Dell XPS 13 (2020) review: a super system that just keeps getting better

The Dell XPS 13 for 2020 is one of the best portable laptops around

T3 Platinum Award
Dell XPS 13 2020
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The Dell XPS 13 (2020) doesn't get top marks in every single category, but overall it's one of the laptops leading the field in the premium compact category – with a brilliant screen, excellent build quality and top specs, it's a difficult laptop for anyone else to beat.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Fantastic display (4K optional)

  • +

    Superb design and build quality

  • +

    Comfortable typing experience

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Average battery life

  • -

    On the expensive side

  • -

    Limited number of ports

The Dell XPS 13 has been topping best laptop lists for years, and so it's no surprise that the 2020 version is a stunning portable computer – if not hugely different from the preceding 2019 model – and our Dell XPS 13 (2020) review will tell you all you need to know about it.

As usual with Dell, a variety of configurations are available, so you can spec out the Dell XPS 13 to suit your needs and the amount you're wanting to pay. Even at the low end of the options though, we're talking about a laptop with premium build and a premium price.

If you own a 2019 XPS 13, there are no compelling reasons to upgrade: the new model is slightly smaller overall , with a slightly bigger screen and a slightly larger keyboard. While the CPUs are largely the same, the internal graphics get a small boost on the new editions.

If you're upgrading from something older, or dipping into laptop buying for the first time or after a break, then the 2020 XPS 13 becomes a much more compelling proposition. It scores highly in just about every category, as we'll explain in our thorough review.

Dell XPS 13 (2020) review: screen and design

Dell XPS 13 2020

(Image credit: Dell)

There's no doubt about it, the Dell XPS 13 for 2020 looks great: the display bezels are thinner than ever, the keyboard is smart and stylish and surrounded by an appealing textured carbon fibre material, and the whole computer weighs just 1.27 kg (2.8 pounds). You can easily carry it around in one hand, and as you would expect it's very simple to slot this into a backpack or a briefcase. Your colour options are black with a silver backing on the lid or white with a 'frost' (white) lid.

Special mention to the screen which is stunning: bright, crisp, HDR-ready, all round fantastic. You can opt to go all the way up to a 4K (3,840 x 2,400 pixel) touchscreen model, as our review device had, or settle for a 1,920 x 1,200 pixel version, but either way we're big fans (though note that you'll need to use Windows' built-in scaling options on a 4K screen to stop the text being tiny). The laptop also uses the 16:10 aspect ratio, which we much prefer over 16:9 – it's not as good for movies, but you can fit more of your documents and webpages on screen at once.

The typing experience is of course very important for any laptop and again the Dell XPS 13 can't be faulted. The keys are nice and springy without feeling loose, everything is well placed and well proportioned, and we were typing for hours on this laptop without any discomfort at all. We've been impressed by the performance of the trackpad as well – offering just the right amount of responsiveness and even giving the MacBook trackpads close competition in terms of accuracy.

It's top marks for the design and the screen then, which will come as no surprise if you've been following the Dell XPS 13 line closely over the last few years. There's a webcam embedded in the top bezel above the display, and in terms of ports and connections you get a 3.5mm headphone jack, a microSD card reader, and two Thunderbolt 3 ports which also double-up as USB-C slots of course. That's not a huge amount of connectivity but it covers everything that you should need in terms of charging, outputting video to a second screen, and attaching headphones and peripherals.

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Dell XPS 13 (2020) review: performance and features

Dell XPS 13 2020

(Image credit: Future)

We won't take you through all the various configurations of the Dell XPS 13 for 2020, but our review laptop came with a 10th-gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage. It's an impressive selection of specs, but you can dial them down a little if you need something a bit more affordable for your next laptop purchase. We definitely didn't have any problems with web browsing, office work and image editing – it's going to be games and video editing where the XPS 13 struggles, though the Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics will certainly try and do its best. 

To be fair you're not going to expect top-end gaming performance if you buy a 13-inch laptop with integrated graphics, but we were impressed with how quickly the laptop did everything that was asked of it. The internal fans only occasionally (and quietly) kicked in during more heavy duty web browsing, which you can probably blame on the state of websites in 2020 rather than the XPS 13. As long as you aren't planning to edit 4K video or run Grand Theft Auto V on this, you should be fine – especially if you're going to go for the i7 and 16GB of RAM configuration.

Battery life wasn't brilliant in our testing, with 5-6 hours of standard use the norm. Our two-hour video streaming test knocked the battery level down from 100 percent to 68 percent, suggesting around 6-7 hours of non-stop movie watching. However, that was with the brightness on the 4K screen ramped right up – the lower-res display and a lower brightness setting should get you more time between charges (our friends at TechRadar reviewed the lower-res screen option and got more battery life). It's also worth noting that we reviewed this laptop during a sweltering heatwave here in the UK, which probably didn't help the thermals.

Thankfully, Dell keeps the pre-installed bloatware down to a minimum, so you're left with a clean version of Windows 10 and not much else. There is a useful CinemaColour utility, that can adjust the screen temperature based on what you're doing (watching movies, working at night), and you also get a Dell Mobile Connect tool that makes it slightly easier to integrate your Android or iOS phone with Windows.

Dell XPS 13 (2020) review: price and verdict

Dell XPS 13 2020

(Image credit: Dell)

You can check the widgets embedded on this page for the latest Dell XPS 13 (2020) prices, but at the time of writing even the cheapest configuration is going to set you back £1,399 (or $1,249) direct from Dell. That's a significant amount of money for a laptop, and if you want all the best components and features (including that 4K screen), then you're going to have to pay several hundreds of pounds (or dollars) more.

There are plenty of cheaper Windows laptops around that can do everything the XPS 13 can do (or very close to it), but with the extra expenditure you're paying for the class and the build quality of this laptop, as well as that fantastic screen. If look and feel and display quality are important to you – remember you're likely to be spending a lot of time typing on this device – then we think the laptop is still very much value for money, even up at this premium end of the market.

Price aside, there are very few negatives when it comes to the Dell XPS 13 for 2020. Some extra ports would be handy, but then this is a very compact and light laptop, and trade-offs have to be made somewhere. Battery life isn't the best, but again there are ways to mitigate this (starting with buying a cheaper model with a lower-res screen): for most people, 5-6 hours away from a charging point should be enough, though the XPS 13 is in no way close to some of the best Windows laptops or Chromebooks in this department based on the testing we've done.

Overall though, it's hard not to be wowed by what Dell has managed to put together here: it's undoubtedly one of the best laptops of this size currently on the market, and if you're prepared to pay the price for this sort of quality then it'll last you for many years to come. It's difficult to see how Dell is going to improve on the XPS 13 the next time that it refreshes the range, but we'll be interested to find out.