When it comes to laptops, I’m a big advocate of 2-in-1s like Lenovo’s Yoga C930 and Microsoft’s Surface Go because their flexible designs let you use them in situations a traditional notebook might not be able to handle. However, to deliver that kind of adaptability, sometimes 2-in-1 makers have to include trade-offs 2-in-1 such as higher prices or weaker specs.
But with the revamped XPS 13 2-in-1, Dell has made a convertible that feels like its dangerously close to our favourite traditional laptop – the standard XPS 13.
The XPS 13 2-in-1 even comes with stylus support via Windows Ink, though there’s no room on the system itself to stash a pen or stylus.
From the outside, the XPS 13 2-in-1 looks almost exactly the same as its clamshell sibling. There’s a matte aluminium lid on top, while you get the choice of a black carbon fibre or white fibreglass deck on the inside. Dell even included the super tiny webcam it introduced on the most recent XPS 13, which means in normal laptop mode, the webcam is in the right place (above, not below the screen). The main point of differentiation is Dell’s newly redesigned 2-in-1 hinge.
As you’d expect from a convertible, the XPS 13 2-in-1's hinge allows you to rotate its display 360 degrees so you can transform the laptop into a big tablet or presentation device, while still offering that traditional notebook experience when you want it. Additionally, the hinge has also been designed to elevate the system slightly in laptop mode to create better airflow.
But one the XPS 13 2-in-1's most significant upgrade is its display, which features a 16:10 aspect ratio and HDR 400 certification, which gives you rich, vibrant colours and a bit of extra vertical screen real estate. The XPS 13 2-in-1's screen also includes new Eyesafe tech that cuts down on potentially harmful blue light, but without adding the yellow tint you often see on other displays.
Meanwhile, to keep the XPS 13 2-in-1's dimensions (11.69 x 8.15 x 0.51 inches and 2.9 pounds) as close as possible to the standard XPS 13 (11.9 x 7.8 x 0.46 inches and 2.7 pounds), Dell gave its new convertible its second-gen MagLev keyboard which features larger keycaps and thinner overall dimensions (and slightly less key travel), while still delivering a satisfyingly clicky tactile feel. Dell even added a power button with a built-in fingerprint reader, which should make up for the lack of Windows Hello facial recognition.
Dell also managed to cram in new vents for the XPS 13 2-in-1 behind its hinge, and with its active cooling, there’s enough thermal headroom to support much faster processors than what was available on previous models.
As for performance, the updated XPS 13 2-in-1 comes with a range of new Intel 10th-gen processors (from Core i3 to Core i7), which Dell claims gives this system 2.5 times better performance compared to the outgoing model, along with support for Wi-Fi 6, and up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB of PCIe SSD storage. With an estimated battery life of 16 hours, the XPS 13 2-in-1 shouldn’t fall short in endurance either. The one small trade-off is that unlike the standard XPS 13, the XPS 13 2-in-1 only has two USB 3 ports instead of three, though thankful both ports come with support for Thunderbolt 3.
Finally, with a price tag starting at £1,149, there’s not a huge gap between an XPS 13 2-in-1 and a similarly specced vanilla XPS 13. That means you can get the same XPS quality but in a much more versatile chassis. So for people who want to more than just work at a desk or on their laps, the XPS 13 2-in-1 might be a better choice for all-around flexibility.
When I first tried the most recent XPS 13 back at CES 2019, I felt like Dell had perfected traditional laptop design. But now with the XPS 13 2-in-1, it seems Dell has brought that same care and attention to modern convertibles.
All images: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)