Here’s an easy review. Today, we are reviewing the XPS 13 9310, the best 13-inch ultraportable laptop in Dell’s segment. It’s identical to the Dell XPS 13 9300, which I reviewed in April, in every way, except for one point: it has Intel’s new 11th-generation Tiger Lake processor.
The new XPS 13 starts at $ 999.99. The base model includes a Core i3-1115G4, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, Intel’s integrated UHD graphics and a 1920 x 1200 non-touch display. But the Tiger Lake series’ most interesting feature is the graphics. Intel̵7;s new Vehicle Iris integration. Models with that graphics start at $ 1,099.99 ($ 1,077.99 as currently listed) and include a quad-core Core i5 1135G7 or i7-1165G7. You can go up to a $ 2,499.99 worth of model with 32GB of RAM, 2TB of storage, and a 3840 x 2400 touchscreen. I tested the $ 1,649.99 configuration (listed at $ 1,616). , 99 as of the time of writing), includes 16GB of RAM and 512GB of memory.
If you haven’t read my review of the XPS 13 9300 since earlier this year, go ahead and do it now as everything I’ve said about that machine’s exterior applies here as well. TL; DR: it’s really good. The chassis is made of CNC machined aluminum, the logo is stainless steel, the screen is Corning Gorilla Glass 6; The palm of the hand is a woven fiberglass with a unique texture. It’s sleek, sturdy, and has the best build quality you’ll find in a laptop. It’s also portable (2.8 pounds and 0.58 inches thick). Full speakers, flexible and comfortable keyboard, smooth touchpad and easy clicks. Another highlight is the 16:10 display with 91.5% screen-to-body ratio, giving you more vertical space than most consumer laptops (16 : 9). You will notice the difference.
Two main drawbacks: port selection is meh (two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4, headphone jack and microSD reader) and a 2.25mm 720p webcam that’s not great, delivering blurry and faint images. It also doesn’t include a privacy shutter or an off switch.
As I said, check out the 9030 review if you want to read in more detail about the laptop’s exterior. What we are focusing on here is the performance of the new processor and whether the 1165G7 (and its Vehicle graphics) is an improvement over the generation Ice Lake. The answer is yes. But it’s not an emphatic or particularly exciting word.
It was also one of the first systems to be verified through Intel’s new Evo program. By awarding the Evo badge to a laptop, Intel announced it would certify that it provides several standards for “high-end” thin and light laptops – Tiger Lake, Thunderbolt 4, Wi- Fi 6, all-day battery life, fast charging, quick start-up times, and perhaps most importantly, steady practical performance.
In everyday tasks, the 1165G7 is certainly highly efficient. I’ve never been overwhelmed by my multitude of tabs, Chrome apps, and infrequent Spotify, YouTubing, and Zoom calls – with no delays or delays. I never hear the fan spinning during daily use and never feel hot. If you’re using this profile for work or school, you shouldn’t have any performance issues.
I also see a slight improvement in content creation. The 9310 took 10 minutes and 43 seconds to complete our real-world media test, which included exporting 5 minutes and 33 seconds of 4K video in Adobe Premiere Pro. That’s slightly faster than any laptop with an Ice Lake CPU, and the integrated graphics got the job done. The MacBook Pro 13 with Iris Plus graphics took 11 minutes and 26 seconds and the Surface Laptop 3 took just over 15. It’s also better than we’ve seen from other 1165G7 systems. The Asus ZenBook 14 is about a minute slower.
Here’s the problem: when it comes to productivity, this XPS is good. That’s an increase over its predecessor (and I would be very nervous if not). On the other hand, the 9300 (and other Ice Lake systems) were pretty good. The difference in Chrome tab loading speed and Premiere Pro export time wasn’t terrible enough for me to see it making a difference in the life of the average XPS 13 user. If you already own a comparable Ice Lake system or are considering buying one to cut costs, I wouldn’t urge you to upgrade.
Those that may be worth upgrading are those who want to play some lightweight games. On lighter-textured titles (the only ones you’d want to run on a laptop like this), the XPS 13 did significantly better than its predecessor. It averaged 111fps above Rocket League’s maximum setting without falling below 100; 9300 put up 70 fps with a minimum of 41. 9310 also won League of Legends, averaged 205 fps while its predecessor hit a low 160-second average. (Of course, the XPS 13’s display is only 60Hz, so your experience in these games won’t change. You’ll see 60 fps on both machines.) And it beats its predecessor. its on Overwatch, averaging 48 fps on Ultra settings to the 9300’s lowest average in the 40s – a 10 percent increase.
One more good news for Intel: those results also put Tiger Lake a bit ahead of AMD when it comes to games. IdeaPad Slim 7, with AMD’s eight-core Ryzen 7 4800U, averaging 46 fps on the same Overwatch Setting. (You won’t notice a slight difference while actually playing.)
Unfortunately, the demanding 1080p games are still out of the box. 9310 chugged past Shadow of the Tomb Raider on average was 22 frames per second. That’s a substantial boost from the Ice Lake XPS, which averaged 17 fps on the same title, but you can’t really play the game (at native resolution) on both machines. So while Tiger Lake will give you a better experience with some of your titles, it probably won’t expand the range of games you can play. (We expect better gaming performance over time.)
I think this form factor is also close to the limits of what it can cool. During my gaming session, the CPU hit 100 degrees Celsius at a few points and spent a lot of time in the high 90s. (The keyboard is a bit hot throughout but not completely annoying.) That’s hotter than what I’d like to see, and I’m worried that if Dell continues on with this design and Intel’s chip doesn’t make a noticeable effect, the XPS 13 will hit the wall when it comes to performance.
In the end, battery life was a pleasant surprise. I got nine hours and 15 minutes using this XPS as my primary work driver at around 200 nits of brightness. That time is not at the top of the category, but it means it will keep you comfortable throughout your day at work or study. Note that I have enabled all the different battery saver features – Windows Battery Saver configuration, Dell Battery Extender, Intel Display Power Saver, etc.When I run a test on the configuration Windows Better Performance with the Battery Extender off, I can expect close to six hours. I don’t notice a performance difference between those two situations when I’m just doing office work and streaming, so I recommend going with a battery saver if you want to use it all day.
This XPS outperforms what we’ve seen so far in 2020. The Tiger Lake processor is a respectable step forward, especially in terms of graphics performance. Those working with graphics and video will likely find the boost most helpful. For the others who mostly used the XPS 13 for school and office tasks, both the Ice Lake and Tiger Lake systems were fine – an upgrade was not required. Gaming performance obviously varies greatly by title – players might see a noticeable difference or may see very little. But if you mainly play lighter games that Ice Lake has torn apart (perhaps the case for a large number of people playing games on the XPS 13), you won’t see an improvement on this display.
So overall, the XPS 13 is still an excellent laptop. It is still one of the best you can buy. But I’m not as amazed as it was earlier this year, because the competition is on the rise. Zenbooks, Swifts, Yogas, Envys and Specter have all made strides in design, build, convenience features, and performance this year – and ARM-based Macs are coming soon. There are quite a few releases that are increasingly looking like the XPS 13.
It’s the best laptop of 2020 with the least intrusion and least risk. But Dell will need to keep innovating if it wants to keep the XPS at the top of the table in 2021.
Photography by Monica Chin / The Verge