The Dell XPS 13 Plus reinvents our favorite Windows laptop for CES 2022 | CNN Underscored


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The Dell XPS 13 has long been our favorite Windows laptop, to the point where it’s gotten hard to imagine how this nearly perfect notebook can be improved. Perhaps that’s why the company decided to reinvent it instead.

Meet the Dell XPS 13 Plus: a brand-new laptop that revamps the long-running XPS design while making some promising changes. We got to spend some time with this striking new member of the XPS family, and we’re impressed so far — but not without some concerns.

Dell’s new laptop is slated to launch in the spring with a starting price of $1,119, but here are some early thoughts in the meantime.

Mike Andronico/CNN

The XPS 13 Plus immediately grabbed our attention with its completely redesigned interior, which sports a clean, minimalist look that somehow makes the standard XPS 13 look dated. The keyboard is now truly edge-to-edge, with larger keycaps that don’t have any space between them. The physical function keys are gone, in favor of a series of capacitive LED icons that you’ll tap when you need to change the volume or brightness. There isn’t even a visible touchpad anymore!

Fortunately, these somewhat bold design changes don’t disrupt the experience of actually using the XPS 13 Plus, at least in our limited hands-on time. The keyboard feels as snappy as we’d expect from any XPS machine, and we appreciate how much larger the keys are this time around. Scrolling and clicking felt pretty natural, despite there being no visible border for where the touchpad starts and ends.

We’re most conflicted about the function row. The capacitive touch controls seemed responsive enough, but we still prefer the click of a physical key — something that made a big difference on the new 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pros that finally ditched the Touch Bar. And while Apple’s Touch Bar was at least customizable, the light-up function controls on the XPS 13 Plus appear to be fixed in place, simply shifting between “F” keys and media controls when you hold the function button.

Mike Andronico/CNN

Revamped interior aside, the XPS 13 Plus pretty much looks like an XPS — and that’s a very good thing. Dell’s flagship laptop continues to be very travel-friendly at just 0.6-inches thick and 2.73 pounds — and it looks slick in both Platinum and Graphite. The notebook’s nearly borderless InfinityEdge display looks as seamless as it does on the latest XPS 13, though Dell says that its removed a few layers from the screen for both lighter weight and better clarity.

The XPS 13 Plus also has up-firing speakers hidden beneath the keyboard now, which we’re looking forward to putting to the test with our favorite music and movies. Unfortunately, the XPS 13’s slim port selection doesn’t seem to be improving for the Plus model — there are still only two Thunderbolt 4 ports here, and the microSD card slot from previous generations is gone. That latter part might not matter to everyone, but it’s safe to say that you’ll probably be reaching for a USB-C hub if you use lots of accessories.

Mike Andronico/CNN

On top of sporting a new design, the XPS 13 Plus looks to be one of the most powerful Dell laptops yet. It’s the first XPS 13 model that will feature the new 12th Gen Intel Core processors, which promise a notable bump in performance and battery life. The XPS 13 was already impressive on both fronts with the older 11th Gen processors, so we’re eager to see how the bump in power will help the XPS 13 Plus take on newer rivals like the 14-inch MacBook Pro.

Dell also says the XPS 13 Plus has larger fans that will allow for 55% better airflow (ideal for actually working on your lap) and an Express Charge 2.0 feature that will let you juice the notebook up to 80% in less than an hour.

Mike Andronico/CNN

It’s hard to improve on a laptop like the Dell XPS 13, but we’re excited about where Dell is going with the XPS 13 Plus. Its larger keyboard is both a stylistic and practical improvement, and its more minimal design just looks cool. It’s as light and thin as we’d expect from an XPS — though we wish the port selection wasn’t staying equally slim.

Still, we’re eager to test out the XPS 13 Plus’ revamped design, more powerful processors and improved speakers to see if it can land on our best laptops list when it arrives this spring for a starting price of $1,199.





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