tone the resolution to less than 1920×1080 in order to get smooth frame rates. For instance, we managed ~30FPS on GTA 5 at conservative settings and 720p resolution. Not exactly something hardcore gamers are willing to spend money on, but should suffice for a casual gaming sessions in-between work hours.
Perhaps the most important feature in a laptop today is battery life. In our tests, the Dell XPS9350-4007SLV lasted 9 hours 6 minutes, outlasting systems like the older Dell XPS 13 Touch (7:40), the Lenovo HZ550 (7:40), only behind the Apple MacBook Air (14:10); meaning you’re safe if you need a Windows 10 PC.
The Bottom Line
In the end, the Dell XPS9350-4007SLV is one of those machines you should consider as you shop around. It packs a sleek, stylish build, a drool-worthy screen, and performance to match its looks. Although there are more compact 11- and 12-inch ultraportables out there, they make concessions for their smaller size, such as a lower-resolution screen, shorter battery life, fewer I/O ports, or a smaller keyboard.
The XPS 13 Touch is only slightly larger, but retains a full roster of features. It’s also lighter and slimmer than the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch, and sports a sharper display and more storage. That said, the 2021 Apple MacBook Pro with M1 Pro chip is our Editors’ Choice for high-end ultraportable laptops.
The Dell XPS9350-4007SLV is an ultraportable laptop that offers both power and prestige, sporting a sturdy build and a gorgeous QHD+ touchscreen and the latest USB-C and Thunderbolt support.
- Large screen in small real estate
- QHD+ resolution screen
- Keyboard is slightly compressed