CES Preview: Dell Gets Fashion-Conscious with New XPS 13 Laptop

Dell, that bastion of the good ole blue-collar portable PC that you can bang around and watch it keep going like the Energizer bunny, is aiming to move higher up the “cool” scale with its latest products.

Dell.XPS13

When it comes to the design and “look and feel” of business and consumer-class personal computers, Apple has set a high bar during the last decade with its MacBook lineup. Hewlett-Packard Inc. has been upgrading its own fleet of business and consumer PCs over the last half-dozen years with its EliteBooks and Envys and has indeed achieved an elegance of its own.

Now Dell, that bastion of the good ole blue-collar portable PC that you can bang around and watch it keep going like the Energizer bunny, is aiming to move higher up the “cool” scale with its latest products. The company has come to the conclusion that when someone comes to a meeting and sets down a laptop on the table, the appearance of that laptop tells stories about the person using it. Nobody wants those stories to be bad ones.

So, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week, Dell will be showing off snazzy XPS 13 PCs (the “13” indicates a 13-inch screen size) with new exterior and casing features to go with the usual software and feature upgrades you get with any new-generation machine.

In another “cool” vein, Dell is releasing a new Ubuntu Linux-powered XPS 13 model at CES 2018, which will attract nearly 200,000 attendees and take place in several locations Jan. 8 through 12. The company is offering the Ubuntu developer edition with Linux preloaded starting at $949.99 on Dell.com in the U.S. and Europe. The machines became available on Jan. 4.

Technology as an Expression of Style

“Technology has become an expression of style for those who use it, though fashion can be fickle,” Dell Vice-President and General Manager Frank Azor, who’s in charge of the company’s XPS, Alienware and Dell Gaming businesses, wrote Jan. 4 in a blog post. “One thing we do know is that elegance doesn’t go out of style.”

In redesigning the XPS 13, Azor said, “we took inspiration from the realm of fashion, where rose gold remains a trending color and white accents have been growing in popularity, seen everywhere from watch bands to sneakers. However when turning our XPS white, we strived to achieve elegance and invested more than a dozen people, 11,520 hours and 50 trials to create a new system that was as stunning inside and out.

“The Dell design team didn’t want to simply paint a system white; they wanted to use authentic materials and make sure the system looked as beautiful on Day 1,000 as it does on Day 1,” Azor said.

The XPS was first unveiled at the 2012 CES; since then, it has proven to be Dell’s most successful laptop and winner of more product awards than any other line in Dell’s history. The most recent plaudit is that it was named a CES 2018 Innovation Award winner.

New Crystalline Silicon Cover Material

Azor said Dell used a new crystalline silica material with the white color literally woven in, like a fabric, in nine composite layers.  Dell is the first to use this woven glass fiber in a laptop, he said. The alpine white glass fiber weave is also durable, Azor said, because its soft-textured lattice has titanium oxide for a pearlescent sheen and UV coasting and stain-resistant coating to prevent yellowing or staining over time.

“In fact, if you get a pen mark or other stain on the white interior you can just wipe it off. And with a heat resistance superior to metal, woven glass fiber also stays cooler to facilitate longer performance,” he said.

Beyond the appearance and look and feel of the laptop, the XPS 13 features a high-end InfinityEdge display, and the unit itself a full 30 percent (3.4mm) thinner as well as lighter (2.7 pounds) than previous models. The higher resolution display incorporates 2.5 million more pixels with 4K Ultra HD compared to the previous QHD+, in a 100% sRGB screen, Dell said.

Unless you choose the Ubuntu version, the XPS 13 comes with Windows 10 and is powered by the latest Intel 8th Generation Quad Core processor and can store up to 1TB worth of files on its solid-state, quick-boot disk. Dell also is touting the XPS 13 as having longest battery life of any 13-inch laptop, with almost 20 hours on FHD, up to 11 on UHD (Mobile Mark 14).

Voice, Touch, Facial Recognition-Activated

Securitywise, the XPS 13 can be activated by voice, touch or facial recognition, due to access provided through a triad of biometric doorways, Azor said. users can log in with a look or a touch with the infrared camera and optional fingerprint reader in the power button for Windows Hello, or they can talk to the device from across the room, with four integrated digital microphones and Microsoft’s Cortana voice recognition capabilities.

The new XPS 13 is available globally for $999.99 beginning Jan. 4 on Dell.com, Microsoft.com or at Microsoft Stores. It will be on display at CES.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...